pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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The Light Has Come

Reading: Isaiah 60: 1-6

Verse 1: “Arise, shine, for your light has come”.

The chapter that we read from today is entitled “The Glory of Zion” in my Bible. Zion was another name for Israel and for God’s chosen people. In this, the third section of Isaiah, the prophet writes of hope. He writes of hope because the people are in need of hope. The long years in exile have been difficult. The time in a foreign land has challenged their faith. Life feels dark and dreary. The hope that Isaiah wrote about 800 years before Christ are good words for today.

Chapter 59 leads into today’s passage. At the end of this chapter we find these words: “he will come like a pent-up flood… the Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Judah who repent of their sins”. These words, read during the era of Jesus Christ, speak of the Messiah. The love of God revealed in Christ swept through Israel and then was carried out across the known world. City by city were swept into faith in Christ as the disciples and apostles brought the good news to those eager to confess and to be baptized into faith. In today’s reading we began by reading, “Arise, shine, for your light has come”. As we read these words just after Christmas we hear these words speaking of Jesus, of our light, of our redeemer.

This week we also read part of the creation story from Genesis 1. It is awesome to think of the complexity and diversity and organization of a world that God simply spoke into being. Passages like today’s remind me that the Bible is much like creation. Today, for example, we encounter a prophet who lived about 800 years before Jesus writing as if he lived right alongside Jesus. It is but one of hundreds of passages that speak of Jesus and of events that will unfold just as they were foretold. Clearly the Bible is part of God’s grand and detailed plan.

As God’s children, as part of the family and community of faith, these 2,800 year old words speak to us. Verse two continues with these words: “the Lord rises upon you, and his glory appears over you”. Yes, the light has come. It continues to shine. May it shine in you today as the Lord’s glory rests upon you.

Prayer: God of glory, the light that brought creation into being was the light that came through the stable almost 2,000 years ago. The light continues to shine. May the light of Christ shine brightly in the world today. Amen.


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Loving the Outsiders

Reading: Matthew 15: 21-28

Verse 22: “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me”.

Today’s passage is one with layers. A simpler version would tell of a woman who came to Jesus and received healing for her daughter. That is the basic story. But our story is layered with cultural prejudice and years of dislike and distrust. The story contains relatively few words between Jesus and the woman and the disciples. It does not get unpacked later in a private moment with the twelve.

By identifying her as a Canaanite woman Matthew is pointing out a barrier. In his world, you were either a Jew or you were not. If you were, you were in. If you were not you were an outsider, a heathen, unclean. Yet she identifies Jesus as “Lord” and as the “Son of David” – she recognizes him as the Messiah, as the Savior of the world. She begs for healing for her daughter. She at least knows that Jesus is a healer. Jesus does not answer her. She persists. What do we make of his silence? Maybe Jesus is testing her sincerity, her level of commitment, her faith. Perhaps he is struggling within with the cultural biases that he grew up with. Or maybe the time is allowed for the disciples’ benefit. The disciples buckle first, asking Jesus to “send her away”. Instead he replies, engaging her while putting her off. Jesus tells her that he came to the Jews only. He is reminding her that she is an outsider. Or… is he reminding the disciples? Or himself? Or us? She begs again.

Jesus adds insult to his next “no”, calling her a “dog”. This is cultural slang for all those below or outside of the pure Jewish religion. It is a degrading and demeaning term. This is not the Jesus we know and love, is it? So we must ask “why?” Is the human inside struggling? Is it to force the disciples to reconsider their own prejudices? They will soon enough be going out into the world of the Gentiles with the good news. Or is it to add emphasis to the healing of the other?

The Canaanite woman sticks to it, noting that “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table”. She again identifies Jesus as the One, as the Lord of all, as the master. She does not want to take Jesus from the ones he is sent to, she just wants a little of him too. Her great faith is applauded by Jesus and the daughter is healed.

This is a powerful and complex story of how Jesus loves even the outsider. How will our love reflect his love today?

