pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Prone

Reading: Genesis 3: 1-7

The story of sin in our passage today is repeated each day in our lives.  While we do not eat the forbidden fruit, we partake and indulge and rationalize and justify and blame any number of times each day in our lives.  Maybe it is an unkind word to our spouse, maybe it is a little gossip, maybe it is one too many treats, maybe, maybe, maybe.  The list is long.

For Adam and Eve it appears that just one thing draws them away from following God’s instructions.  But I do not think the serpent’s whisper was the first time they thought about the tree.  They have probably wondered ‘why’ ever since God said, “don’t eat”.  Adam and Eve have always obeyed God up to this point.  That is why it has been a wonderful relationship.  They walk and talk each day.  The serpent tells Eve that she will not die if she eats the forbidden fruit.  The serpent also plants the ‘real’ reason God does not want them to partake.  Later, when Adam and Eve are at the tree, she sees the fruit is appealing and good to eat, when she remembers that what God said isn’t ‘true’, she eats.  She indulges.  She justifies what she knows she shouldn’t.  And Adam is right there with her.

Sitting in the break room, the conversation begins.  It is so hard not to join in or at least listen to the gossip and silently judge.  TV show isn’t quite over and there are some chips left in the bag.  It is so easy just to finish them off.  It was a hard and stressful day at work and emotions are tense.  Something is not quite right with dinner or the kids are a bit rambunctious, so you let someone have it.  It is so easy to slip into sin.  We like to think those listed here and others like them are relatively ‘harmless’, but each sin comes with a cost, a price, a consequence.  A relationship is damaged or broken.  Maybe it is repairable, but should we ever get to the point of having to repair our relationships?

We all know the answer is ‘no’ but it is easier said than done.  We are, by nature, prone to sin.  God works all the time, most often through the presence of the Holy Spirit, to turn us from temptation and sin.  Merciful redeemer, when we do sin, make us humble in seeking forgiveness.  O Lord our God, strengthen and encourage us today for the trial and temptations that surely lie ahead, so that we may walk as faithful disciples this day.

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Listen

Reading: Genesis 2: 15-17

Adam and Eve began in the garden.  Each day they walk and talk with God, enjoying all that God has provided.  They have been given almost unlimited access to the garden and all of its bounty.  The one restriction God places is upon the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God lets Adam and Eve know that they will die if they eat of this one tree.

Can you remember as a kid when your Mom or Dad said, “Don’t do” this or that?  At least some of the time these were things you never would have thought of on your own.  But more often than not, your wise and loving parents knew from experience that sooner or later that tree or rooftop or toy your sister had would be more than you could resist.  We were the same way.  All parents are.  If there was something that could harm or be bad for our children, we warn them about it.  God was doing the same thing in the garden.  God knew that once the knowledge of good and evil entered the minds of mankind, that the world would never be the same.  He was right.

As grown adults, we continue to get many warnings.  Sometimes they come from our spouse or our friend or our coworker.  Sometimes the warnings even come from our own minds.  Sometimes the words are in the form of a whisper from the Holy Spirit.  Like we would have been when we were children, we would be wise to heed the warning, to listen to the voice of those with our best interests at heart.  This day, O Lord, help me to be obedient and faithful as I try to follow the example of Jesus.  It is only possible through your power and presence, so please be with me today.


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Being Moses and Elijah

Reading: Matthew 17: 1-9

Jesus meets Moses and Elijah up on the mountain.  These two men represent the Messiah, each in their own way.  Moses is the first great deliverer of his people.  He led them out of the bondage of slavery and guided them to the Promised Land.  Along the way Moses brought them the Law and guided them as they learned to live as the people of God.  Jesus fills these roles as well.  It is Jesus who freed us from the chains of sin and death, bringing us freedom.  It is Jesus who shows us the way to our promised land – life everlasting.  It is Jesus who gave us the example of how to live out the meaning of the Law, to live according to God’s ways, living as a servant to all, loving all we meet.

