pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Be the Hands…

Reading: Psalm 95

Verse 2: “Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song”.

As many arise today and ponder going to church, there is a new reality that one considers. A dangerous illness has spread across the world and it causes us to take pause before engaging in an event or gathering. Schools have shut down for at least a week; sporting and other large events have been postponed or cancelled. At least for this Sunday we will gather as a community of faith to worship. At least for today we will “come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song”. Several or many will gather with us virtually as they watch the live stream and sing, pray, and listen from home.

In this new era of social distancing the decision to stay home is a wise and prudent decision for many. Let us remember that within that group are some who are vulnerable at this time. In our church and in almost all churches, the elderly are a group that falls into this category. Like with other groups that are vulnerable at this time, as people of faith we must step up and engage in ways that are safe and loving. So make a phone call and check in on that elderly person or couple on your block. So drop off some groceries or take a meal to that family a couple houses away with children who are missing the food that they usually get at school. So write a note of encouragement to those you know who are on the front lines of this medical battle. And, of course, pray. Pray for the sick, pray for the lonely, pray for the poor… Pray, pray, pray.

The psalmist reminds us that God is the creator. God is the maker and we are the “people of his pasture”. May we hear his voice. May we fight the tendency to harden our hearts. Instead, may we trust in his power and might. In this time of crisis in our land and in our communities, be the hands and feet and voice of Jesus Christ. You are needed.

Prayer: Lord God, I pray for your healing touch to fall upon our world. With you, anything is possible. So I pray for healing. As I wait, guide me to be love in my community. Amen.


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Generous Fruit?

Reading: Luke 3: 7-18

Verse 8: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance”.

John the Baptist begins his teaching with a challenge, calling out the “vipers” and in the crowd. The general thought is that John is addressing the religious leaders who have come out to see him. They came not to repent and be baptized but to see just what John is up to and to ridicule him and his message. “Just who does he think he is?” would be their primary thought. John, who knows that he has been sent by God, is not intimidated or threatened. He directly addresses their arrogance and sense of privilege, warning that the ax is already at the root. Many have come to John, heard his message, and have repented and been baptized. The proof is in the pudding. John challenges the religious leaders to do the same, saying, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance”. In other words, it isn’t enough to just say you have faith; it must be visible in your life and in the lives of those you minister to.

Before we jump on the Pharisee and Sadducee condemnation bandwagon, we must first look within ourselves. Do our lives of faith bear kingdom fruit? Do our lives draw others into relationship with Jesus Christ? John gives some practical examples of what this looks like. For some, it is clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. For others it is not using your position of authority to take advantage of others, but to treat all fairly and equally and justly. For others it is being content with what you have, not getting into the race to have more and more. In doing so, it allows others to have some.

This season of the year is a time when many are generous. Is it just to keep our spouse and children and good friends happy and satisfied? Or is it to spread the love of Jesus Christ to just one more person and then to one more person after that? Do we seek ways to give gifts that do not come wrapped up in pretty paper? If we do, then we will bear fruit in keeping with repentance. May it be so for us all.

Prayer: Giving God, guide me to those in need of hope as well as the basics of life – food, shelter, clothing. Help me to be a blessing in all the ways I can to all the people I can, shining your light and love into their lives. Amen.


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Breath and Hope

Reading: Ezekiel 37: 1-14

Verse 14: I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.

Ezekiel is living amongst and speaking to a people living in exile.  They were carried off long ago and feel as if they have been living in exile forever.  The people of Israel cry out, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off”.  There is great sadness in these verses.  It is very difficult to live without hope.

As Ezekiel prophesies, the scattered bones come together as tendon, flesh, and skin covers them.  They are capable of having life now but there is no breath in them.  They are flesh and bone, but that is all.  At this point they represent Israel in exile.  Living but not truly having life can also represent many we know ourselves.  Yes, they are physically alive – they go to work, spend time with their families and friends, maybe even play on your softball team.  But they only know earthly life; they do not know or live for anything outside of the here and now.

For the Israelites in exile, life has become about simply surviving in the day to day.  They are barely getting by.  They feel ‘cut off completely’ from God and all they knew back home.  It is hard to live without hope and they are fast losing hope.  God instructs Ezekiel to prophesy that the breath of God enter the dry bones and flesh so that they would have life.  Ezekiel does this and a vast army arises.  This is the vision Ezekiel brings back to the people living in exile, to a people fast losing hope.  In this, the people know that God has heard their cry and that He will respond.  It brings much needed hope to the nation of Israel.

In a very similar way, we too can offer hope to those we know who are alive but only in the earthly sense.  We too can share the hope that comes when one lives with Jesus as Lord and Savior.  We too can share the joy that comes when the Spirit of God enters our hearts and brings us each the hope of eternal life.  May we each seek to be spreaders of the Word of God to those living in exile, so that they too may know abundant life in Christ in this place and eternal life with Him in the life to come.