pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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What Is Right and True

Reading: Psalm 27:1, 4-9

Verse 1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear?”

Photo credit: Darold Pinnock

This week’s Psalm begins with words of faith and trust in God. As you read these words, David’s faith oozes out, his trust shouts aloud. Moving into verse 4 we see the source of his faith and trust. Here David asks just one thing – to dwell in God’s presence all of his days. Even though an enemy may attack, even though an army may besiege him, David trusts that God will keep him safe and that God will “set me high upon a rock.”

In this life we will face enemies and attacks. Last night at youth group we talked about doing the right thing. It is a moment when we sometimes falter, fearing what may happen to us, worrying about what others may say or think about us. Fear of the potential trial or of the cost of doing what we know is right and just can paralyze us. In David’s words we are reminded today that God is with us and that God has been and always will be both our helper and our defender.

Today we remember and celebrate one who lived these words and truths out. Today we remember and celebrate a pastor who chose to stand for justice and equality. Fear could have easily won the day many times. The threats and violence would’ve silenced many people’s voices. Day by day, Martin Luther King, Jr., clung to his light and salvation, to his stronghold, to the one rock upon which he stood. As his fellow saints who walk the same path of faith, may we too choose love instead of hate, trust instead of fear, and hope instead of defeat. God is still at work for the good in all things. In faith and trust may we stand for what is right and just.

Prayer: Lord God, what examples of faith. From the one who sought you with all of his heart to the one who trusted you with his very life, may we be encouraged and inspired. As we seek to trust in you, O God, and as we strive to be love to and for all people, deepen our faith in you, our rock and our light. Amen.


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The Lamb of God

Reading: John 1:29-34

Verse 29: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Photo credit: Milo Weiler

Turning to John’s gospel today and tomorrow, we begin with Jesus coming toward John the Baptist. As he approaches John says, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” These are unique words to apply at this time in Jesus’ ministry. Usually we call Jesus the Good Shepherd when referring to sheep and shepherds. For most of his ministry, Jesus is not the lamb. At the end, yes, Jesus goes to the cross as our perfect sacrifice. We get the lamb references then.

Yet in today’s passage, as Jesus’ ministry is about to begin, John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God. Since the days of Passover a perfect and spotless lamb (or goat) was the offering made to God as the people of God remembered how they were freed from slavery in Egypt. Each and every year the rescue story is celebrated and remembered. To see Jesus in this role immediately identifies him as the one who rescues, redeems, restores, and saves. It is a powerful image to be placed in the minds of the Jews.

Continuing on, John the Baptist offers proof that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the one who comes to save. John recounts the Spirit coming down and remaining on Jesus after he was baptized. This fulfills what God said would happen. Jesus is the son of God. Not only will he take away the sins of the world, one day the Christ will defeat all evil, claiming final victory as he establishes the new heaven and earth. For the salvation Christ offers and for the final victory yet to come, we say thanks be to God.

Prayer: Lord God, today we are reminded of such great news. You came in the flesh to take away our sins, to rescue us from captivity to self. One day you will come again to banish all evil as you create heaven here on earth. Day by day, lead and guide us to make this vision more and more of a reality here and now as we await your final return in victory. Amen.


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Growing and Encouraging

Reading: Psalm 40:6-11

Verse 10: “I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.”

The Psalms tell the story of faith – from the good to the bad. There are laments and there are songs of joy. In our faith we experience highs and lows plus a whole lot in the middle. And God is there in and through it all. Almost all the Psalms speak of God’s activity (or apparent lack thereof) with the people of God. In this week’s Psalm David expresses a desire to bring glory to God, both personally and corporately. In verses 6 David recognizes that simply offering sacrifices, just going through the motions of flopping down a hunk of meat on the altar, is not what God desires or requires. In the same way God does not require or desire us to show up to worship just to daydream through worship.

In verses 8-10 David shares how he brings God glory. He does so by sharing his faith. Following the desires of his own heart, David has sought to fill his heart with God’s law. Not his head but his heart. This empowers David to proclaim his faith. In verse 10 we read, “I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.” David shares how God has been and is and will be faithful. He speaks of the salvation that he has received and that God offers to all who believe. David is reflecting on what God has done in his life. That bolsters his faith. By speaking aloud, David is also encouraging others. He is helping others to see how God could work in their lives. He closes by asking for God’s mercy and for God’s protection.

May we too reflect and grow in our faith. May we too proclaim and help others to grow in faith. May we speak of God’s faithfulness and righteousness and of the salvation and protection that we receive from God. May our proclamations bring God the glory as we grow in faith, encouraging others to join us on the journey of faith.

Prayer: Lord God, you are awesome and wonderful. You are compassionate and gracious. You hem me in and you go before and behind me. You bless and protect. You forgive and you offer life. Each day may I proclaim these truths as I express my thanksgiving for your presence in my life. Amen.


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God Has Chosen You

Reading: Isaiah 49:1-7

Verse 3: “You are my servant… in whom I will display my splendor.”

