pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Fellowship with the Light

Reading: 1st John 1: 1-5

Verse 3: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us”.

In his first letter John proclaims the life of Jesus and the eternal life of Jesus. Just as he did in his gospel, John begins our passage today by reminding us that Jesus Christ was present with God at the beginning, in the creation of the world. John goes on to state that he himself has heard, seen, and even touched the physical Jesus. John did so for three years as a follower of Jesus. He was also blessed to see, hear, and touch the resurrected Jesus, “the eternal life”. John shares all of this firsthand evidence to let his readers know that Jesus was really real and that the resurrection really happened.

There is a point to John’s sharing of these facts. In verse three he writes, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us”. John shares his experiences with Jesus so that we too may know Jesus and can have fellowship “with us”. John goes on to define “us” in the next verse. Fellowship is not just with John or with the community of faith, but it is also with God the Father and with Jesus Christ, his Son. Christian fellowship always includes the divine. Without this holy presence we are simply friends gathering for a social function.

Much of the world prefers to function on this surface level – pleasant hellos and how are yous, general acceptance, polite conversations… Deadening all this is the constant noise and buzz of information that we seem to prefer to live amidst. It is refreshing to pause and to feel and hear John’s excitement surrounding his real experience with Jesus Christ. It is inviting. This shines out in verse five where John writes, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all”. There is no noise, no buzz. The light is clear and bright. In the light we can see things as they are. It is easy to understand what we touch and are touched by. In the light, our journey of faith follows a clear path, easily seen as we study and learn about Jesus Christ. It is in this process that we too see, hear, and touch Jesus himself. As knowledge leads to belief, we are increasingly seen, touched by, and heard by Jesus the divine. Our fellowship with him deepens and our joy is ever made more complete. Thanks be to God for our fellowship with the light!

Prayer: Lord of life, continue to draw me into your son Jesus. As I walk each day, help me to see, hear, and touch Jesus both in my times of prayer and study and in my encounters with others in the world. To God be the glory! Amen.


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Great in Love, Rich in Mercy

Reading: Ephesians 2: 1-5

Verse 4: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ”.

Today’s passage is all about the change that God has made in us. Before Christ we were as Paul writes: “dead in our transgressions and sins”. We lived a life focused on self and on doing whatever we wanted to please self and our earthly desires. We lived according to the “ways of the world” and we were “disobedient” to God. For many of us older folks that meant distancing ourselves from the faith of our childhood and from the faith of our parents. For the younger readers, a larger segment grew up without a childhood church or faith. For all who came to faith the realization came that the things of this world are temporary. They never really satisfy or bring meaning and purpose to this life. Peace, contentment, joy… only come through the eternal relationship that we find in Jesus Christ.

Why didn’t God leave us there, dead in our sin? Why did God continue to pursue us even when we were running from him? We find our answer in verse four: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ”. God’s love is greater than our sin. We were created to be in relationship with God and with one another. God calls and woos and chases us until we make the choice to invite him into our hearts or until we draw our last earthly breath. Faith, however, does not stop at our decision for Christ. Once we accept Christ we are not finished. It is just the beginning of our faith journey. We are not suddenly sinless. Satan continues to pursue us, often with renewed passion, enticing and tempting the flesh still within us. Yet the battle is different, it is changed. The field is no longer level. With Christ alive in us, we do not fight alone. The Holy Spirit leads and guides, convicts and corrects, ever helping us to choose Christ over the world, good over evil, light over darkness.

Lent is a season that reminds us of this battle, that draws us into combat. In Lent we are called again and again to look within, to seek out the parts of us that still need to yield to Christ’s authority and reign. In this seeking and yielding it is grace and mercy that provide the way. In love it is God’s grace and mercy that say our past doesn’t matter, that our selfishness or pride or fear doesn’t control us anymore, that we are loved just as we are. In the season of Lent and in the hard work that we are called to, this is the good news: we are loved, we are forgiven, we are saved by grace. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your love that is so deep that I cannot ever reach the bottom. Thank you for your love that is so wide that I cannot ever see the other side. Thank you for your love that always surrounds me, even when I stumble and fall. What great love. Amen.


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Calling Them to Come

Mark 1: 1-5

Verse 4: “John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.

Last week we began Advent with the end of the story – the end of the age when Jesus will return in power and might. This week we jump back to the beginning of the story, with the ministry of John the Baptist. Mark begins his gospel quoting from two of the many Old Testament passages that point to Jesus Christ, the full revelation of God. Mark describes John’s ministry simply: “John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. John set up outside of the temple, outside of Jerusalem – outside of all civilization for that fact. He was calling people back to a simpler way of life from a simple place: the wilderness. It was not a place to come and stay. It was a place to come to, to do what needed done, and to return home from.

