pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Righteous and True

Reading: Psalm 145: 17-21

Verses 17-18: “The Lord is righteous… is near to all who call on him in truth”.

The reading from Psalm 145 reveals two things about our God. In the first four words we read, “The Lord is righteous”. This word is a broad word. To be righteous most simply means to be one who chooses to do what is right. This includes not only doing the morally “right” thing but also seeking justice, equality, and generosity. The psalmist reminds us that God loves us as his creation. Much of our sense of and compassion for being righteous comes from love. Our love of God and love of neighbor drives our desires for righteousness, justice, equality…

Being “right” and loving can sometimes create tension or can even feel like they are clashing. One example would be Jesus’ healings and other actions on the Sabbath. Whether healing a man’s deformed hand or picking grains as they walked along, Jesus’ choices brought him into conflict with the religious authorities. Jesus’ question about doing good or doing evil on the Sabbath got to the deeper truth: our call to love. Here is where we can tie into the second half of today’s reading.

In verse 18 we read that God is “near to all who call on him in truth”. We are each unique and beloved creations of God’s own hands – formed in the womb, loved since that day. Because of our connection to God we can trust fully in God and in God’s plans for our lives and our world. When we are willing to release our fears and doubts, the parts of us that question God’s love and care for us, then we can live the life that God intended us to live. From a place of trust and security we can begin to look out beyond ourselves and can begin to see the needs of others. Here we can begin to address their needs. Often we come back around to working for justice and equality, becoming generous to the poor and broken in spirit.

As we grow deeper in God’s love and in our trust in God, we grow closer to the heart of Jesus. Along this journey we share God’s righteousness, love, and truth with all we meet. May it be so today for us all.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I rejoice in your love for me. I exalt your name for being the creator and sustainer of my life. May your love and righteousness be my love and righteousness. Like Jesus, may I give it away to all I meet. Amen.


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Coming Soon

Reading: Mark 13: 24-31

Verse 28: “You know that it is near, right at the door”.

At first glance, today’s text seems odd for Advent, the season where we celebrate the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  The sun being darkened, the stars falling, and the heavens quaking don’t quite have that Christmas vibe.  But if we dig a little deeper, the reading makes sense.  There are signs all around that the world is more ready than ever for what this passage speaks of.  Each year we can look back and think the world is more ready than ever for Jesus to return and make all things new.

If we dig down into the core of why Jesus came, we find our answer in the fullness of God’s love: for God so loved the world…  Because God looked down and saw His children living in darkness and sin, He sent Jesus.  We remember too that Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it.  God looked down upon a world dead in its sin and did something about it.  Today many people still live in darkness and the only true, lasting light remains Jesus.  As we await the return that today’s passage speaks of, we do so following our call to bring the light and love of Jesus to all people and to all nations.  This call is a great reason for us to celebrate the birth and life that brought hope and love to a world in great need.

We wait, though, in a tension.  Verse 28 speaks of this tension: “You know that it is near, right at the door”.  Just as the fig tree shows signs and calls people to anticipate summer, so too are we to live with the sense that Jesus is coming soon.  Soon is a good place to be.  When we live with a sense of Jesus coming soon, we live with a faith that is active and alive.  We live with a faith that matters today in the present.  We live with a faith that seeks to share the hope and love of Jesus with all we meet.  We live with a faith that is full of promise and expectation.  As we live out a “coming soon” faith, may we live so that others may sense that Jesus is right at the door of their hearts too, seeking to come in.


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Sunday Is Coming

Reading: Matthew 27: 57-66

Verse 65: “Take a guard,” Pilate said, “Go, make the tomb secure as you can”.

It has been a busy week.  Palm Sunday got things started with a big, celebratory parade.  There was excitement and energy.  There was also anxiety and nervousness as well.  The religious leaders’ nerves were on edge.  As the week progressed, Jesus has remained front and center, His ministry to the people moving full steam ahead.  The tension with the religious leaders has escalated as the week progressed and culminated Thursday with Jesus’ arrest.  The trials and crucifixion buzzed through Thursday night and Friday.  By mid afternoon Jesus is dead and would soon be laid in a tomb.  The religious leaders must have breathed a huge collective sigh of relief as they sat in their homes on Friday night.