The words of Isaiah that we read this week speak to a people in utter defeat. Jerusalem lies in ruins, many have died, and most of the rest of Israel has been driven into exile. Our passage begins with a call to the “distant nations,” to those feeling isolated and alone. It is a call to remember that Israel was God’s “before I was born.” It is a reminder that they are still the people of God, even in the midst of the current darkness.

As the current people of God we too will have times when all feels like it lies in ruins, when it seems pretty dark. We will lose a job or a loved one. We will suffer illness or persecution. We will sin and separate ourselves from God and one another. Our church or our denomination will experience a tearing apart. There is no shortage of the hardships and trials that can and will befall us.

Into Israel’s darkness God promised a return, a redemption, a rescue story. God will be their reward and their strength. God will gather them back from exile. God promises, “You are my servant… in whom I will display my splendor.” This world and its troubles – they are temporary. God is not. On the other side of this darkness – whatever it is – there is light and hope and salvation for Israel and for you and for me. God is faithful and true. “The Holy One of Israel… has chosen you.”

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for the reminder that you are every bit as present in the darkness as you are in the light. You have chosen me, you have chosen all of us to be blessed as we walk in the light of your love. Remind us again and again of this truth as we seek to walk as a light to the Gentiles of our day. Amen.


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Happy and Beautiful Feet

Reading: Isaiah 52:7-12

Verse 7: “How beautiful… are the feet of those who bring good news.”

Many years ago our kids would sneak downstairs (or down the hall) early on Christmas morning. The herd of elephants that trooped into the living room would wait as long as they could before marauding into our bedroom to retrieve us so that the festivities could commence. We’d be awake but would wait for these happy little feet to come into our room.

Today’s passage also speaks of happy feet: “How beautiful… are the feet of those who bring good news.” This chapter is written post-exile and is full of hope and promise. Leading into today’s verses God declared that “Yes, it is I” who redeemed Israel and who clothes them with strength. When we read verses 7 through our Christian lens we see these feet as belonging to Jesus the Lord. It is he who will “lay bare his arm” as he gives of self so that “all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” Christ brings good news – new life now and the salvation of our souls.

In verse 7 we also get a glimpse of how the good news can be spread. Here we read that those happy feet will “proclaim peace… bring good tidings.” Just as there was when the angels spoke these words to the shepherds, there is both promise and invitation in these words. And just as it was the case then, so it is now: the waiting world longs for all that Christ offers. Today and each day may we too have beautiful and happy feet, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with all we meet.

Prayer: Lord God, help me to dance each day. May my life witness to the joy and peace, to the love and salvation I find in you. In turn, may others be drawn to this dance of faith. Amen.


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Grace and Hope

Reading: Titus 2:11-14

Verse 11: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.”

Photo credit: Jazmin de Guzman

This short book that we read from today is from Paul to Titus, a man that Paul trained while on one of his missionary trips. Titus was the leader of the church on the island of Crete. It is a great little letter and well worth the read. Today we look at four verses from the middle of the letter.

In verses 11 Paul references what we will be celebrating in three more days – the gift of Christ to the world. This gift brings both salvation and new life. In these verses, Paul shares that it is grace that guides our lives. Grace teaches us right from wrong, helping us to live “self-controlled, upright, and godly lives.” Grace helps us avoid worldly passions and other evils of the world. As grace works in our lives we mature in our faith as we learn what is pleasing to God. The love poured out through grace is what fuels this growth.

Walking with the Lord, our desire to experience Christ’s glory also grows. We come to long to see Christ – whether in his “glorious appearing” or in our ascension to glory. Hope is what fuels this longing. Knowing that glory will be just incredible, we hope for it as we long to see Christ.

The love and hope that we find in Christ leads us what Paul writes about in verses 14. As followers of Jesus Christ we are “a people that are his own, eager to do what is good.” Acts of kindness and compassion, measures of love and hope, bring good to the world. May we do good today.

Prayer: Lord God, in this Advent season use me to help others to experience the love and grace, the hope and mercy found in Christ. Use me as you will so that those without Jesus may encounter him this Advent season. Amen.


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The Call to Belong

Reading: Romans 1:1-6

Verse 5: “Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.

In the opening of Romans Paul mentions the “gospel of God.” The word translated ‘gospel’ is also often translated ‘good news.’ Paul, as are all who love God, shares that he is “set apart for the gospel.” He, like all who follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, is set apart from the ways of the world for the purposes of being and sharing the gospel or good news of Jesus Christ. So, what is the ‘gospel?’

First, it is rooted in the Old Testament. Many prophets wrote of the coming of one who would save his people. The Messiah and the good news that he would bring to humankind was promised long ago. Second, the gospel is the promise of this salvation to all who enter into a covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ. A covenant is a no-matter-what agreement. Asking Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior, we pledge loyalty to live as he lived. We commit to loving God and neighbor with all that we are. Jesus agrees to love us even when we fail and to remain present to us, living in Spirit in our hearts, helping us to walk faithfully.