As I try to imagine John out there in the wilderness, my mind thinks of “bullhorn guy”. He is that person standing on the street corner, yelling at people through a bullhorn, telling folks that they will end up in hell because of their sins. People tend to go the long way around street corners such as these. We, in general, do not like to consider our sins, much less confess them in public on a street corner. Although the basic message is the same – repent of your sins – John must have been as far from the bullhorn guy as one could get. Mark writes, “The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to see him”. There were, of course, some curious folks who went out to see what all this was about. These folks appear in our churches once in a while. A bump in life leads them to check out this faith thing. Others come to appease a significant other or their family at the holidays. The religious leaders showed up too. Not to be prepared or to confess or to be baptized, but to assess the threat to their own power. A lot of people were going to see John. But most people, large numbers of people, went to see John to be made right with God. In verse five we read, “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him”. They emerged from the waters ready to live a new, more faithful life.

There was a hunger to be close to God, to be a better person, to live a more holy life. This is what drew people out into the wilderness to hear John’s message and to be changed. John called the people to more. As we too live out our days, may our witness call people to more. This day and each day, may our friends and neighbors, our co-workers and classmates – may they see the hope, peace, joy, and love of Christ within us, calling them to more.

Prayer: Lord God, may I be an example of your will and way. May all I do and say and think point people to you and to the saving relationship that you offer in and through Jesus Christ. Amen.


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Reign Supreme

Reading: Colossians 1: 10-20

Verse 18: “He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy”.

The first half of our passage deals with living a life worthy of the Lord and pleasing to the Lord. This involves bearing fruit, growing in our faith, and joyfully thanking God for our blessings. Living this way allows us to share in our inheritance. That is the gift of walking in the light as a child of God. All of this was the focus of yesterday’s devotional.

Today we turn to verses fifteen through twenty. In these verses Paul establishes the supremacy of Jesus Christ. Jesus has been and continues to be. He is both the firstborn of all creation and the firstborn from the dead. He holds all things together. Jesus is able to do so because “all things were created for him and by him”. The fullness of God dwelled in him during the years he walked the earth. At the end of this time, all things were reconciled to him through his blood shed on the cross. My Bible describes this as “making peace through his blood”. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice that paid the price for our sin. The making of peace is with God.

Jesus is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. All things came from him and he is the one whose blood allows us to be made right with God. All this so that “in everything he might have the supremacy”. Jesus is the Lord of life and the Lord over sin and death. In him all things hold together. Jesus desires to be first in everything. The words say “might have”. It is not a done deal – it is a choice. Will you allow Jesus first place in your heart, in your life? May it be so.

Prayer: God, when there was nothing in existence, there was Jesus. When all that we know here and now is no more, there will be Jesus. In the space in between that I now dwell, may Christ be first in all things – in my heart, in my mind, in my will, in my words and actions. May Jesus Christ reign supreme in my life. Amen.


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Sing for Joy!

Reading: Psalm 98

Verse One: “Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things”.

The opening line of Psalm 98 is beautiful: “Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things”.  Part of the role that the Holy Spirit plays in our lives is to lead us into these joyful moments of song for what the Lord has done.  The psalmist is calling for joyous song in response to the salvation worked by the Lord.  For all who are saved, we can lift a joyous “Hallelujah”!  It is within a loving, personal relationship that we each find salvation.  Verse three continues this idea of joy by reminding each of us that “He has remembered His love”.  God is always loving and faithful to His children, to you and me.

The theme of joyous celebration continues in the next verse as the psalmist writes, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth”.  All this joy comes from the ways in which the Lord has fulfilled His promise to walk with the faithful and to one day restore all of creation.  In the meantime, God continues to be at work in the world.  And sometimes it is through you and me.  Those times also bring us joy and lead us to songs of praise.

As we draw to a close of 2017, we are naturally more aware of the end of some things and the beginnings of other things.  In each end we find a new beginning.  Sometimes in the past year there have been joyful ends and we we rejoice in these.  At other times, the ends have brought pain and heartache.  Yet in all cases, we know two things.  First, new beginnings are full of hope and promise because we know that God has good plans for all who believe.  Second, we know that God is ever-faithful and that God will continue to walk beside us in all the highs and lows, always bringing us hope and love.  In all of this, we sing for joy!

As we come near to the closing of another year, I invite you to sing a song of joy in your heart for what God has done, for what God is doing, and for what God will do in the year ahead.  In all things, He is with us.  Thanks be to God!  Joy to all!


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Among Us

Reading: John 1: 1-6 and 19-28

Verse 26: “Among you stands one you do not know”.

