pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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The Next Generation

Reading: Psalm 78: 1-7

Verse 4: “We will tell the next generation the praise-worthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done”.

The Psalm for today opens with a plea to “hear my teaching, listen to my words”. The psalmist knows the importance, the value, the impact of knowing the stories of faith. These stories teach or pass along the faith. Asaph has heard the stories, he has learned the faith and has taken it for his own. Now he wants the next generation to do the same. The psalmist promises to tell “what our fathers told us”. For faith to continue into the next generation, we must each tell them of “the praise-worthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done”, just as Asaph did for his children and for generations to come through his Psalms.

This method is still how faith is passed on today. We teach and model faith for our children, planting seeds in them just as our parents, grandparents, and others planted seeds in us. Then we pray that the Holy Spirit Will nurture these seeds and that a young faith will begin to take root and grow in our children, grandchildren, neighbors… This is the pattern that we experienced, it is the pattern we must pass on generation after generation. The call to do so us so important that it is found in Jesus’ final words in Matthew 28. The task of making disciples is our main task.

The Israelites began this task at home, as we must. But it cannot end there. The making of disciples extends out into the world – “to all nations”, to use Jesus’ words. By helping our families and others to know the stories of faith, we are trusting in God that “they would put their trust in God”. We must teach and model what we want others to learn and take for their own. May it be so for all we meet.

Prayer: Lord God, the stories of faith fueled my love for you. As I watched and learned from others, I accepted faith for myself. Remind me of the best story to tell each time I meet one who is needing you, whether they know it or not. Through me, help others to know you, O Lord. Amen.


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Aware and Attuned

Reading: Psalm 90: 13-17

Verse 16: “May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children”.

The Israelites have always been good historians. But unlike our study of history, which includes kings and wars, victories and achievements… the history of the Israelites centers on God and how God’s hand has been at work in their past. Seeing one’s history as the unfolding hand of God at work in our lives and in our world frames our understanding in a very different perspective. It shifts us from the great things that we or humankind has done (while avoiding or skipping past the failures and ugly things), to looking at the great things that God has done. In the Bible, the history contains the failures and defeats as well as the successes and victories.

Verse thirteen opens with a cry of “Relent, O Lord”! The psalmist next wonders how long it will be. How long will we suffer for our sins? That is really the question being asked. The psalmist begs for God’s compassion and the dawning of a new day when God’s unfolding love will fall upon them. This is a reality that we experience in our own relationship with God. When we sin we cause separation. In that time we are distant from God. The Holy Spirit’s conviction makes us aware of our failure and through repentance God restores our relationship. Once again we feel God’s mercy and love. Like the psalmist and like the Israelites, we long to sing for joy and to know gladness all of our days.

In verse sixteen we read, “May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children”. To know and hear about the deeds of God over and over is to be reminded of God’s best qualities and of our role in bringing those to our own awareness. The more we seek to be aware of and in tune with God, the more we come to be aware of and in tune with God. When we are intentional about seeking God’s “deeds” we become aware of God in the smallest of ways – in a descant added to a song of worship, in the heart of a youth reaching out with love and compassion, in the kindness and generosity shared in a card. Each day may we seek the Lord. In doing so, “may the favor of the Lord rest upon us”.

Prayer: Loving God, thank you for revealing yourself in so many ways. I am an imperfect and sinful creature. Thank you for the whispers of conviction and the nudges back into the path of faith. Thank you for the small ways you reveal yourself, always reminding me of your constant presence in my life and in our world. Amen.


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Do I Reflect Christ?

Reading: Romans 13: 11-14

Verse 12: “So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light”.

Paul’s overarching theme in Romans 13 is loving our neighbors. In today’s verses he focused on how our behaviors and choices impact our ability to love others. Paul begins by encouraging us to love others “understanding the present time”. He goes on to explain that Jesus’ return is closer today than it ever was. This remains true for us too. But there is also another angle to understanding the present times. We live in a much different world than Paul lived in. For example, words we leak out on Facebook or Twitter or Tik Tok or… can fly around the globe in seconds. Our words or video might not go viral, but they do color how everyone who knows us sees us from then on. If we do not understand that every one of us can influence others – for good and for bad – then we do not understand the present time.