Paul and his co-workers strove to live this way. In verse 5 he writes, “Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.” Grace for when they failed; a charge to call all people to live in faithful obedience to Christ. These are both ways that we love our neighbor – by sharing both grace and love with them. Paul makes this clear in verse 6: “You also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” Through our witness and life may others feel the call to belong to the Lord.

Prayer: Lord God, strengthen and encourage me today to answer the call. Use me to draw others to Jesus Christ, the savior of all the world. May my love for you be reflected in my love for your world. Amen.


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Claimed and Fulfilled

Reading: Psalm 80:17-19

Verse 17: Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself.”

The second part of Psalm 80 speaks of one who will bring hope to Israel. This is a deep longing in the nation. The Israelites are familiar with God raising up leaders – Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Gideon, Samson, Deborah, Esther, Isaiah, Jeremiah… There is a long list of men and women called by God, guided by the Spirit, and empowered by God to lead. And when you look at the long list of people called and used by God, there is great diversity.

As we read these words of the Psalm, we do so as many have for almost 2,000 years. We read these words through the lens of Christ. We do so because Jesus claimed and fulfilled these words and many others written in the Old Testament. Jesus came from and returned to the right hand of God – to the judgment seat. Christ was the incarnation of God, raised up by God through the Holy Spirit from a virgin and from the line of David.

In the giving of self, of blood, of life, Jesus restored our relationship with God and provided a means for this to happen again and again. In Christ, God’s face did shine upon humanity, revealing the depth of God’s love, mercy, and grace. Through Jesus Christ, we are saved. Thanks be to God!

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for the reminder today of how you fulfilled these words and promises for the salvation of the world and for my salvation. Jesus Christ is the hope of the world and the hope of all who love you. Amen.


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Rescued into the Kingdom

Reading: Colossians 1:10-14

Verse 13: “For God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.”

Paul opens the letter to the Colossians with thanksgiving and prayer. He is thankful for their faith and love, which are bearing fruit and are growing. In today’s passage Paul offers prayers for these believers. In verses 10 and 11 he prays for them to “live a life worthy of the Lord… to bear fruit in every good work… to grow in knowledge of God… to be strengthened” so that they have “great endurance and patience.” What an awesome prayer! It sums up really well the aim of the Christian life. It is a prayer that we can pray daily for our own brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul upholds a life of faith that is active and engaged. He calls us to a life modeled after Christ, one that shines the light and love of Jesus into the darkness of the world. And Paul prays for strength. The life of faith is not easy. It comes with some challenges and times of difficulty. The darkness often rejects the light. Strength is needed for those times that require endurance and patience. To suffer quietly and without retaliation – this requires great strength, patience, and endurance.

Beginning in verse 12 Paul “joyfully” gives thanks. Because of their faithful living, the Colossian church has “qualified” to “share in the inheritance of the saints of the kingdom of light.” Their faith has led to adoption into the family of God. In verse 13 we read about what this means: “For God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” These truths are ours as well. Rescued from our sins, we have been redeemed. Rescued from the darkness of this world, we now live as children of the light. Thanks be to God!

Prayer: Lord God, empower me to live as light and love today and every day. May my life exude the joy of redemption and salvation. May the strength I find through the faith I have in you be a witness to a world living in pain and darkness. May my joy be contagious and infectious, Lord. Amen.


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Go, Prepare the Way

Reading: Luke 1:76-79

Verse 76: “You will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him.”

Photo credit: Dominik Lange

Continuing today in Zechariah’s Song, the praise shifts to the role his own son will play in God’s plan. John the Baptist will be called “a prophet of the Most High.” John’s ministry will be out in the wilderness, along the Jordan River. Preaching about the good news soon to come, he will “give his people a knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” John will call people to repent of their sins to prepare their hearts for the coming Messiah. A baptism of repentance will symbolize their readiness to walk with Christ. This gift of salvation is available “because of the tender mercies of our God.” It’s not just mercy, but tender mercy. I love the image that this line creates. Oh the depth of God’s love for you and me!

In verse 76 Zechariah defines John’s primary task: “You will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him.” No one meets Jesus without someone telling them about Jesus. No one experiences “the rising sun from heaven” coming into their lives to “shine on those living in darkness” without someone going on to prepare their heart to receive Jesus. John called others and prepared them both through his words and his example. He was faithful in his living and was engaging and encouraging with his words.

Just before his final departure to return to heaven, Jesus gave all who follow him this task: “Go and make disciples of all nations… baptizing them… and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Just as John did, we are to do to. Living faithfully as a follower of Jesus Christ, may we draw others to the Son, bringing his light and love into the darkness. In Christ’s light and love, may they too experience the tender mercies of God.

Prayer: Lord God, guide me to live a simple, faithful life, one that reflects your light and love out into the world’s darkness. As others are drawn to the light, grant me the words and actions to prepare the way for them to receive your son as Lord and Savior. All for your glory, O God! Amen.