John’s gospel begins in the beginning – literally – stating that Jesus was there at the beginning of it all.  Jesus is the creator, the giver of all life.  Jesus is the light that shines into the darkness.  Jesus has been present to mankind since the beginning of time.  For the Israelites, it feels almost that long that they have been waiting for the Messiah.  Their collective journey of faith has been long and winding, filled with ups and downs for a long time now.  And for a long time, hundreds of year now, they have been waiting for, longing for, anticipating the coming of the One.  It has been 400 years since the last prophet of God even spoke, so John the Baptist draws a crowd when he begins to preach and baptize out in the wilderness.

As a little buzz begins to grow around John, the religious leaders send out some investigators to find out just who John the Baptist really is.  It sort of sounds like he could be the One.  In response to the investigators initial question, John responds clearly, “I am not the Christ”.  For all real purposes, they quit listening.  But then they remember they were sent to find out, so they continue to ask who he is.  Okay then, who are you?  John tells them he is not Elijah returned or any other prophet that they know.  He simply tells them that he is the messenger that Isaiah prophesied.  John quotes from Isaiah 40, saying, “I am the voice of one calling out in the desert, ‘Make straight paths for the Lord'”.  Instead of hearing that the Messiah is about to emerge, they turn to other questioning, giving evidence that they did not really hear this answer either.  The religious leaders miss the point of why John is here.  It is not about John or what he is doing, it is about what is about to happen.  You’d think that for a people waiting hundreds of years for the Messiah, they’d be all over John’s news.

Many people are right here today, just where the religious leaders are.  They sense there must be more to life, they want more for their life, they sense the possibilities.  John says to the religious leaders, “Among you stands one you do not know”.  This remains true today.  Jesus is still right here, right now.  He stands among us.  May we, like John the Baptist, be the voices calling out in the wilderness today, helping others to know the One who stands among us, Jesus Christ.


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Each Day

Reading: Revelation 1: 4-8

Part of our experience of Holy Week was the grief of knowing that Jesus had to die for our sins.  There is a personal connection for each of us to Jesus’ act on the cross.  He not only died for the people’s sins who were living in His time, but for all sin of all people in all time.  We are included, we have a share in the cross.  Through the cross, we also have hope.

In the book of Revelation, John again reminds us that Jesus will come again.  He writes, “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”.  There is not a doubt that one day Jesus will return.  The day is known only to God.  So in the interim God brings us peace.  He removes the guilt of our sin so that we may ever be kneeling at the foot of the cross with our eyes turned to Jesus, the light and love of the world.

John also reminds us that Jesus too offers us grace and peace each day.  Because if His love for us, He frees us from our captivity to sin.  Jesus calls us out of this life to a life lived in His grace and peace.  He calls us into living an abundant life now, serving as priests working to build His kingdom here on earth.

To do so we must cast aside the disobedience that is within and strive to live the true life of faith that brings purpose to our days.  Jesus said, ” I am the alpha and the omega, who was, and is, and is to come “.  He is the beginning and the end and He is everlasting.  For each of us to find God’s renewing grace each day and for us to have true life now, we must live with Jesus as Lord and Savior at the beginning of each day, at the end of each day, and at all times in between.  May it be so.


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Praise Indeed

Today is “Native American Day” in my home state.  I think in every state except South Dakota that today is “Columbus Day.”  I do not know the reasoning that went into the name change and shifting the focus of the day, but I think it is cool.  The Lakota and Columbus both tie into a theme found in Psalm 104 – discovering something amazing.

Psalm 104:1 calls for us to praise God who is great and who is clothed in majesty and splendor.  For the Lakota and many other indigenous peoples, there is a holy connection to the Creator and to all of life.  They see the Creator God in all things and in all of life.  God ‘pulses’ through each creature, mankind included.  The Creator is the life force.  In my Lakota friends I see the wonderful way that they have of continually discovering God and His goodness in people, nature, and so forth over and over and over.  It is awesome!

Columbus set out into the unknown to try to find a new way.  As Christians we often wrestle with our faith and in knowing the unexplainable God we worship.  As we walk along on our journey of faith, we often encounter the unknown or that which we cannot give a logical explanation right away.  Yet with time in the Word, in prayer, in study, and in meditation, we can often find a way to either a new place of faith or to a place where we are comfortable again with God.  Often we are also reminded of how immeasurable and big our God is.  This connection builds our faith as well.

In Job, God tells him to brace himself.  Sometimes I think we are like Job in this. When we are willing and open to God and where He wants to lead us in life, sometimes I think I need to brace myself.  To trust and step into this unknown takes a lot of faith and trust.  God asks Job (and us) who was there when the foundations of the earth were laid or when the cornerstone was set.  God reminds him and us that none were there except the stars and the angels!  It is good in this story to remember that God was there before the beginning, at the beginning, is here now and will forever be.  Praise indeed for the God of the universe and the same God that walks and connects with us daily so that we can discover and grow in our faith.

Scripture references: Job 38: 1-7 and Psalm 104:1