In verse twelve we read, “So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light”. There are two parts to this admonition, both equally important to our ability to love others. The first part is to put aside evil thoughts and deeds. Paul lists sexual immorality and drunkenness right along with quarreling and jealousy. If we are promiscuous or abuse drugs or alcohol, if we are always disagreeable and argumentative, if we are always longing for what others have or just for more and more, then we have diminished our ability to even be able to love others. When we practice such evil deeds and selfish behaviors, others do not see us as people who are able to truly love. They see us as people working angles, as people only doing good for some selfish purpose. That is if they are even willing to be around us. Being a hypocrite – doing this thing and then trying to say another thing – is a relationship killer. The ability to love always begins with a relationship.

Instead of this, the second part of verse twelve calls us to “put on the armor of light”, which is Jesus Christ. The desires of the flesh have a strong pull. Jesus is stronger. By putting on Christ, by filling ourselves daily with his love, we are better able to be his love in the world. We are what we allow into our hearts. By filling ourselves with Christ instead of worldly thoughts and desires, Christ is what we reflect out into the world. If this is all people see in our words and actions, then we begin to have the opportunity to be love in the world. So, today, let us consider how we live. May we focus in on this simple question: Do I reflect Jesus Christ in all I say and do or do others see less in me?

Prayer: Lord God, help me to live more fully as your witness in the world. When evil thoughts rise up, shove them aside with a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit. When I am tempted by the things of this world, blow out the flames of desire with the quiet whisper of the Holy Spirit. Empower me today to be light and love in the world. Amen.


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Merciful Forever

Reading: Luke 1: 46-55

Verses 48-49: “All generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me”.

Mary’s song is so full of joy and faith. The opening line, “my soul glorifies the Lord”, sets the tone for the rest of the song. Mary is both elated and humbled that God has chosen her for this special task. As she sings “All generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me” she shows that she understands the magnitude of what is happening. As the song unfolds she shares God’s character from the point of view that comes from the bottom looking up. Mary feels blessed to be a part of God’s family.

As Jesus’ life would unfold, and especially in its culmination, I wonder if Mary would continue to sing the same song. Would she still sing this song as a teenage Jesus claimed the temple as his true home and later as he said his real family were those who were a part of his ministry? Would the song’s words echo in her mind as she stood in the courtyard and then at the foot of the cross? I think Mary would still sing this song even then.

Mary’s words about God would be lived out by her son. Jesus would give mercy and offer mighty deeds as a witness to God’s love and power. Jesus would scatter the proud and lift up the humble. He would feed the hungry… Mary understood her role in all of this coming to be. She also would grow to understand who and what Jesus was. Mary would know that the cross was the only way that her son could be the Savior of the world. It is the way that Jesus would be “merciful to Abraham’s descendants forever”. As one of those descendants, I say thanks be to God his mercy.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of Jesus. In him you were more fully revealed. Most of all, thank you for being willing to die for my life. What a wonderful gift. Your love never ceases to amaze me. I praise your holy name! Amen.


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Come and See

Reading: Psalm 66: 1-12

Verse 5: “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works on man’s behalf”.

Psalm 66 speaks of God’s love for the faithful. The psalmist encourages us to shout with joy and to sing the glory of his name. When we consider the deeds of God, they are very awesome. Verse five invited us into praise and into these deeds, saying, “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works on man’s behalf”. Rejoice in what the Lord has done!

Yesterday I had the privilege of leading worship at the two assisted living facilities in town. The message I shared was based on 2nd Timothy 4. In this passage, Paul encourages Timothy to preach the good news with patience. As I was working on the message earlier in the week, it occurred to me that the second half of the passage, verses six through eight, spoke not only of how Paul had “fought the good fight” but of how many who would gather in those rooms had done so as well. I shared with them how it brought me great joy and how it encouraged me as I thought of the witness to the faith that they have lived out their 70, 80, and even 90+ years. With slightly teary eyes I thanked them for their examples of faith.

In Psalm 66 the writer first focuses in on when God led the people through the waters on dry land. Whether this refers to the parting of the sea or of the Jordan River or both does not matter. Either way it recalls the story of when God acted on behalf of the people. A little later, in verses ten through twelve, the psalmist recalls another time when God acted. It could refer to the exodus from Egypt or the return from exile in Babylon. Again, in either case, these were seasons of difficulty that ended with God’s action and in the long run increased their faith.