Prayer: Loving God, thank you for this story that challenges and forces my love and welcome a bit wider. Continue to work in me and in my heart, removing all that hinders and limits how I love others. Amen.


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All Good

Reading: Genesis 1:1 to 2:4a

Verse 25: “And God saw that it was good”.

Today we read the story of creation. It is a summary of how our world was created. Within the account there is a beauty and an order. These two enduring characteristics of God leap out of his creative acts. One thing at a time is created – night and day; sky, land, and seas; vegetation and trees; sun, moon, and stars; sea and air creatures; and, land creatures. Once all the groundwork is created, God makes human beings in his own image. Their task, our task, is to watch over and care for what God has made.

As God gets into the third day on, the creation explodes. On day three, for example, all the vegetation and trees are created, each “according to its kind”. This is a vast amount of life forms. It speaks of the power and might of God. The same is true when we think of the different species of the sea and air creatures and of all the land creatures – not to mention the unthinkable number of stars and planets and moons in the universe. The sheer greatness of God is revealed in all of creation. It is a greatness that is hard to even begin to wrap our minds around. And, yes, it was all good! Let us praise the Lord our God for all of the created world.

Prayer: Father of all, thank you for the diversity and beauty of your creation. Each and every thing has your fingerprints upon them. Because of that, all things have sacred worth. Thank you for that reminder today, O God. Amen.


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Such a God

Reading: Psalm 8

The psalmist writes, “when I consider your heavens, the works of your fingers”.  As we imagine the vastness of the universe we are amazed that God created it all.  But scripture also reveals that God calls each star by name.  It is humbling to be in a relationship with such a God.

When one looks at the relatively small slice of the universe that is planet earth, again we see a complex, widely varied, and stunning creation of His hand as well.  The human mind cannot begin to wrap itself around the intricacy and detail of our world.  Again, it is humbling to think of being in a relationship with such a powerful and huge God.

Add to His creative magnificence the order that is layered over the top of it all and one is left speechless.  If earth were just a fraction closer to or further from our sun, the earth would be radically different.  Life might not even exist on our planet.  So many things function and just are in our world, seemingly moving along on their own.  But we know from the Word that God continues to watch over the plans and mechanisms that He set in motion at the beginning of time.

The psalmist goes on to ask, “what is man that you are mindful of him?”  It is again so humbling to realize that God chose mankind to be over creation.  He placed humanity just under the heavenly beings.  What a special place to occupy in the created order.  And what a task!

In spite of all the wonder of creation, still more amazing is that our God knows each hair on our head and calls each one of us by name.  The God who made and knows billions of billions of stars by name and set this vastly complex world into motion also knows each of us by name.  Not only that, but He also seeks and desires to be in a personal relationship with each one of us.  Our response?  To bring Him praise and glory and honor in all we do.


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He Is So Close

The voice of God speaks out in nature.  It roars in the thunder and whispers in the gentle breeze.  It reveals silent beauty in the sunset and lifts the heart with the song of the bird.  God has also continued to be revealed through science.  As technology has allowed us to peer further and further into space we come to better understand God’s immeasurable nature.  And as that same technology has allowed us to deeper and deeper into living organisms, we come to better understand God’s complexity and the fine detail of His work.

In spite of how big and intricate and vast and mind-boggling God is, He is also a God who seeks to know each of us personally.  He desires an intimate and deep relationship with each of us.  This relational God is best revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.  As God came and dwelt among us as the incarnate Jesus, we came to know Him personally.  In His relationship with man, Jesus revealed God as love.  This love was lived out through things such as hope, peace, comfort, forgiveness, mercy, service.  Jesus patterned what a life lived as love should look like.  It was shown in how He interacted and treated everyone that He encountered.

Through Jesus our God is so close we can rest in His presence when needed.  He is so close we can hear the Spirit whisper into our life.  He is so close we can come with our questions, joys, concerns, fears, doubts, praise, and thanksgiving.  The God of all creation, in His vastness and complexity, is still our comforter, our guide, our companion, and our friend.  For this I say, thanks be to God!

Scripture reference: Psalm 104: 1-9