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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Rest

Reading: Genesis 1:31 – 2:4a

Verse Three: God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it He rested.

As human beings and as children of God, we are created in the image of God.  We are to model the patterns that God sets in the Bible.  We try to follow the examples that Jesus, God in the flesh, set for us in the Gospels.  In our day to day lives we try to love as Jesus loved as we seek to follow His example of ministry.  Hard as it may be to live as Jesus lived, often times we are better at this than we are at following today’s model for our lives.

After spending six days creating the world, God looks over His “very good” work.  He is pleased with what He has created.  We are pretty good at modeling these two parts of today’s passage.  We are good at working and producing and making.  At times we can even be pleased with our labors and can take pride in what we have accomplished.  Clearly we can see in this passage, and throughout the Bible, that we are created to work, to use our bodies and minds in labor.  We are also called throughout Scripture to give our very best in all we do, so our labors should produce things, ideas, … that are also “very good”.

“God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it He rested”.  The Sabbath, or seventh day, is holy because on this day God rested.  This is the model we find hard to follow.  We often are just as bad at taking rest as we are good at always working.  To work and work and work some more is how we respond to our culture of ‘more’ and how we try to attain ‘success’ as defined by the secular world.  It is a sad treadmill that​ we too easily climb onto.  The treadmill never leads to a destination but simply keeps on churning.  The world is happy to allow us to work and work and work.  But we are created in God’s image.  On the seventh day God made it holy and He rested.  In rest we are renewed and refreshed and recharged.  In rest we are drawn closer to God.  May we each find our Sabbath this week – our time and place of rest where God can minister to us.


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Praise the Creator

Reading: Psalm 104: 24-34 and 35b

Verses 24 and 35b: How many are your works O Lord! … Praise the Lord.

Our Psalm today opens with a great reminder about Creator God: “How many are your works O Lord”!  All that there is – from the largest to the tiniest, all that covers the land and swims in the waters – was created by God.  The psalmist then offers praise for God’s provision.  At just the right moment, God provides for the needs of what He has created.  His love in reflected in His care.  And the Psalm also acknowledges that life ends, that breath is no more and life returns to ashes.  As created beings, we too live within this cycle of life.  We are created by God, we are loved and cared for by God, and one day our human bodies draw our last breath and we too return to ashes.

The psalmist then opens up the praise in verse 31.  In the simplicity of life we can see the glory of the Lord.  We are amazing creations, as is all of life.  Just as in the beginning God was pleased with all He had made, God continues to be pleased with the work of His hands.  Our response?  Verse 31 sums it up well: “I will sing praises to my God as long as I live”.  Because God continues to be active and engaged in our lives and world, He is worthy of our praise.

Today may we join with all of creation in praise of the mighty works of God’s hands!


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Work

Reading: John 17: 1-5

Verse Four: I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You have Me to do.

It was quite a night for Jesus and His disciples.  They gathered together one last time.  It has been a full night: the Passover meal with the institution of communion added in; the washing of the disciples’ feet; the predictions of denial and betrayal; and, the promise of the Holy Spirit.  Three chapters in John are dedicated to Jesus’ farewell discourse.  And then Jesus prays.  These are His last words in John before He is arrested in the garden.  This prayer us our reading today.

In verse four, Jesus says, “I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You have Me to do”.  He has completed the work God gave Him to do.  The work encompasses teaching us what to do as disciples of Jesus Christ.  As a good teacher, Jesus taught by example.  His work included teaching how to live as a child of God in a fallen world.  This certainly helps us see the world and those in it as God sees them, not as the world sees them.  Jesus’ task also included showing us how to be at work in the world.  This meant feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the orphans and widows, caring for the sick, welcoming the stranger and the outcast.  It is being the very hands and feet of Jesus in our world.  The work also included healing.  This too is part of our work.  We pray for other’s physical healing.  We offer words of comfort and encouragement and lift up prayers for emotional and spiritual healing.  We also work to bring healing and restoration by fighting to end injustice and oppression and prejudice when and where we can.  All of this is the work Jesus completed when here on earth.  It is the work He commands us to continue.

Verse three reads, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent”.  Eternal life comes only through knowing God and Jesus Christ.  We come to know Him n the Word.  We come to know Him through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  We also come to know Him through those we encounter in the world as we work as His hands and feet.  May we know Him well today in our study, in our prayer time, in our encounters with the Spirit, and in those we meet.


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Steps

Reading: Psalm 23: 1-2

Verse 2: He makes me like down in green pastures… He restores my soul.

