pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Prayer for Disciples

Reading: John 17: 6-19

Verse Eleven: “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one”.

In the moments before going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before being arrested, Jesus offers this prayer for the disciples. He knows what lies ahead for Himself and the impact His death and resurrection will have on His followers, so He prays for them.

This prayer begins with thanks for the relationships that He has developed with these disciples. Jesus is thankful for the opportunity to pour into them and to help them know that He was sent by God. Through these three years together, the disciples have witnessed Jesus living amongst and loving fully all kinds of people.

In the first half of verse eleven Jesus acknowledges that it is time for Him to leave the world. The disciples will remain in the world and will be charged with continuing the building of the church. In the second half of verse eleven He prays, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one”. He is praying for these disciples who are no longer of the world to be protected by God. He is also praying for unity. Jesus knows the trials and persecution they will face. Unity with God and with Jesus and with each other will carry them through all the world can throw at them. They will each remain protected and in unity up to the time of their death.

In the bigger sense, Jesus is also praying this prayer for all of the believers who come after the disciples. He is praying it for you and for me. Once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are not of this world any longer. Our home is in heaven. Our lives here are but a mist compared to eternity with Jesus. But in the meantime, we do have a role to play. Jesus sent the disciples and He also sends us into the world. In unity with God and Jesus and each other, may we too faithfully go out into the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ. The world needs to hear this message of hope and love. May we share it well.

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Unity

Reading: Psalm 133

Verse Three: “There the Lord bestows His blessings, even life forevermore”.

Psalm 133 is all about the blessing of living in unity. When our relationships are filled with unity and communion, life does not get much better than that. It brings to mind those carefree relationships of early childhood, when we simply played together, and those days of first falling in love, when he or she could do no wrong. Yet as we age our relationships with others grows and becomes more complicated. Even the relationship with the love of our life has times of strife and discord. As we are imperfect creatures, there is no earthly relationship that is perfect.

Still the psalmist is clearly calling us to live with each other in unity. It is a worthy thing to call us to. As he writes, it is good and pleasant when we get along and work well together. The oil on the head and the dew on the land are blessings. We too experience God’s blessings when we live in unity. It is because “there the Lord bestows His blessings, even life forevermore”.

God is also a part if our community of faith. We are also called to live in unity with God. This is a little different than living in unity with one another because God is perfect. In covenant, God promised to be our God and to always love us. He does so without fail. But fail we do! We fall to sin and create separation from God. But through the covenant of Jesus’ blood God offers us mercy and grace and forgiveness over and over and over. Through this gift we are restored to the holy and perfect person that can be once again in relationship with God.

From our relationship with God we learn what it requires to live in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It starts with love. As Jesus said, they will know we are His disciples by how we love one another. Next we must be quick to add mercy and grace and forgiveness to our human relationships too. When we focus on these qualities, then we can experience unity and live in communion with each other. May we ever practice love and mercy and grace and forgiveness. May we ever live in unity with our community of faith, bringing God honor and glory.


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Good and Pleasant

Reading: Acts 4: 32-35

Verse 32: “All the believers were one in heart and mind… they shared everything they had”.

What a beautiful picture of the community of faith is painted for us here in Acts 4! The day of Pentecost had just occurred and God added to their numbers in a big way. The power of the Holy Spirit that came at this event also carried Peter and John through their time before the Sanhedrin. There is a buzz and excitement and energy about the church. There is a tangible sense of hope and promise amongst the people. And there is a tremendous feeling of community. All of this is summed up in verse 32: “All the believers were one in heart and mind… they shared everything they had”. It was all the church is supposed to be: community, harmony, love, care, generosity.

I believe this is still God’s vision for the church. When one studies Jesus’ ministry, these are the things that He was all about. He always sought to invite the stranger in, to love and care for those in need, to build a sense of community and belonging, and to do whatever He could to improve someone’s faith and life. In our day and age, at times the church is like this. We rally around our own in times of loss or hardship. We still pull together to do some wonderful things for our church family and for our wider community. Folks will even give a bit extra when they experience God’s blessings in their lives, knowing that the church still does much good in the world.

Yesterday we read these words in Psalm 134: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony”! Yes, yes it is. As communities of faith, when we live with the love and generosity exhibited by the early church in Acts, then others will be drawn to faith. It will not be because of the generosity itself. They will be drawn to the love. Jesus said that they will know we are His followers by the way we love one another. Yes, it is good and pleasant to live together in harmony and unity and love as brothers and sisters in Christ.

What can you do this week to build the unity and harmony and love that is exists in your faith community? What generous act might God be calling you to this week?


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Love and Unity

Reading: Psalm 133

Verse One: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity”.

In today’s Psalm, there is a connection between unity and blessing and anointing with oil. The opening verse begins this relationship, stating, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity”. Who is it good and pleasant to? Certainly to God but also to the community of faith itself. Living in harmony and unity is how God intends our churches to be.

The psalmist goes on to compare this type of living to an abundant anointing. The overflow of oil is obvious and extravagant – much like the love that pours forth from a community of faith living in unity with each other and with Jesus Christ. This anointing is not the slightest dip of the finger that traces a thin line of a cross on someone’s forehead. It is a pouring out of blessing that runs down the face and through the beard and onto the clothes. The anointing in the Psalm is a thorough and complete blessing that is obvious for all to see.

