pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

Moments and Encounters

Anthony came to church yesterday.  He arrived almost at the end of the 9:30 service. I recognized his face but couldn’t remember his name.  I confessed that to him as I greeted him at the back of the sanctuary.  He kindly reminded me and he apologized for being so late.  I assured him that is was OK and shared that I was glad to see him in church again.  Anthony asked for a Coke and I went downstairs and bought him one.  He did not follow me downstairs but he did wait for my return at the top of the stairs.  After a couple cookies and some conversation with others in the Parlor, Anthony headed off for the next part of his day.  Our paths will cross again.

In encounters such as these, I often wonder if I did enough.  It was a good chat and I was able to meet his request for a pop, but should have I done more?  In the time and space between services on a busy Sunday morning, it was probably what I could offer.  And maybe Anthony sensed that and kept his request simple as well.  And now I will remember his name next time so I can start our conversation by greeting him by name when our paths cross again.  In asking the question about doing enough, we prepare ourselves to do a little more the next time.

Our God has a special place in His heart for the poor and needy, for the widow and the orphan, for the  destitute and powerless.  In many places in the Bible we read about this love and our charge to care for those in need.  In those moments and encounters today and in the week ahead, may we offer all we can, seeking to be His hands and feet.

Scripture reference: Proverbs 22: 1-2, 8-9, and 22-23


Leave a comment

Hearers and Doers

We communicate in many ways, often without words.  People can easily pick up on our mood just by watching our facial expressions.  The things that matter most in our lives are revealed by the priorities we use to allocate what we do with the free time we have.  We can express ourselves with words as well, but James makes the case that our actions speak louder than our words.

As an individual and as a community of faith, we should have an active faith that shows our beliefs by how we live out our lives.  Simply by observing how we treat others, how we offer ourselves to those in need, and how we handle the adversity that life brings should reveal our faith.  It is often through these observations that we gain the social capital necessary to share the good news of Jesus Christ with another.

Many will gather today in worship.  If a person were to observe your worship today without being able to hear any of the words or the music, would they see joy and praise in you?  Would they see one who is happy to be in the presence of God and one who is lifted by the experience?

As we gather together today for worship, we have much to offer each other.  Today we will have the opportunity to hear the words of life.  It is a choice to listen to and to engage these words so that one can grow in their faith and holiness.  It is a choice to allow the word of God to take root and to continue to ponder how it affects our life as we go through the week ahead.  May we receive what God has to offer today so that we become doers of the word defined by the Word and led by the Holy Spirit.

Scripture reference: James 1: 17-27


Leave a comment

Listen Well, Go Forth

Jesus was the Word made flesh that lived among us and gives us new life.  As we read and meditate on the Word found in the Bible, as we hear and ponder the Word proclaimed in sermons, devotionals, and books, and as we take in the nudges and whispers of the Holy Spirit, God is planting the Word deep within us.  He plants for one purpose: to bear fruit.

James advises us to be quick to listen.  When our ears are seeking to hear the Word of life, we hear a lot better than when we are focusing on the things the world tells us.  Listening takes practice and focus, so not only must we focus on the Word of God, but we also must practice on hearing the Word of God.  Practice makes perfect!   In our active practice of listening, we come to define and refine what we believe and how to best live out our faith.

James is clear that we cannot stop at the listening phase.  We must go on and do what the Word says.  We must take in the Word of God, allow it to sink deep roots that nourish our soul, and then go forth to live out its teachings.  James mentions looking after the orphans and widows, but this is just one of many areas that we can share God’s love with others.

James 1 closes with this tidbit: “keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  Polluted is an excellent choice of words because that is exactly what happens.  The more we focus on the world, the less we are able to focus on the word.  Only one letter separates ‘word’ from ‘world’.  It is easy to blur the lines and end up living in the world instead of in the Word.  Each day may we look to God, spend time in the Word nourishing our souls, and go forth to bear fruit in His world.

Scripture reference: James 1: 17-27


Leave a comment

Love Always Wins

Today we have a picture of Jesus that is not all warm and fuzzy.  In today’s passage He is giving it to the Pharisees.  I think in our minds we usually cheer Jesus on in this type of scenario.  It is almost like the new kid on the block stood u to the bully and all around cheer him on.  This direct and confrontational Jesus is alright until we realize that He is talking to us as well.

Hypocrite?  Me?  Hold on a minute Jesus!  Theft?  Murder?  Adultery?  Surely not.  Greed?  Envy?  Arrogance?  Well, I can explain.  Can’t I?  No, I really cannot.  Jesus is right.  At times what is within me is not so good.  Those unkind thoughts and words that sometimes come out of me are not so beautiful and loving.  Jesus is right.

