pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Pray, Speak, Stand

Reading: 2nd Samuel 11: 1-5

Verse 2: “One evening David got up… walked around on the roof… saw a woman bathing”.

Photo credit: Joshua Oluwagbemiga

Today we enter one of the uglier stories in the Bible. The story begins with a bad decision and spirals down from there. David decides to stay home when the army goes off to war instead of leading them into battle. But a king can do what a king wants to do. Then one night he can’t sleep. In verse two we read, “One evening David got up… walked around on the roof… saw a woman bathing”. His eyes and heart wander. He spies a very beautiful woman bathing. Lust is born. As the story unfolds one of his servants asks, “Isn’t that Bathsheba… Uriah’s wife”? Hint, hint. But a king can do what a king wants to do. David sends for her and sleeps with her. Forced himself upon her is the much, much more likely reality. David is finished with her and sends her back home. It is an ugly story that ends with an unexpected pregnancy.

On Sunday in church we talked about breaking down walls and about standing with the abused, oppressed, taken advantage of… We would have loved to have been there and to have stood up for Bathsheba. We think we would have stood and shouted, “No more of this ‘But a king can do what a king wants to do’ stuff”! Yet today people with power continue to force their way, to coerce others, to play by their own set of rules. Naming realities helps to break down walls. Sex trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation are still alive and well. One of the top sex trafficking events in the US will take place just up the road in a couple of weeks. I believe the Sturgis Rally is second only to the Super Bowl. Most of us are appalled by and disgusted by the story of David and Bathsheba. Are we equally so when we recognize that sex trafficking and pornography are huge business in our nation?

Just as those in David’s palace should have stood up for and then cared for Bathsheba, so too must we pray for and speak for and stand with those who are exploited and used by others. May it be so.

Prayer: Lord God, we peak today at the ugliness of a person in power forcing his way. Hold our eyes and hearts for a few moments; help us to connect to Bathsheba. Then turn our eyes and hearts to the ugly realities of today. Money and power and lust still lead to ugliness today. Guide us all to do what we can – some to pray, some to speak, some to stand with the victims. May your love bring healing to the brokenness of our world and lives. Amen.


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Out There

Reading: 1st Peter 2: 4-10

Verse 5: “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house, to be a royal priesthood”.

Peter establishes a connection in today’s passage between THE living stone and the followers of Jesus. He opens with these words: “as you come to him”. Our process of becoming like the living stone begins by establishing a relationship with Jesus Christ. We must take the first step towards Jesus. As we choose to walk with the one who was precious and chosen by God, we begin to be transformed. As we come to Christ we are made more into his image. As we repeat this process over and over again, we grow to become closer and closer to who and what Jesus was and is. In this process we become the love, compassion, mercy, grace, and kindness of Jesus Christ himself. As we do so, as we are transformed, we also help to transform the world.

In verse five Peter describes this process. Here he writes, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house, to be a royal priesthood”. Today we too easily see and make our churches into physical houses. We come inside the walls to worship and pray and to study. All of this is good but our faith cannot be something we revisit just on Sunday morning or on Wednesday evenings. Yes, Jesus himself taught and worshipped in the temple and synagogues. But that was a very small part of his ministry and faith. Most of Jesus’ faith energy was poured into people’s lives bringing healing and wholeness. This most often occurred outside the physical walls as Jesus sought to build the kingdom here on earth – a spiritual house, if you will. This is the type of a faith life that Peter is calling us to.

As I think about my own life, this challenge to be a living stone, to be a part of the royal priesthood outside of the walls of the church is difficult. When being honest I must admit that my ratio of inside to outside the walls is about the opposite of Jesus’ ratio. It is a challenge to all of us to live out more of our faith out there in the world. Today, may we each find a way to be like Christ out there in the world. May it be so.

Prayer: Living God, there are people and places here in Winner that need to know your love and mercy and grace and forgiveness. Open my eyes to one today and lead my feet to that person or place. May it be so today. Amen.


