pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Restore

Reading: Psalm 80: 5-7 and 17-19

Verse Five: “You have fed them with the bread of tears”.

Psalm 80 is a song of lament.  As one reads the Psalm, you can feel the people’s pain and hurt seeping out of the words.  They are calling out to God and and feel as if God were not there.  In the opening line of our passage, the psalmist asks, “How long will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people”?  They are searching for God.  They long for God’s face to once again shine upon them.

Today our headlines are filled daily with stories of people who could use God’s face shining upon them.  And there are countless others who feel this way whose stories do not cross our TV screens or our Facebook feeds.  There is much hurt and brokenness in our world and even in some of our lives.  We continue today to ask where is God in the midst of the pain and suffering of our world.  We wonder why God would allow tings to be as they are for so many people.

On behalf of the people Israel, the psalmist laments to God: “You have fed them with the bread of tears”.  It is a sad image to have in our minds.  Instead of being filled with God’s love and compassion and healing, they are eating tears.  They long for God’s presence instead.  The psalmist goes on to ask, “Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved”.  The people long for God to look their way.

Many would voice this call today.  “Restore us, O God Almighty”.  You are powerful and can do anything.  You came down to earth and lived among us, healing many – physically, emotionally, spiritually.  You continue to be present both through the Holy Spirit and through us, your disciples.  So Lord, God Almighty, send us out, led by the power and presence of your Holy Spirit.  Send us out to bring healing and restoration to the broken people of our neighborhoods and communities.  Send us out to be your love and compassion to those who are eating tears.  Lead us and guide us to fill them with your bread of love and hope.  Send us out.  Amen.

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A Willingness

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 2: 1-8

Verse Two: With the help of God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition.

Having faith can be difficult.  What is happening to the Thessalonians happens to believers today.  Their faith is wavering, the voices of the world are clamoring, Jesus has not returned yet.  In the midst of all that life can bring, it can be easy to have our faith waver.  Those voices of the world and the temptations of Satan can put us hard to the test.  As we look around at the world and perhaps even at our own lives, we can long for Jesus to return to redeem all things.

The culture of Paul’s world and the culture of Thessalonica is much like ours today.  The Christians are a minority within a culture and society that worships many false idols and chases after many earthly pleasures.  It can be a dangerous place to preach the gospel.  It was in Paul’s day too.  Fresh off a testing and trying experience in Philippi, Paul declares, “With the help of God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition”.  Not one to be deterred, Paul fondly recalls sharing the gospel in Thessalonica.  At times we too must dare to share  the gospel.  For Paul, it was well-received and a strong church emerged.  This letter comes some time after the initial visit and Paul is writing to encourage and to teach this new group of believers.

Paul states a couple of different ways that God is the center of it all.  He speaks as a man approved by God and tested by God.  He speaks with God as his witness, never seeking praise or approval from men.  As we seek to engage the least and the lost of our communities, we too must begin here.  God must be at the core and we must lead out as God guides and directs, keeping our focus on God alone.  Paul says that he was “like a mother caring for her little children”.  This is the second imperative we get from today’s Word.  We must genuinely love those we share the gospel with.  This means a willingness to fully commit, to humbly serve, to offer all we can to help another grow closer to Jesus Christ.  May our focus be on God and on loving others as He first loved us; God will take care of the rest.


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Way, Truth, Life

Reading: Matthew 22: 15-22

Verse 16: You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.

As the religious leaders begin their attempt to trap Jesus, they begin with words probably intended to lure Him into their question.  While this may be their intent, the words they speak are full of truth.  They begin by recognizing Jesus as a man of integrity.  They have learned the hard way that Jesus always does what is right, even if it is unpopular, even if it is hard, even if it angers people.  The healings on the Sabbath and the challenging words that caused some followers to walk away are the best examples that testify to the integrity of Jesus.