But then the thoughts crept in.  One or two or perhaps many began to recall some of Jesus’ words.  For those that did, they soon realized that the events of the past days have gone just as Jesus said they would.  And even though they thought they were running the show…  Didn’t Jesus say something about three days…

The religious leaders go to Pilate early on Saturday morning, on the Sabbath, to ask for soldiers to guard the tomb.  They call Jesus ‘that deceiver’ as they quote Him saying, “After three days I will rise again”.  The religious leaders then make a statement that is not entirely correct but contains truth.  In reference to the resurrection, they say, “This deception will be worse than the first”.  Yes, the effect will be worse for them.  Rising from the dead will be the ultimate verification that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.  Just as the recent events unfolded as Jesus said they would, so too will the resurrection.  Pilate has had enough and easily gives them a guard, saying, “Take a guard and make the tomb as secure as you can”.

The entire Roman army could not keep the tomb secure enough to prevent the resurrection.  It is not done by human hands.  No matter what Pilate, the religious authorities, the guard, anyone… tried to do, Sunday was coming.  Yes indeed!  Sunday is coming!


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To All in Need

Reading: Luke 17: 11-19

Our story begins today with Jesus travelling along the border between Samaria and Galilee.  There is long-standing tension between the peoples of these two regions.  We see this tension revealed in several stories in the New Testament.  Some on both sides of this tension would travel many miles out of the way simply to avoid crossing the other’s territory.

Ten lepers called out to Jesus.  Ten call out in faith.  Jesus sees ten children of God calling out in faith to be healed.  Jesus brings healing to all ten.  He saw ten lepers.  Jesus did not see one Samaritan and nine Jews.  He saw ten lepers in need of healing.

Healing comes to all ten.  Jesus sees only the condition that has kept them isolated from society.  Jesus does not see ethnicity or age or gender or any other differentiating characteristic.  He only sees their faith that has led them to call out for healing.  Their faith is what Jesus responds to.

Through this story, Jesus is calling us to love in the same way.  He is calling us to love all people.  All people are God’s children, all need God’s love.  Jesus is calling us to look past ethnicity and age and gender and religion and socio-economic status and … “Love one another as I have first loved you”.  Fully, completely, without filter or limit or hesitation.

One came back to thank Jesus for His healing touch.  The one who came back was a Samaritan.  The one who most in Jesus’ audience would see as an outsider came back to fall at Jesus’ feet and to thank Him.  We too will encounter others who feel like outsiders, who feel unworthy of Jesus’ presence.  We too can reach out and offer hope and love and healing in the name of Jesus.  To all in need, may we offer Jesus Christ, the only one who can heal all.  To all in need, may we offer Jesus and His love.


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Conflict

No one likes conflict.  Often we avoid it.  Maybe we go the other way or we accept another’s idea.  Maybe we simply choose to not be involved or we remain silent.  Yet God calls us to stand against injustice, oppression, and all things evil.  He calls us to always do what is right.  In making these choices we can find ourselves in conflict.

John the Baptist found great conflict at the end of his life.  He spoke out against Herod marrying his own brother’s wife.  This angered her greatly.  It led to John’s arrest and eventually to his beheading.  John’s integrity would not allow him to remain silent.  John’s cost was much higher than any cost I may have to pay for following Jesus, but at times there are still costs.

Living as a follower of Jesus will at times put me in a place where I have to choose between silence and integrity.  This can be a hard choice.  When I am led by the Holy Spirit to speak and I choose to remain silent, I am less than I could be.  I am less than I am called to be.  In silence I sacrifice part of myself and my faith to avoid conflict.

But when I allow the Spirit to lead and I speak out against injustice or oppression or anything wrong or evil, then I am showing God’s ways and bringing His name honor.  When I speak hard words of truth to a friend, I am leading them back to living God’s alternative way.  In turn, I trust they will do the same when I have gone astray or made a poor choice.  Conflict is never easy, But God is always present, there to strengthen, to encourage, to lead, to comfort, and to love.

Scripture reference: Mark 6: 14-29