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Come and Follow

Reading: Matthew 16: 21-28

Verse 24: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Jesus was quite the radical in His day.  He called a group of men to be His disciples not from within the elite of the pre-Rabbi schools but out of ordinary life.  He did not spend all of His time in the temple but was out in the towns and villages eating and teaching the sinners and the lost.  Jesus did not simply read the scriptures and proclaim the word, but He also rolled up His sleeves and served others as a mean to show them God’s love.  He lived this way so that we would know what it looked like to live as a Christian.

In today’s passage we hear these words: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”.  The first step is to deny self.  Society teaches us to first look out for #1, but Jesus says to put self last.  Jesus loved God with all He was and then next loved all of His neighbors more than He loved Himself.  He first sought to serve God and neighbor and only then did He consider His own needs.  In doing so, Jesus met people’s basic needs, sought equality for all, showed love and forgiveness and compassion, and lived a humble and simple life.

The next part involves taking up our cross.  On the cross of Calvary, Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice.  When Jesus calls us to take up our cross, He is asking us to die to self, to be willing to live with less so that others may have some, and to be a servant to all.

And then He says, “Follow me”.  Jesus calls us to do what He did, to follow His example.  Get out there into the ordinary of life – get outside the walls of the temple and our homes and our comfort zones.  Spend time with the lost – the sinners and the atheists and the non-believers.  Eat with them, talk with them, share Jesus with them.  Find ways to serve others, to meet people’s basic needs, to lift them up, and to bring them hope and justice.  In all this, we follow the One who lived God’s love out loud.  May we come and follow, showing the light and love of Christ to all for the glory of God.


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Might and Power

Reading: Psalm 77: 1-2 and 11-20

As our reading opens, the psalmist feels stress and worry and fear.  The writer feels all alone – isolated from people and from God.  It is a hard place to be.  At points in life our problems can seem to mount up like a wall around us.  We cannot see over the top and it seems as if others and God cannot see in.  In these moments we cry out to God and seem to get no response.  We want God or people to come to our aid or to at least bring comfort and it turns out as if all were oblivious to us.

As the song progresses, there is a shift.  The psalmist is perhaps in worship or maybe just the power of the raging storm reawakens his sense of God’s presence.  In either case, the psalmist realizes that God has always been present.  He recalls God’s mighty acts on behalf of the community of faith.  He remembers God’s good news and this lifts his spirit.  In the vastness and power of God the writer comes to see that he is not alone and that there is much more to God than just the personal relationship.

In our lives we too will feel all alone from time to time.  As our problems mount, may we look to the skies, to nature, to history to remind ourselves of God’s presence.  May we recall the story of Jesus and all that God incarnate offers to us.  May we find presence and comfort and strength in His power and majesty.


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Outside the Walls

God calls us not only to faith but to action as well. To just believe in God and the words in the Bible simply are not enough. We are also called to be in the world so that our faith bears fruit.

In Isaiah 58 God calls out the Israelites to loosen the chains of injustice, to break the yoke of oppression, to share food with the hungry, to clothe the naked, to house the poor wanderer. He urges them NOT to turn their backs on their own flesh and blood. These words of Isaiah are echoed several times in the New Testament as Jesus teaches His disciples how to live. These words of Isaiah, and later Jesus, are also a cry to action for us and the church today.

In each and every community these needs exist to some degree or another. We can still stand up for people who are suffering injustice and we can intervene when we see that oppression is occurring. Sometimes these are hard to see but these issues are there. The other needs are easier to see and easier to address. Whether through directly giving to individuals or agencies that help the needy in our community or through donating money to the agencies, we too can share in alleviating the burden many face. In our community there are people in need of food, clothing, and adequate housing. Our faith should call us to care for our brothers and sisters in whatever way we can and as well as we can. As the body of Christ, all are our flesh and blood.

God calls on Israel, and on us, to live out our faith. He expects us to be outside the walls of our churches making a difference in our worlds. In Isaiah 58 He goes on to say why. God promises that our light will shine out before us and our light will rise in the darkness. He also says that healing will come. (And by healing He means spiritual healing, not physical!) God promises that our call will be heard and that He will answer. Our faithfulness to Him and to the care of all of our brothers and sisters will build our relationship with Him. Is this not our call? Is this not your call? Step out in faith and into the world out there. God will be there. We will meet him in those we serve and care for and they will meet Him in us.