In our faith journeys we have these experiences too. We have all been rescued by God. We have all come through a trial with a stronger faith. We too have “come and see” stories of the awesome things that God has done in our lives. Like the psalmist, may we also share the story of our God who reigns forever.

Prayer: O God of all the earth, how wonderful are the works of your hands. I rejoice in the words of the Bible when I read of your actions. I also rejoice in the ways you have been and are at work in my life. Thank you for your abiding presence and for your constant love. Amen.


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Let Us…

Reading: Hebrews 10: 19-25

Verse 21: “Since we have a great high priest over the house of God…”

Jesus opened the way for us – “a new and living way” – to enter into God’s presence. No longer is access limited to the one person chosen by lot to enter on everyone else’s behalf. “Since we have a great high priest over the house of God…” All who call on Jesus Christ as Lord can enter into God’s presence through Jesus.

In today’s reading there are four “Let us…” statements that are responses to the access provided by Jesus, our great high priest. They begin with “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart”. With an assurance that we are cleansed from our sins, we draw close to God. The second is “let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess”. We hold fast because God, the one who made the promise, is always faithful. The covenant to be our God and to always love us is neverending. We hold fast to our faith because we have the promise of God’s presence and love.

The third statement is “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds”. We begin by loving each other as Jesus first loved us. In this model, we will be people who go out and love others. Our good deeds are the vehicle to express that love. The fourth statement goes along with the third. “Let us encourage one another”. We do so by meeting together regularly – not just for Sunday morning worship but also for Bible study and prayer, for food and fellowship, and one on one to mentor and support.

These four statements are great reminders to us that we are in this together. They were given to a people living under pressure in an increasingly pagan world. This sounds familiar. In our post-Christian world, this day and each day may we cling to these “Let us…” statements. Amen.

Prayer: Lord God, today remind me of your promises and your love. Lead me to draw close in true faith, assured of your love. Help me to meet with and to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ so that we may encourage one another to be your hands and feet, your salt and light in a lost and hurting world. May it be so this day and every day. Amen.


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Foundation

Reading: 1 Corinthians 3: 10-11

In the Old Testament, God was the foundation of the Israelites’ faith.  God drew near to them in the pillars of fire and cloud, in the fall of Jericho, in the fire that fell from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice, and in other silimar events.  God also drew near through the voice of the prophets – sharing the Law and other instructions, plus blessings and warnings.  God spoke through Moses and Abraham and Samuel and Nathan and many other people.

As we move into the New Testament, the foundation becomes Jesus, God incarnate.  In Jesus, God draws nearer than ever before.  In Jesus, humanity could see and touch and talk to God.  In taking on the flesh, God chooses to accept human limitations and ultimately suffering and death – all to draw near to us so that we could draw nearer to Him.  In this, God demonstrates the depth of His love for us.  In this, we see a God who loves us so much that there is nothing He wouldn’t do to bring healing and hope to the world.

Paul came to know Jesus as the only way to salvation and, eventually, to eternal life.  While here in the flesh, God said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.  After Paul encountered the risen Christ, his life was radically altered.  For the rest of his life, Paul worked tirelessly to proclaim faith in Christ alone.  In today’s passage, Paul writes of the one foundation being Jesus Christ.  For Paul, and for us, there can be no other foundation.

When we claim Jesus as our foundation, we choose to stand upon the Rock.  Jesus becomes for us the source of all of our strength and peace and the filter for all of our decisions.  In Him alone we find contentment, hope, peace, comfort, mercy, forgiveness, healing, and love.  Out of this great love for us, God dwells in our hearts so that we can be bearers of all this, bringing Christ to a world in need.  Like Paul, we too may lay a foundation of Jesus Christ in other people’s lives through our words, actions, and deeds.  May we also strive to be expert builders, sharing our Lord and Savior with all we meet.


