pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Salvation and Love

Reading: Galatians 6: 1-6

In Galatians Paul is writing to a church that is beginning to fracture from within.  From the outside the people are seeing the church as contradictory and unattractive.  Over the many years since this has been a frequent occurrence.  As time rolls along we just find different things to fight about while the secular world usually watches with held breath.

The Galatian church was basically arguing over membership requirements.  Those with Jewish roots were arguing that all makes must be circumcised and that the Torah Law must be followed.    To these folks one must become a good Jew before one could become a Christian.  This ‘follow all our rules so you can be just like us’ attitude is nothing new.  There was a time when women had no voice and later no leadership roles in the church.  There was a time when all of the churches were very homogeneous and races and ethnicities did not mix.

On the other end of the spectrum Paul found those who did and allowed almost anything.  Under the beliefs that God alone should judge and that God is all about love, they were living lives without any constraints.  As long as they did not harm others with their actions they thought God would forgive anything.  This approach, if taken just one step further, can have disastrous results.

Paul counseled a middle ground.  He first established that salvation comes only through the saving work of Jesus on the cross.  There is no rule we can follow and no action we can take to save ourselves.  Following all the rules and laws in the world will not save us.  Doing good act after good act all the days of our lives will not save us.  We are saved through faith in Christ alone.  Paul also balanced this with Christ’s guidelines for our life. We are to daily take up our own cross to follow Him.  We are to do the things Jesus did: love God above all else, love neighbor as self, serve all of our brothers and sisters as living sacrifices.  Paul believed that out of the saving relationship we find through Christ that we would be led to live as Christ lived.  This day may we each take up our cross and follow in Jesus’footsteps, being love lived out to our God and to all we meet.


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Ever Present

Reading: Psalm 30

Psalm 30 is an excellent representation of our journey of faith.  It begins with praise to God for the protection and healing that He gave.  At times in our lives we definitely sense a hedge about us that God is providing.  Our “foes” rise up against us and we feel as if we may fall, yet we do not quite topple or give in.  In the midst of it we can sense God’s hand upon us.  Or perhaps, looking back, we can see where God came to our rescue.

At times in life, though, we can also question where God is.  We cannot sense His presence and He seems absent in our struggles.  As the psalmist writes, “You his your face, I was dismayed”.  We can all recall such times in our lives.  The writer’s solution?  Cry out and pray to God anyway.  Earnestly seek to be in God’s presence even when He feels far away.  Even in our seasons or ‘dark nights of the soul’ God is still present.

Midway through, in verse five, we are reminded that God’s favor is for a lifetime.  Once we enter into that saving relationship, we are forever His.  In this verse we are reminded that joy will come in the morning.  The writer returns to this theme in verse 11.  Because of God’s unfailing love, He turns our mourning into joy and dancing.  The response is praise and thanksgiving to God.  This response is the same as when it feels He is absent: seek Him through prayer and worship.

Faith is a journey.  These times of feeling that God is absent can lead to doubt, which is a normal part of our faith journey.  These times reveal our human limitations.  God is omnipresent.  In our struggles, it is we who question the fact of an omnipresent God.  Like the psalmist, may we too pray through the silence and may we ever offer our thanksgiving and worship for the grace, love, and favor that never ends.


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Attuned to God

Reading: 2 Kings 5: 9-14

We are often like Naaman.  He comes before Elisha and expects some amazing action on Elisha’s or God’s part.  When we bring a significant prayer or need fervently before God, we too hope for something big in response.  We, like Naaman, expect God to act in a mighty way.  We would like our all-powerful God to be just that and deliver a show-stopping answer to our need.

When the response we desire does not immediately come, we too can react like Naaman.  When our desired outcome is not immediately there, we stomp off in a huff.  We are disappointed, angry, and more.  We question and doubt our faith and God.  We may even play the ‘I have been so faithful and this is what I get’ card.  And in our overreacting response we often miss God’s response.

Recently an acquaintance was really getting under my skin.  It got to the point that I brought them before God.  I needed God to fix this person.  My prayers concerning this situation focused all on this person and the traits that so bothered me.  After a short time my prayers were answered!  But it was me who had been ‘fixed’ by God.  I appreciated what had before irritated.  I welcomed the very things that were annoyances as characteristics that our team needed to complete the task.

We too can be like Naaman and miss the simple yet very sufficient answer from God.  May we attune our hearts and souls to all of God’s ways.  This day may we see all of God’s activity in our lives so that we may experience all of His blessings.


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Young and Powerful

Reading: 2 Kings 5: 1-14

The three central characters are varied.  Two are very powerful and one is apparently not.  On the one hand, Naaman and Elisha appear to have a great deal of power.  Naaman is a powerful military commander and Elisha is God’s prophet, empowered by the living God.  The slave girl appears weak and powerless.  She is a prisoner of war, being kept as a slave in a foreign land.

On the other hand, Elisha and the slave girl are powerful in a way that the world does not know.  They know the power of God and trust in Him absolutely.  Naaman does not know God.  He is powerless to affect the one thing in life that isolates him: leprosy.  In a mighty act of God, Naaman does come to see and experience God’s healing power, but we do not know if he claims it for his own.