David opens the Psalm by declaring God to be his shepherd.  Because of this, David knows he shall not be in want.  Above all else, he has learned that God provides for him.  Whether dealing with a bear while tending sheep or facing a giant on the battle field or avoiding the insane king, God has provided for way more than David’s basic needs.  But God has provided for them as well, so David has a deep and abiding trust in God.  It is a trust that had grown with experience and practice.  It is one we can enjoy too if we are willing to “let go and let God”.  But it is sort of a two-edged sword you see.  If we never trust God enough to face our giants, then we never truly understand just how great our God can be.  Deep and abiding trust requires us to take another step.

David goes on in verse two to another way that God cares for him and us: rest.  God knew since the beginning how important it was for us to rest.  God himself rested on the seventh day and made Sabbath rest one of the ten commandments.  It is a practice that is deeply ingrained in the lives of Orthodox Jews to this day.  David writes, “He makes me like down in green pastures… He restores my soul”.  David is so in tune with God that he feels God leads him to a place of rest.  David’s place is out in nature, the place of his youth.  The green pastures and quiet waters are calling and David finds restoration for his soul in this place.  It is a place that God invites us to as well.  It is a space that requires deep and abiding trust as well.  It requires that we trust God enough to rest.  This means that we trust God can and will take care of tomorrow – with all of it’s requisite work and worries.  This is also a “let go and let God” practice.  It is also a means of trusting all that we have and all that we are into God’s hands.  To trust in this way also requires another step – another step towards God and away from the world.

This day may we step a little further in our trust in God, entering deeper into His love.


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Be Holy

Reading: Leviticus 19: 1-2

It is tough to be holy, yet God calls us to be just that.  To be in the most intimate relationship possible, we must be as like God as we can be.  Holiness is one characteristic of God that seems hard to fully grasp, nevermind live out each day of our lives.  More often than not, we are not capable of being holy on our own.  By ourselves we simply are not capable of being holy all the time.  We can freely share our money and possessions with those we love, but we struggle with giving to the stranger.  We can love those who love us, but it is another story with ‘him’ or with ‘her’ – those we do not like even slightly.  On our own, our holiness only goes so far.  We know that God’s holiness has no end and no boundaries.  This is the holiness we are called to.

God knew from the beginning that we are not capable of always being holy.  God began with the law, a set of guidelines on how to live in relationship with God and with each other.  The Ten Commandments grew over time to be a huge list – but they were more do’s and don’ts than a way to be holy.  In time, God sent Jesus to show  humanity how to live a holy life.  Jesus gave us the example of what God’s love and holiness look like lived out every day.  But the example is not enough.  To help us in our daily walk with Jesus, God sends us the Holy Spirit – the constant presence that helps us to be holy, the constant presence that helps us care for the needy, to love the stranger, to offer mercy and forgiveness to all who wrong us.  With the power and presence of Holy Spirit, we begin to be holy as God is holy.

We cannot, however, simply rely on the Holy Spirit.  We too must play a role. We too must put in the work because it is hard to be holy.  We must commit to our own spiritual growth.  We must spend time in prayer and in the Word each day.  We must be in community to worship the Lord our God and to offer one another fellowship and encouragement.  We must daily confess our sins, repent, and seek His renewing touch.  It is through all of these means of grace that we can draw near to a God who is holy, becoming more like Him ourselves.


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Come, Follow Me

Reading: Matthew 4: 18-22

What has been the scariest step of faith you have ever taken?  When have you stepped out boldly for your faith?  For me it was leaving a job I had known and loved for 23 years to follow God’s call.  I would love to say I was as spontaneous and trusting as those first disciples, but that is far from the truth.  It was a long and slow process that involved lots of prayer and many conversations with family and trusted friends.  But it was a process through which God worked in amazing and powerful ways.

For Andrew and Peter, and then for James and John, the bold step of faith that they took amazes me.  They are sitting there at work, doing the only job they have ever known, when a stranger walks up and says, “Come, follow me”.  Certainly they did not have a clue what this really meant nor how the course of their lives would change forever.  There is no way they could have foreseen the journey they were about to begin the moment they left their nets and followed Jesus.

The same is true for each one of us that has chosen to follow Jesus.  Most are like me, answering a gradual call.  Others answer His call in a flash as Jesus breaks suddenly into their lives, like He did with these simple fishermen.  We all enter into our relationship with Jesus and begin our journey of faith, not ever really knowing where He will take us physically or spiritually, but usually eager to see where that is.

If we faithfully follow, Jesus will lead and guide.  He will also provide us those moments, like He did with the first disciples, when He says, “Come, follow me”.  These are not forever or career-changing moments, but temporary side trips.  They are the come, share a meal with this homeless man moments.  They are come, mentor this new Christian as they begin their journey of faith moments.  Whether big or small, safe or risky, these moments are part of our journey of faith and our responses demonstrate our obedience to Jesus as Lord.  Lord, grant me a willing spirit and a courageous heart today when You call.