pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

Habits and Practices

Reading: John 2: 18-22

Verse 20: “It has taken 46 years to build this temple”.

Yesterday we read about Jesus clearing the temple and we’re asked to consider where we could stand against some wrongs or evils in the world around us. In today’s passage we see the reaction of the religious leaders – those in charge of the temple. They want to know by what authority Jesus can do what he has done. In a way, they are asking if they can just go back to business as usual tomorrow, when he is gone. They ask for a sign and Jesus does give them one. They will just have to wait to see the truth of him rising after three days in the grave. Most of the religious leaders will deny that event too. Almost all will fail to connect Jesus’ resurrection to his answer to the question about his authority.

The market place in the temple courts probably began simply – some guy looking to help out travelers from afar by selling doves for sacrifices. And then another guy set up shop selling sheep. Eventually the sellers moved out inside the temple courts and some priest thought about requiring temple coins for their purchases. Money changers became a necessity and soon enough a thriving enterprise was born. Jesus challenged the corruption of this system. In response to Jesus’ cryptic answer the religious leaders say, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple”. In a way they are saying that the temple and the market place have always been here. In our churches and other organizations we say, “We’ve always done it that way”. So what it has become broken or corrupt or no longer is effective or isn’t holy or sacred anymore? One of the good things about the pandemic is that it has forced us to examine the practices and routines of the church. This season has been a time to let some things die, to imagine new possibilities, and to make changes to things that were ineffective, irrelevant, or outdated. Many of us have gone through the same process in our own lives and in our faith. This season of Lent invites us to do that hard work, to go deeper.

Although perhaps not 46 years, what habits or practices have you fallen into or out of that have lessened your walk with the Lord? What needs changed?

Prayer: Dear Lord, you still have the ability to do wonders and to work miracles. What in me needs addressed? Open my eyes to see and bind my will to yours. Make me more like you. Amen.


Leave a comment

Preaching, Teaching, Healing

Reading: Matthew 9: 35-38

Verse 35: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching… preaching… and healing”.

Today’s short passage sums up Jesus’ ministry quite well. In verse 35 we read about the things that occupied most of his time: teaching, preaching, and healing. I believe that these three practices remain the core practices of ministry today. These three practices often work together to shape and form who we are as people of faith.

Teaching can occur in many settings and can cover many topics. In ministry, we most often think of Bible studies and other topical small groups as the main ways that teaching occurs. This tends to be the focus of teaching in our churches. There are other ways to teach faith. In intentional conversations and in the things we regularly do and say we teach about faith. For example, as parents our everyday words and actions are the main methods of passing our faith along to our children. In this time of COVID there has been a great deal of teaching in our churches on how to safely minister while honoring the need to social distance and stay at home. We have begun to teach about safely gathering again. More recently there has been an increase in teaching on racism and prejudice in America. These teachings have centered on understanding racism and on recognizing how we are all implicit in and impacted by this evil. Social justice has always been a cornerstone of Christianity.

Preaching is something we think just happens on Sunday morning or maybe on a Wednesday or Saturday night. These are the primary delivery times but it also occurs at various times in a variety of settings. These can range from a one-on-one conversation to retreats and camps and even to impromptu gatherings in a bar or the local coffee shop. In almost all cases, preaching centers on sharing, understanding, and applying faith to our daily lives.

Healing was the third aspect of Jesus’ ministry. Today we do not see as many physical healings as we read about in the New Testament. But the Holy Spirit is very active, working in and through Christians all over the world. Healing included restoration to wholeness, redemption from sins and bondage, being drawn into a community of faith, and finding new life in Jesus Christ.

In our passage we read that Jesus preached, taught, and healed for one reason: compassion. He saw those who were in need – the “the harassed and helpless” – and he ministered to them. Our very understanding of who is harassed and helpless has certainly grown over these last few months. In verse 37 Jesus notes, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”. May we all be workers for Jesus Christ today!

Prayer: Leading God, day by day help me to use all three of these practices to minister to my congregation and to my community. Empower me by the Holy Spirit to bring fullness and wholeness of life to those in need. Amen.


1 Comment

Pleasing

Reading: Psalm 19:14

Verse 14: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer”.

These words are familiar words. The sermon or message in many churches, mine included, begins with these words. These words ask God to be present in and through the Word proclaimed and to guide our thoughts and responses to the message given. It is a prayer for both the pastor and the congregation. I love how this prayer closes with the dual reminder that the Lord is our foundation and our mercy – our guide through life and our help when we get astray.

Many of us walk out the doors of worship on Sunday morning and return to the world and its ways almost immediately – cussing the one who cut us off in traffic or being rude to the waiter. Some if us might manage to make it to Monday morning before the world creeps back in. At work or school we gossip about the weekend or we resume the shady, worldly business or study practices that we felt convicted of just the day before. We find there is no shortage of ways that we can be displeasing to the Lord. The world is always providing opportunities or encouragement to do so. The battle is constant.

