pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Baptized to Minister

Reading: Mark 1: 9-11

Verse 11: “You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well-pleased”.

In our passage today Jesus comes to the desert to be baptized by John the Baptist. John was offering a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The actual baptism was proceeded by a confession of sins. The waters of baptism represented a cleansing – the old sins were washed away and the person emerged “new” or “born again”. They had repented of their old ways and emerged committed to live a life devoted to and obedient to God. There was an element of turning and walking in a new direction.

As Jesus came to be baptized there was no need for confession. He was without sin. So why come at all? For Jesus, it was a turning point. He was entering into ministry, revealing fully who and what he was. He was turning to something new, beginning to walk as the Son of God. Just as the Spirit hovered over the waters as God spoke in Genesis 1, so too is the Spirit present as God speaks, saying, “You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well-pleased”. With these words of affirmation Jesus begins his formal ministry. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus will teach and heal and restore many as he lives and ministers, being fully obedient to God.

Today, for some, I encourage you to remember your baptism. Remember you are filled with the Holy Spirit and go forth in ministry. For some, I encourage you to reclaim your baptism. Reclaim your place as a son or daughter, seek to draw close once again. Renew your faith commitment and go forth in ministry. And for some, you have never entered the waters of baptism. Reading this, you are at least a little bit drawn to God. I encourage you to become connected to a local community of faith or to talk with your pastor about baptism if you are connected someplace. Continue your journey!

As we each go forth into the world, may we all seek to walk closer to God, following Jesus’ example of love.

Prayer: Lord God, today I pray for all believers. Help each of us to live out our faith more fully, bearing witness to your love. Encourage us, strengthen us, empower us to walk faithfully as your son or daughter today. Amen.


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Celebrate the Gift

Reading: John 1: 1-18

Verse 16: “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another”.

At Christmas we Christians often want to focus on “the reason for the season” and we want folks to see Jesus as the best gift ever. So why do we celebrate the birth? Why do we equate Jesus to a gift?

More than the actual birth, we celebrate all that surrounds the birth. It is first the story of the creator entering his creation. Leaving the glory and perfection of heaven, the light and love of God entered the world more fully. It was in the flesh – where we could see and hear and feel it. Second, it is the story of prophecy fulfilment and of miraculous conception. Things written hundreds and hundreds of years before predicted the events of Jesus’ birth and life as if written in real time. And it is the first story of birth through the Holy Spirit. As followers we too experience this birth. We call it “being born again”. Third, it is the story of God acting in our world through a faithful teenage girl. Mary will always be the mother of Jesus. But she could have been Sue or Beth or Dawn or Erica. God’s penchant for using the ordinary and humble is exemplified here in this story. Fourth, and perhaps most, as John writes, “we have seen his glory”. The birth story reveals God’s glory – his control over all things, his omnipotence and omnipresence, his love for you and me and all the world. We celebrate the birth because it is holy and sacred and because it reveals God’s love and grace and truth.

As wonderful as the birth story is, though, it pales in comparison to the gift that Jesus is to the whole world. First, if one believes in Jesus, they are given the “right to become children of God” – to be born into a new creation, born again into a new relationship with the Lord. Becoming a child of God, we receive the light and love of Jesus into our hearts. This forever changes how we live in this world. We see the world, we see others, and we even see ourselves through this lens of love. Illuminated by his light, we love honestly, purely, unconditionally. Seeing with his eyes, loving with his heart, we live beyond the law of Moses and beyond the law of man. Beyond does not mean outside of these laws. It reflects Jesus’ emphasis that he was “the fulfillment of the law” (Matthew 5:17). For example, Jesus taught over and over that the command to love one another did not just include the Jews but it extended to sinners and to Gentiles and to the sick and the imprisoned and to Samaritans and to the possessed and… Jesus reveals what a life of love and grace and truth looks like when lived out in the world.

Living life as a Christ follower amplifies our hope, peace, joy, contentment; it betters our relationships with others and with the world; and, it deepens our faith and trust in God. We celebrate the birth because Jesus is truly the greatest gift ever. Life lived through and with Christ is simply better. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: God, you are the giver of “one blessing after another”. As I reflect on the ways that the world and that life is better with you, it humbles me. Surrender to your will and way is the path to true life, to full life. Thank you for all of your blessings. Amen.