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Heart Faith

Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 17-18

Paul understood the role that Christ called him to: to preach the gospel.  It was a call he received directly from Jesus himself on the road to Damascus.  This would become Paul’s life work: preaching the gospel.  In proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, Paul spoke from the hesrt, not from the head.  Paul knew that fancy words, the wisdom of the world, even impassioned rhetoric, would never convince someone of faith.  He knew these approaches “emptied the power of the cross” because one cannot be argued into believing.  One cannot be led through a linear progression to arrive at faith.  Paul knew his witness and testimony must come from the heart and not the head.

This is because the cross defies logic and understanding from the human perspective.  Paul writes, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing”.  That a loving father would allow his son to die for the mistakes of others is illogical.  That Jesus came for the very purpose of going to the cross for our sins is hard to understand.  Why would someone do that?  If one approaches the cross and the message of the gospel trying to make sense of it all, then it does appear as foolishness.  Faith comes from the heart, not the head.

Jesus spoke to Paul and gave him directions to follow.  In Paul’s mind this encounter had to seem crazy, really impossible.  “Did that just happen?” would have been foremost in his mind.  But Jesus wasn’t working in Paul’s mind, He was working in his heart.  Ananias was sent to Paul and, in the name of Jesus, healed his blindness and Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Paul was baptized and soon began preaching in the synagogues.  Paul opened his heart to Jesus and the Holy Spirit came flooding in.  From then on, Paul was dedicated to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with all he met.  The story was always from the heart, because that is where Jesus lived inside of Paul.

Our task is the same: “go and make disciples of all nations”.  Some of us will do that by telling others the good news of Jesus Christ and what He has done in our lives.  Some of us will show Jesus in our heart by how we live our life.  Some of us will let the love of Christ tell the story as it spills out of our hearts and into the lives of those affected by our actions.  There are many ways to proclaim the good news.  May we open our hearts today, allowing the gospel of Christ to radiate out in our words, actions, and deeds.


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Marvelous Deeds

Reading: Psalm 72: 18-19

Our short passage for today so well sums up the spirit of this time of year.  “Praise be to the Lord our God, who alone does marvelous deeds”.  In the bringing forth of the baby Jesus, God indeed did a wonderful thing.  But the list is much longer than this.  Take a moment or two and make a little mental list of the marvelous deeds that God has blessed you with in your life.  Praise be to the Lord our God indeed!

The passage ends with, “May the whole earth be filled with his glory”.  When we praise God for all of the marvelous deeds and wonderful blessings in our lives, we bring God alone the glory.  It is through us that glory is brought to God.  We can bring God glory in many ways.  It can be in our private prayer time.  It can be by singing a song or hymn that offers thanks to God or brings glory to God for the marvelous deeds that he has done.  It can be in the ways we speak to others and in the way we treat them that we bring glory to God.

This day, may we be cognizant of and thankful for all of the marvelous deeds of God.  And may our joyous and grateful response bring God the glory!  Amen and amen.


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His Love

Reading: Acts 9: 36-43

As human beings one of our greatest non-physical needs is to belong. As social creatures, we need to feel like we are a part of the group and that we matter to others.  In turn we feel a need to have others feel that they  matter to us, that they are important parts of our life.

In today’s reading this is shown as a dear friend, Tabitha, passes away.  She seems to be the glue that held this small community together, so the grief is especially deep.  She not only shared her presence and love with her friends, she also showed it in her actions and in how she gave physical gifts to them as well.  Her friends and the two disciples who are present decide to send for Peter, who is in a nearby town.  The depth of love in this small community is amazing.

The depth of this love has power.  The level of caring is evident.  Peter comes and cares for Tabitha’s friends by restoring their dear friend to life.  By the power of this miracle many outside the group of friends come to believe in the Lord.

We too use the love of Jesus to form bonds of friendship among fellow believers.  Through study and fellowship we can find deep, caring relationships that meet our need to belong and to matter to others.  In turn we care for and love one another in acts of presence and in acts of service and in sharing together the love we find in Jesus.

This same love and actions that emulate His love and example can be brought out into the world.  Just as Tabitha’s resuscitation brought new believers to faith in Christ, our words and acts of service to others can help them to come to know Christ.  Our words and deeds may not be miracles in and of themselves like the miracle in today’s story, but they are the seeds that one day can lead to another coming to know Christ.  It is all about planting seeds and sharing His love.  May we plant well today!