pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Limitless Love

Reading: Acts 10: 44-48

Verse 45: “The gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles”.

Today’s passage is a great example of the growing circle of God’s love. Throughout the Bible we see that God’s love is much more expansive than was currently realized. At first it was just God and Adam and Eve. Then the immediate family grew. It was just Noah and family on an ark, then it grew. It was just Abram and family that headed out, following God’s promise. Eventually the people of God end up as slaves in Egypt. God redeems them and under Moses’ and then Joshua’s leadership the Israelites were God’s “chosen people”. For many years, one was a Jew or one was not. One was beloved by God or one was not. Even during most of Jesus’ ministry his focus was on his fellow Jews. There were hints of God’s love being bigger than that but the prevailing feeling was still one of exclusivity.

Peter was born and raised a Jew, steeped in this understanding of the Jews being THE chosen people. They were all that really mattered to God. And then God’s says, ‘Excuse me, Peter, but…’. In two visions that come in the first part of Acts 10 God shows Peter that his love is bigger. God begins by revising the traditional Jewish dietary restrictions – one of the big exclusivity definers. All that God created is clean. This is followed up by the Holy Spirit instructing Peter to go with three men to Cornelius’ home. Wait for it… Cornelius is a Roman centurion, a Gentile!

Turning to today’s passage, at Cornelius’ house Peter tells of the good news of Jesus Christ. During his teaching the same Holy Spirit falls on Cornelius and all who are present. All that God created is clean, acceptable, valued and loved by God. Preparing to baptize these new believers, an astonished Peter declares, “The gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles”. In God’s sight the whole world is the mission field. All people are beloved by God. All people are created by God to be in the family of God. All people.

When I think about Peter being astonished, initially I feel a bit superior. I think, ‘Of course God loves the Gentiles. How silly of Peter to try and limit God’s love’. And then the Holy Spirit convicts me too – slaps me upside the head. There are folks I’d be astonished to see in the family of God. There are times I try and limit God’s love. I too need to better understand the limitless and unconditional nature of God’s love. Like Peter, I am still a work in progress. May God continue to break my heart for what breaks his.

Prayer: Loving God, this day help me to love more fully, to love more openly, to love deeper and wider. Keep praying open the circle of my love too. Your love knows no bounds, no barriers. Make my love the same. Amen.


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Seeds and Yeast

Reading: Matthew 13: 31-33

Verse 33: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast… worked all through the dough”.

As we consider these two teachings about what the kingdom of God is like we get the sense that it is growing and active and alive. These words should describe our journey of faith as well.

In the mustard seed teaching Jesus compares our faith beginnings to a small seed being placed into the ground. The reality for most of us is that our faith is the result of many seeds being planted in us – some by parents and grandparents, some by Sunday teachers and pastors, some by friends… Once the seed of faith begins to grow in us Jesus begins to take root in our heart. As our faith grows and becomes active and alive, it branches out and provided places for others to come and find rest, sustenance, support…

In the second teaching, Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast… worked all through the dough”. Like the slow and steady growth of the seed, the yeast works inside the dough in a similar manner. As the yeast begins to work it isn’t really noticable. This is like the initial stages of our faith too. God is at work in us in ways that are not noticable to the outside world and sometimes not even to us. Yet God is at work. Over time we can see the dough rise as the yeast works throughout the dough. Like most of our faith journeys the process is slow and steady. And like the yeast in the dough our faith is intended to affect all parts of our lives. As we mature and our faith spreads it should come to influence all areas of our lives – family, friends, work, social activities, personal disciplines… Just as the seed grows into a tree and as the yeast spreads throughout, may our faith continue to be alive and active, always growing, ever maturing. May each day bring us one step closer to the example of our faith, Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord God, looking back I can see those seed planters. I am thankful for my parents, for those who taught and mentored me in youth group and on Sunday mornings, and for my many brothers and sisters in Christ who have journeyed with me. Thank you for the rich and powerful community of faith. Amen.


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Keep My Eyes

Reading: Mark 4: 35-41

Verse 41: “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him”!

One of the things Jesus taught about just before getting into the boat was about the lamp on a stand. He reminded the crowd (and the disciples) that faith was something that was put on a stand to bring out whatever was hidden in the dark corners and to open what is concealed there. Jesus concludes this teaching with the statement that whoever has faith will be given more and that whoever does not have faith, even what little they have will be lost.