But so is God’s love. And His mercies are new every morning. And His grace is unending. The world is where we now dwell, so the lures of this world will be there. But Jesus had overcome the world. Through faith in Him, we too can walk in the light. Just as Sunday morning is that little boost to our faith and walk, so too can be our own daily time with God. When we read and study and meditate on God’s Word daily, He becomes more a part of our lives. When we spend time each day talking with God, our prayers strengthen our faith. When we open ourselves to the guide and direction of the Holy Spirit, our faith grows stronger still. When we choose to be faithful to our daily disciplines – time in the Word, time in prayer, time connected to the Holy Spirit – our walk with the Lord is closer. We find that we grow more and more into today’s verse. More and more often our words of our mouth and the thoughts of our hearts are pleasing to God. More and more the Lord is our Rock and Redeemer. May we each stay deeply in love with God, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second. Amen.

Prayer: Lord, this moment and every moment, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen.


Leave a comment

This Day and Forevermore

Reading: Psalm 121

Today’s Psalm is one of my favorites.  To me it speaks of the encompassing nature of God.  In the opening lines we are reminded that God is the creator of all.  When I look up to or venture out into the Black Hills, I can see God’s fingerprints all over the place.  One does not have to live near the hills, however, to ‘see’ God’s hand.  One can look up to the stars, one can gaze out across the ocean, or one can even look at the beauty and intricacy of a flower or spider’s web.  And one can even ‘see’ God’s hand in the voice of the songbird or in the giggle of a small child.

The balance of the Psalm speaks to the ways in which the God who created all we know and see also pays attention to you and I.  God watches over where we tread and where we sleep.  God protects us from the harmful rays of the sun and moon.  God watches over us and keeps us from all harm – both now and forevermore.  His love and care for all of us is all-encompassing .

While God loves each and every one of us equally, we do not all know God’s love in the same way.  There are many who struggle through life trying to “do” life on their own.  There are even some regular church attenders who do not know how much God loves and cares for them.  To truly know just how all-encompassing God’s love and care is, one must know God in deep and meaningful ways.  To know God in this way requires a disciplined and obedient practice of the daily habits and exercises of the faith.  One cannot run to God only in the crisis.

To truly walk daily under the watch of the Lord, the Word had to be at our center.  Each day we must read and meditate on the Scriptures.  Each day we must spend time talking with God, both thanking God for our blessings and bringing Him our petitions as well.  In these ways we connect our heart to God.  And each day we must practice what God reveals to us in our time with the Bible and in our time talking with God.  We must love our neighbors, turn the other cheek, care for those in need, and lift one another in prayer.  The closer our daily walk is to God, the closer He walks with us.  May it be so this day and forevermore!


Leave a comment

Focus

Reading: 1 Corinthians 3: 1-9

Paul spent a year and a half with the church in Corinth.  He established the church and spent the rest of this time teaching them how to live as Christians in a pagan culture.  After laying what he thought was a solid foundation and moving on to other missionary work, Paul now realized the church in Corinth is struggling.  He hears how they have lost their focus on God and are squabbling over which human leader to follow.  Paul identifies their spiritual immaturity and accurately asks, “are you not worldly?” as they fight amongst themselves.

Paul tries to reframe their focus and to get them moving forward and growing in Christ again.  He knows he had a role in developing the church, but Paul also firmly believes that only God has the power.  He also knows that Apollos has a role to play as well.  Paul sees Apollos as a fellow worker, not as competition, as the church in Corinth does.  Paul reminds them of all of this with the great line we find in verse six: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow”.  Paul seeks to return their focus to God and to the things of God.

In reading this passage, we too are reminded of our need to stay focused on what really matters, on the only thing with the power to transform lives: God.  In our churches and ministries, we need our energy focused on God and doing God’s work in our world – not on the color of the new carpet or on the style of worship or on any other earthly matter.  As the body, when we focus on heavenly things, we grow in faith and God will bless our efforts.

There is also a personal level to Paul’s call to focus on God.  Do we as individuals remain connected to God and stay focused on His will in our lives or do we allow other things in, drawing us away?  We must be aware of the pull and lure of outside voices and must remain dedicated to our own faith practices.  It is when we falter within that we are more prone to see division rather than unity in the larger body.  May we tend well to our own souls so that we may be part of the larger body’s aim for the same goal: a living, breathing, active, growing faith in Jesus Christ.


Leave a comment

Good Habits and Techniques

When things aren’t going well it is our natural tendency to want to change things.  While this is a good idea for a baseball player whose swing has developed a hitch, it is not a good idea in our faith life.  Mired in a hitting slump, the ball player and his coaches try to figure out what has changes so that they can fix it.  This is a mechanical or physical process that can be studied, analyzed, and corrected.

Like a batter practicing good habits and techniques, or faith life ‘works’ best when we are practicing good habits and techniques in our daily study and prayer life.   In the times that we stay in tune with God, we find pleasure and contentment in His world.  The sunset or sunrise contains a beauty we see as His.  Our interactions with other people is filled with the love of Christ.  Life is good.

But sometimes life brings us a curve ball.  In these cases we must work at not developing a hitch in our spiritual life.  When life brings us the difficult, we must remain faithful and try.  We must resist the temptation to turn to something or someone other than God.  God’s love is eternal and true.  As we remain true in our walk with Him, He will always see us through.

Scripture reference: Exodus 17: 1-7