One cannot explain sin away.  All one can do is to come before Jesus, to kneel down, and to offer up our confession and repentance.  The good news is that Jesus does not expect perfection.  He knows we will stumble and even fall at times.  It is not His desire for us but He did walk this earth.  Although Jesus was without sin, He certainly felt pain and sorrow and other human emotions.  Jesus saw firsthand the battle that rages in every human heart.

We are guilty as charged.  Sinners one and all.  But, thanks be to God, our story does not end here.  Confession and repentance leads to forgiveness and restoration.  Through grace we are made new again, pure and clean and worthy to call Jesus Christ our friend.  We are humbled by our failures.  But love alway wins.  The love of God made known through Jesus is an unending gift that is always given to al who draw near to Christ.  This love came to save one and all.  Praise God.

Scripture reference: Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, and 21-23


Leave a comment

God Is Better

Our culture has become adept at bending the truth.  We are good at telling people what we think they want to hear and at ‘working’ statistics to support our viewpoint.  It is easy to say this is who we are and then to go act in a different manner.  Larger society has become very gray.

It was no different in Jesus’ day.  The Pharisees came out to see Jesus and wanted to challenge Jesus and the disciples because they were eating with ‘unclean’ hands.  They had not undergone the ceremonial cleansing of their hands before they ate.  The word ‘ceremonial’ is a tip-off.  In the opening line of His response, Jesus calls them hypocrites and quotes from Isaiah about their lip service and fascination with the rules.  We hear “smack, smack, smack” but the Pharisees were wondering who Jesus was talking about.

Jesus goes on to teach that it is not what we put into ourselves that makes us unclean but it what comes from our thoughts and words that make us unclean.  We sin and become unclean when we have evil thoughts, when we utter lies and unkind words, when we engage in immoral behavior, and when we allow envy, greed, jealousy, and malice into our hearts.  When we work to be holy and to live a righteous life and to keep evil far away, then we are right with God and we are ‘clean’.

People today are pretty good at wading through the smoke screens and half-truths served up so commonly today.  And we must make no mistake about it – God is pretty good at it too.  We cannot fool God.  When we come before Him with sin in our lives – and sinful we are – we must confess, repent, and seek His strength for the battle.  In His great love we find mercy and grace.  He refines us and gives us strength.  Allow Him in, lean on Him a little more, hear His voice, and go forth in Christ, seeking a closer walk with God.

Scripture reference: Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, and 21-23


Leave a comment

Words

Words easily flow from our lips.  The words we speak can build others up or they can bring people down.  Careful thought needs to be given to the words we speak.  Our words can carry great power.

In the psalm the king has ‘lips of grace.’  The kind and wise words he speaks flow from his heart and reflect the deep compassion and care he has for his people.  In his words he triumphs justice and equality and prosperity for those he leads.  He is a king I would like to be around.

There are people I know who build me up with their words.  They are people I want to be around.  In my life I too try to choose words that build others up.  One cannot simply dispense kind words but the words must be genuine and honest.  Words are powerful and through intentional practices we can build another up or offer some light when another is struggling or is in need.

Jesus was a man who also spoke words of justice, equality, and prosperity.  He advocated loving and serving all we meet.  He was a man that I picture as being slow to speak as He weighed His words carefully.  Jesus’ words convey the deep love and compassion He has for each of us.  He too is a king I like to be around.

Scripture reference: Psalm 45: 1-2 and 6-9


Leave a comment

Partners with God

Imagine the happiest couple you have ever seen – 80+ and still holding hands, giggling, kissing.  The deep and pure love that flows between them is just a glimpse into the vast love that God has for all of creation.  In creation itself we also see much of God.  In creation itself we can see both complexity and simplicity, both often created in wonder and beauty.

In creation we witness God’s strength and power.  He spoke all into being simply with His words.  God did not have to go into the lab in heaven to create water and earth and plants and animals and us.  He simply spoke and each was created.  What is even more amazing than this to me is that God also passes this power and strength on to us.  God gives His power and strength to all, especially to those who are weak and powerless and in need of God’s power and strength to face the many challenges that life brings their way.

In the continuing works of God and in the life of Jesus Christ, God continues to reveal Himself to us.  Our God created us as good and He desires that we act in good ways, bringing righteousness and equality into the world around us.  In Jesus we were shown what true love is really all about.  The love Jesus modeled is kind and gentle and truthful and giving.  This love flows to all, not just to a select few.  Our love is meant to be like Jesus’ love –  poured out to many to transform lives.

The amazing omnipotent and omnipresent creator of the universe and all that is in it invites us to partner with Him in transforming the world.  May we live lives full of His love, justice, strength, and power, bringing these into the lives of each we meet to do our part in healing a broken world.

Scripture reference: Psalm 45: 1-2 and 6-9