As the seas got choppy and the water level in the boat began to rise, the disciples had a choice to make. They could turn their focus to God to seek His protection and help. Or they could keep their eyes on the storm and the wind and the rising water level in the boat. Often in our lives we come to the same point. Our decision is the same: do we turn to our own powers or do we allow fear to take over or do we simply give up?

He was right there in the boat. I can envision sone of the disciples looking to Jesus and then to the waves, looking to Jesus asleep in the stern and then looking to the rising waves. With each glance away a bit of their faith ebbed away. With each longer gaze upon the rising waters, a bit more of their faith ebbed away. Again, so it is with us. If only we could look to Jesus at the first hint of rain and then keep our eyes on Him alone. If only we could choose to allow Him to be our all in all.

With just a few words Jesus banishes the fear and doubt and worry that had been building with each wave. An absence of faith, a moment of doubt – they allow the deceiver room to bring in thoughts of doubt and fear and worry. After being awakened and calming the storm, Jesus asks, “Do you still have no faith”? Instead of grasping the moment and allowing their faith to grow, the disciples ask, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him”! It can be easy to do. They are caught up in the miracle and not in the miracle-maker. It can be so easy to do. So we pray, Lord, keep my eyes focused on you and you alone. Help me to see you and not just the amazing things you do. Ground my faith in your love and care. Be my all in all today and each day. Amen.


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One More

Reading: Matthew 1: 18-25

One more.  We wait.  One more week.  We wait.  In one more week it will be Christmas.  We will celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior.  One more week.  It is a significant day because it marks the celebration of the arrival of the Messiah – the one who forever changed the world.  Jesus began a new era in His birth.  Emmanuel, God with us, forever changed our relationships with God, with each other, with sin, and with death.  Jesus is the full revelation of God’s love and the example of how to live this love out in our daily, human lives.

One more second.  On more month.  Twenty-three days.  Right now.  All of these are also available options of times to celebrate the arrival of the Messiah.  Our Emmanuel, God with us, is an ever present God.  We can have Jesus’ presence with us all the time.  Jesus does not just come once a year on Christmas.  Jesus continues to be present to us in the here and now and will continue to be present to humanity until the end of this age.

The Messiah came to initiate a new age: the age of peace.  It is a work in progress.  It is a work in the midst of labor pains.  It is a work that seems far from complete.  It is a work that we, as followers of Jesus Christ, continue to carry out day by day, person by person.

Just as Jesus was the revelation of God and the evolving story of the Old Testament, we too are the continuing revelation of Jesus and the story of the New Testament.  The story of the good news of Jesus Christ continues to grow, to spread, to reach new ears, and to transform lives.  Everyone who comes to Jesus as Lord and Savior helps to complete the narrative of peace and to draw the world a little closer to the return of Jesus.  One more soul at a time.  Matthew writes, “He will save his people from their sins”.  May all come to know this wonderful peace of Christ.


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Growing

In our relationship with Jesus Christ we can be doing one of three things: we can grow to be more like Him, we can stay where we are, or we can become less like Him.  In Revelation 3:16 Jesus warns us that if we are lukewarm, He will ‘vomit’ us out.  Another word for lukewarm would be stagnant and no one wants to be stagnant.  The path of becoming less like Jesus is the path of sin and that only leads to death and destruction.  Paul instead urges us to seek to grow from “one degree of glory to another” as we strive to grow in our faith.

As Moses’ face reflected God’s glory, our lives should also reflect God’s glory that is within us.  The love that Jesus has for us is the love that we should reflect to others.  He challenges us to love others as He first loved us.  As we grow in our faith and in the depth of our understanding of Jesus, we come to know more and more how deep and vast and wide His love is for us.  As we grow in this way, we are in essence moving from one degree of glory to the next as our lives come to reflect His love more and more to those around us.

This transformation that is occurring in us should be noticeable to those in our lives.  If we are growing in our faith, others should see this.  The love and compassion we exhibit should slowly grow.  The care and understanding we offer should slowly become greater and greater.  The depth of mercy and forgiveness we extend should be ever-increasing.  In all aspects of our lives we should be seeking to become more and more like Christ.  This day may we strive to grow a little more in our faith, growing so that we may know Jesus more, reflecting His glory in increasing measure.

Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 3:17 to 4:2