In this story we cannot miss the young slave girl’s impact.  She is alone, away from her people, enslaved in a foreign land.  Yet she holds firmly to her faith in God.  Without the slightest doubt she makes known to Naaman that he can find healing in her homeland.  She is willing to share her faith and her knowledge with one who has enslaved her.  This young slave girl is a shining witness to her faith, loving her enemy.

We cannot miss that she is young, yet another example that God provides so that we do not overlook our young people.  It would have been easy and all too common for Naaman to simply dismiss her.  It is not common for those in authority to readily listen to those who appear young and powerless.  This happens in our churches as well.  How often do we miss what the young Davids, the young Samuels, and the young slave girls have to offer.

After spending a week with almost one hundred youth serving on the Navajo Nation, I can testify to the fact that they have much to offer.  They not only offered the labor of their hands, but they also witnessed to their faith.  They were, like the slave girl, amazing and powerful.  As individuals and as places of God, may we cultivate, encourage, and seek out young people as leaders and as contributors to the building of the kingdom.  Like with the slave girl, much power resides in our young people.  May we invite them in, allow them space to share and develop their dreams, gifts, and talents, and encourage them as they go forth to change the world.


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Righteous Anger

Reading: Luke 9: 51-62

As God incarnate, as human flesh fully alive in this world, it makes sense that Jesus got angry.  Being divine did not keep Jesus from weeping a tear for Lazarus, from being joyful over a lost sinner being saved, or from being moved by a poor widow’s offering.  So why should we be surprised that at times Jesus got angry too?  Too often we want Jesus to be only the warm and fuzzy and loving.

The reality is that Jesus exhibited anger at times throughout His ministry.  He gets angry at the Pharisees and Sadducees and even at His own disciples.  And I am sure that He gets angry at me and at you from time to time as well!  In this story today, what lies ahead in Jerusalem has surely put all on edge; Jesus is probably as likely to break into tears as into a rant.

As disciples of Christ, we are ever seeking to become more and more like Him.  Jesus felt all emotions, as do we.  We should.  Anger has a place.  We might be angry over an injustice and be moved by our anger to intervene.  We might be angry at ourselves for falling into sin and the emotion may lead us over the stumbling block to a place of change and transformation.  Anger is also present in our prayer life.  In times of deep emotions we may need to rail at God out of the depths of our pain and suffering.  God can take it.  He desires an open and honest relationship.  This day may we offer all to God.  May we offer all that is inside of us – joy, pain, praise, anger, love, adoration.  May our relationship with God be all it can be.


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Discipleship

Reading: Luke 9: 51-62

Growth does not often occur on the mountaintops.  It most often occurs in the valleys, in the hard times of life.  In today’s story Jesus is heading for His final trip to Jerusalem.  He is heading there to die.  His fate may be some cause for their foul mood.  After being rejected by a village, James and John want to call fire down from heaven.  It is certainly not their first taste of rejection, so the reaction probably comes from their bad mood over what they know lies ahead.  Sometimes we are this way as well.

As they continue, people approach Jesus wanting to follow Him.  Each man has a ‘but first…’ to their request.  One is concerned with shelter, one with burying his father, and another with having a proper goodbye with his family.  Each turns away as Jesus harshly addresses their lack of commitment to placing Him first.  Each of these ‘but first’ commitments resonate with us.

I will give of my time and resources Lord, but first let me set aside enough for all of my bills.  I will serve you Lord, but first let me go take care of all these other responsibilities.  I will be faithful to my prayer, Bible study, and worship disciplines, but first let me get in these activities and commitments.  I will, I will, I will… but, but, but.

The life if disciple of Christ is difficult.  The choice to place God first requires all else to get in line behind this commitment to our faith.  It is a difficult commitment that daily requires setting aside self and saying, “Here I am Lord, use me”.  It is truly a daily struggle, but may we struggle well this day and each day.


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Choices

Reading: Galatians 5: 1 and 13-25

Life is full of choices.  Some call them decisions and some call them forks in the road.  Our reality is that at many points we make choices that move us forward in life.  Some of the time these decisions are not in our best interests or are not good for our faith.  We can certainly make other choices that then realign us with God’s will for our lives, but we do have detours from time to time.

Our faith is built on God’s unfailing love, His steadfast faithfulness, and His unending grace through Jesus Christ.  Once we are in a saving relationship with Christ, our status is as a child of God.  Even once we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior we can still make a poor choice and can still go in a direction away from God.

Paul encourages the Galatians and us to “stand firm and do not submit to a yoke of slavery”.  Paul saw sin ad a controlling force.  Sin occurs anytime we choose our desires over God’s desires for our life.  It is anytime we choose the things of the world over the will of God for our lives.

Paul encourages us to live by the Spirit and to allow God to guide our choices and our lives.  May our life be led by His will and may we trust in the Spirit’s guidance.  And when we fail, may we fall back into God’s love, faithfulness, and grace.  He will redeem us and again welcome us back into a right relationship with Him.