Then they say to Jesus, “You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth”.  Ever since He was a young adolescent in the temple courts, where Jesus amazed those around Him, Jesus has always spoken for God and has always had solid truths at the core of His teachings on the scriptures and in all of His parables.  Jesus’ connection to God is undeniable.  He always speaks truth, even when it is a hard truth.  They end their small talk by saying that Jesus is not swayed by men because He pays no attention to who they are.

The religious leaders then try and trap Jesus using a question that pertains to the secular world: paying taxes.  His response reinforces all three things that they have said about Him.  In saying to pay to Caesar what is his, Jesus is a man of integrity, saying to follow the ruler’s laws.  In saying to give to God what is His, He is saying to follow the Law of Moses.  In His answer Jesus shows no partiality.  At His answer there is nothing more to be said.  They simply walk away amazed.

Is this how we as Christians also see and experience Jesus?  Do we honor His teachings as filled with God’s ways?  Do we believe in the truth that Jesus reveals?  After each encounter, do we walk away amazing, knowing that He is the only source of true life?  Yes, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  This is Jesus’ offer to one and all.  The invitation goes out to all.  Praise be to God.


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Choice

Reading: Romans 8: 1-11

Verse Six: The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

Why do people choose to follow Jesus?  Why do some folks choose to worship God and live their lives by what is written in the Bible?  Why do some folks choose a path in life that is hard and narrow instead of walking a road that is wide and easy to meander down?  Why do some people make these choices in deciding to be a Christian?  Why do you?

Choosing to follow Jesus and to live according to His example is a choice.  In many ways, it is a choice that runs against the norm.  By nature we are wired to seek pleasure and to desire to feel good.  Our society ingrains in us the drive to succeed and accomplish and excel – all good things in and of themselves.  Our culture champions messages like ‘just do it’ and ‘of’ it makes you feel good…’  Put all together, the world says to live for self and to just enjoy life to the max.  For some, this is their choice and this is how they live their lives.  Paul writes of these folks: “The mind of the sinful man is death”.

When one chooses to walk the wide and easy way that leads to death, life is fun and exciting and entertaining most of the time.  But soon one realizes there is something missing.  One senses that there is more to life than what they are living.  There is a void.  Philosopher Blaise Pascal described this as the “God-shaped hole in all of us”.  We are created by God in His image.  Therefore, God has a place to fill in our lives.  When we make the choice to fill the hole with God, we are choosing to be whole and complete.  We are making the choice to be a Christian.  Paul also writes of this choice: “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace”.

We make the choice to follow Christ.  It is through this choice that we find life eternal and peace beyond all human understanding.  Here we find that Jesus is our all in all, our everything.  Thank you Jesus.


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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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Thanks

Reading: Psalm 100

Verse Five: For the Lord is good and His love endures forever.

In my Bible, the subtitle to Psalm 100 is: “A Psalm.  For giving thanks”.  After reading through the Psalm it is certainly a fitting subtitle!  The psalmist begins by calling us to shout for joy and to worship with gladness and then he gives us the why: know that the Lord is God.  He goes on to remind us that God made each of us and therefore “we are his people, we are the sheep of his pasture”.  It is a good reminder for us.

Sometimes life can get crazy and the busyness can feel overwhelming.  We can almost feel as if we are so busy we are moving near paralysis.  Our minds get consumed by the worries and pressures to the point of feeling we are near to collapse.  It is in these moments that the Psalm is an excellent reminder.  It calls us to slow down for a time, to step back from life, and to step into God’s presence.  The words remind us of the bigger picture – we are his people – and this lessens the importance of the things of this world.  In our craziness may we remember to slow down and to connect to God.

The second stanza again picks up the call to praise God, to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise”.  Being thankful is essential to being content.  And being content holds the world and it’s craziness at bay.  Part of my morning routine is my little ‘thank book’s.  I write out five to eight things from the day before that I am thankful for and then I pray through each one.  In giving thanks I can see God’s faithfulness and love for me.

The ending of the Psalm echoes this idea: “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever”.  God was and is and always will be.  No matter what this world brings or has in store for us, God and his love are forever.  Thanks be to God.


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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.