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Born Again

Reading: John 3: 1-15

Nicodemus understands our human birth.  All of us enter the world the same way.  Being born, we become part of the human race.  Jesus then speaks of another birth that must take place for one to “see the kingdom of God”.  Just as Jesus speaks of new birth at two levels, so too can we “see” at two levels.  The first is to see this world through God’s eyes, as the kingdom here on earth.  The second level is to see or experience eternal life.

Jesus begins His explanation of second birth with the water.  This is a concept that Nicodemus would be familiar with.  Maybe Nicodemus even ventured out into the wilderness to be baptized by John.  The baptism of repentance that John offered out in the desert was adapted by the early church to be more a baptism of belief.  New converts were baptized after a long period of preparation.  Over the centuries most churches have retained the belief that baptism marks one as a member of the family of God.  In baptizing our young, we as a church are marking them as a child of God and declaring our communal intent to raise them within the family of faith.  Thereafter the infant or young person is forever marked as a child of God, baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The second birth Jesus speaks of is being born of the Spirit.  At some point in a Christian’s journey, one chooses to declare Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  This decision results in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, marking the point at which one is born of the Spirit.  Once the Spirit dwells in us, our lives are made new.  We are born again as a new creation.  Instead of seeing through our old eyes, seeing the things of this world, we now see through God’s eyes.  Instead of living for earthly things, we come to live for spiritual things and according to the will of God.  We see community instead of just our self.  We see others and their needs instead of just our own desires.  As the Holy Spirit works in us to help us see the kingdom of God here on earth, we begin to bear the fruit of the Spirit, becoming more loving, caring, giving, and forgiving.  We come to bear witness to Jesus Christ in the world.  We are transformed day by day through the power of the Holy Spirit in us.  Soon we begin to see the kingdom of God at work here on the earth as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide our lives.  Being born of the water and the spirit, we seek to bring God glory and honor in all we do and say.  May this be our walk of faith this day and every day.


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Drawn to Jesus

Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him to me.”  When we come to accept Christ as Lord and Savior, it is not any person or their words that accomplishes the conversion within; it is the sole work of God.  Through our words and actions we can share Jesus, but it is God alone who can enter the heart and soul of a person to change that person forever.

Jesus goes on to say, “He who believes has everlasting life.”  Once God changes our heart and we are “born again” then the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and we then live with an eternal framework.  Our eyes are ever bent on heaven and the promise of eternal life with Christ.  Gradually our focus shifts away from the things of the world and our focus becomes more on the things of God.

We will still have moments when our vision becomes a little cloudy and we lose sight of God’s promises.  Sometimes these are even seasons.  Yet because the Holy Spirit dwells in us, we will always be drawn back to our relationship with Jesus through God.  The love we find in Christ will always be what draws us back to Him.

When we allow the Father to draw us back to Jesus we experience redemption and we are made new again in Christ.  The grace and mercy and compassion that flows down upon us through His love and forgiveness is amazing.  Our grateful response to this is a burning desire to share the good news with others.  Such a wonderful gift is intended for all the world.  Through our story, through our lives, through our witness, the life and message of Jesus Christ must go out to all the world.  It is the plan.

Scripture reference: John 6: 41-51


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Understand God?

Nicodemus is drawn to Jesus.  He comes in the dark of night though because, although he is drawn, he still has a lot to keep in mind.   He is a Pharisee, a Jewish religious leader, and his group often clashes with Jesus.  And yet he comes – because Jesus has answers.

Isn’t that why we usually come to Jesus too?  To seek answers, to understand life, to  get guidance or comfort or peace?  Our prayers are often not questions, but sometimes we really do question, it is just below the surface.  We pray for strength or resolution in a certain situation.  But just below the surface we are questioning why God would allow us to even be in the situation.

Nicodemus comes, of course, because he wants answers.  He is willing to risk a little to get an answer or two from Jesus.  But Jesus’ answers do not make sense to Nicodemus.  Be born again?  That makes as much sense as dying twice!  Jesus tries to explain what being born of the Spirit means, but that does not fit in with Nicodemus’ thinking either.  Then and there he cannot assimilate this information.  Nicodemus goes away confused, with a lot to ponder, and without any answers he understands yet.  But he will.

Can you relate to Nicodemus?  Have you ever had a prayer ‘answered’ in a way you do not understand?  Ever feel like you did not get an answer at all?  Like Nicodemus, at times we too struggle to understand God and His ways.  He is a big and complex God.  It is okay we do not fully know everything.  Even though we do not fully know God, we do know some things.  He loves us more than we can ever imagine and He wants the very best for us.  Hold onto these truths of God.  Keep on seeking and praying.

Scripture reference: John 3: 1-15