When people walk into our churches and communities of faith, do they sense and feel unity that pours forth, overflowing like the oil on Aaron’s beard and robes? Does the love and care for one another and for the stranger in our midst burst forth like this oil? Or is there just a hint of unity and love, that like that thinly traced cross that can be seen if one really looks?

The love and unity present in our faith communities should be obvious and extravagant and generous. It should freely flow out to and over all who enter our community. The Psalm closes with, “there the Lord bestows His blessing, even life forevermore”. May our love and unity flow out like the oil in today’s Psalm, blessing all who enter our midst.


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Worthy Conduct

Reading: Philippians 1: 27-30

Verse 27: Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

In today’s passage, Paul encourages the church in Philippi to talk the talk and to walk the walk that Paul himself has talked and walked.  This is, of course, to follow Jesus – the original model.  Paul’s opening line today is both challenging and inspiring: “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”.  What a charge Paul gives to the Philippians and to all who follow Jesus Christ as Lord.

Over the next few verses, Paul unpacks what it looks like to live this life worthy of Christ.  The first step is to “stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man”.  Paul wants them to be unified under Christ and to hold fast to Jesus’ teaching and example.  He knows they are stronger together than as individuals so Paul encourages unity.  Next Paul tells them not to be frightened by those who oppose them.  In this world trouble will come.  In fact, Paul is writing them from prison.  He is under arrest for spreading the gospel.  Just as Paul’s trusts in and rests in God, he is encouraging the Philippians to do the same.

Lastly Paul says that it has been “granted” to them not only to believe on Christ but also to suffer for the gospel.  He says they do so “on behalf of Christ”.  Any and all suffering done on behalf of Jesus is a glorious witness to their faith in Christ.  It reflects the promise that He and we will overcome the world.  Just as Jesus willingly suffered on the cross for us, Paul gladly suffers for the sake of the gospel.  He encourages the Philippians and us to do the same.

These few verses pack a lot.  They are a great reminder of what worthy conduct looks like as we respond to our call to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  To summarize: stand firm, do not fear, be a suffering servant.  All were modeled by Jesus.  May we go and do likewise.


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Unity or Less?

Reading: Romans 14: 10-12

Verse 11: Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.

Paul continues his conversation about diversity in the body of Christ.  He emphasized that most of us are at differing spots in our faith journeys and that we come to the church with our own unique backgrounds and traditions.  Therefore unity must come in and through Christ.  Christ must be the one thing that unites the church.  Jesus is our “bottom line” so to speak – He is Lord of all.

Paul asks why we must judge or look down on our brother or sister in Christ who does not do exactly as we do.  When we choose to judge or condemn or belittle another’s faith or their practices of faith, we are putting ourselves in a place we should not go to.  For example, just because I prefer to read and study and pray in the early morning and another prefers the quiet of the evening does not make one of us “right” or “better” than the other.  If one church uses bread and another crackers, one communion is not better or more acceptable than the other.

The time or particular way we practice our faith are small details we use to accomplish the same goal – to grow closer to Christ as we seek to become more like Him.  This is the goal for all Christians – to become more like Christ.  But at times we fail, so Paul includes a warning, quoting from the prophet Isaiah: “Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God”.  He will not only want to know what we did with the least and the lost, but also how we treated all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Did we practice unity and did we work to bring harmony to the whole body of Christ?  Or did we remain divided, allowing it to be less?


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Unity and Strength

Reading: Romans 14: 1-12

Verses 7 and 8: For none of us lives to himself alone… We belong to the Lord.

Paul begins chapter fourteen by imploring Christians to not pass judgement on others because others do not worship and practice their faith just as they do.  Instead Paul urges Christians to model acceptance and to have understanding for their fellow believers.  For the Jews who had accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they entered their new faith with their old faith’s worship and dietary guidelines still intact.  They wanted the new believers to worship and eat as they did.  In effect they wanted to new followers to be Jewish Christians.  On the other side of the aisle, many of the new converts came with their own cultural background and practices.  Therefore they did not want to change some of these things, especially if they did not see how they were incompatible with what Jesus taught and did.

The same tendencies to judge and condemn others still exists today both within our churches and between churches.  The hot topic can be a wide variety of things.  Between people in a church it can be things like worship style or who is welcome or over what one does on a Friday night.  Between churches it can be over how one receives salvation or it can be over how we practice or understand baptism or communion.  Whatever the case, Paul’s advice is the same: do not judge but seek to accept and understand one another.  Paul says we must do this because ultimately, “none of us lives to himself alone… We belong to the Lord”.

Christ is the one who unites all Christians and all Christian churches.  There is one God, one Christ, and one Holy Spirit.  God created each and every one of us and loves us all dearly and equally.  Jesus taught live and grace to all people He met and went to the cross to give forgiveness of sins and a way to eternal life for all people.  The promise if the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide our lives was a promise and gift to everyone.  May we each seek to love God and to love all of our neighbors as Christ loves us, bringing unity and strength to the whole body of Christ, to the church universal.