Elijah is the great prophet of God.  Elijah spoke the word of God to the people and also demonstrated God’s power again and again.  Elijah spoke truth to those around him and was often unwelcomed or lived as an outcast.  Jesus also spoke the word of God to the people.  The power of God certainly flowed through Jesus as well, revealed in the many He healed and restored to life.  Jesus was not always popular either; as a prophet He spoke truth as well and at times Jesus was not welcomed, at other times He was despised by the religious authorities.  In the end, it was this group that crucified Him.

It makes sense that Jesus would meet and talk with Moses and Elijah.  He was and is both deliverer and prophet.  In the same way that Jesus fills these roles, we too must fill these roles in our own way.  Many in our lives need to be delivered – there is much that holds us captive and that binds people today.  Many in our lives need to find the freedom brought by living as a child of God – the peace, contentment, and joy found in Christ.  Many in our lives need to hear the prophetic word of God to bring hope and promise and healing to their broken lives.  We are called to follow Jesus Christ’s example to help accomplish all of this.  We are called to be a humble servant and to graciously love all we meet.  Through us, we allow the same light of Christ that shone at the transfiguration to shine out into people’s darkness, guiding them to the only hope, to the Savior of the world, to Jesus Christ.


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However He Comes

Reading: 2 Peter 1: 19-21

Peter begins by helping us remember the words of the prophets, words that draw us to Jesus and to God.  Prophets like Moses and Elijah, who he saw in the transfiguration, and prophets like Samuel and Isaiah – all men who spoke the word that God has placed in their mouths.  In his reference to light shining in the darkness, Peter draws in John the Baptist, another prophet who pointed people to the Messiah, just as all the Old Testament prophets ultimately do as well.  As modern day disciples of Jesus, this is our call as well: to draw others to the light, to the Messiah.

Sometimes we think of the light of Jesus as a slowly growing presence, a light that steadily bathes one in His encompassing love.  This love gradually progresses in an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus.  This is often the norm for those raised in the church.  They would say they have always known Jesus.  But this is not the pattern for all believers.

In the original Hebrew, the word we have translated as dawn has a more piercing, more sudden connotation to it.  Think of turning on a bright flashlight after spending several moments in a dark cave.  The light is sudden.  It is sharp.  The light pierces through.  Some are experience Jesus this way.  Life is as it has always been.  Then all of a sudden, Jesus comes charging in, taking center stage in their life.  

Jesus can enter in a similar way for believers as well.  We go along as always.  Then suddenly Jesus bursts into our daily routine unexpectedly.  Maybe it is a sudden revelation of a truth as we pray or study our Bible.  Maybe it is in a surprising conviction we suddenly feel.  Maybe it is in an urge or nudge we feel to reach out to someone.  Or maybe it is an experience like Peter, James, and John had, up on the mountain top.  This day, may we be open to the presence of our living Savior, however He may come today.


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D

Reading: 2 Peter 1: 16-18

Like almost all the other stories of Jesus, someone was there to remember the event, to tell others about it, to one day record it.  I’d imagine most of the stories, particularly the miracles, were talked about quite a bit.  This is a large part of why Jesus drew such a crowd at times.  They had heard.  At Jesus’ baptism there were some onlookers there to see the Spirit descended and to hear the “this is my Son” declaration.  But the transfiguration story is so much more.  Jesus’ appearance changes, Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Jesus, the voice of God again speaks.  In all of this, we gain confirmation of Jesus’ divinity and authority.  But, for the time being, this story goes untold, as per Jesus’ instructions.

In the transfiguration account, we see that the God we adore and worship and praise is the same as the the One who came in the flesh.  In the power and divine majesty of the transfiguration, we see a glimpse of the Messiah who will one day return again to restore all things as He establishes the new heaven and earth.  The image in 2nd Peter also connects forward to the vision of Jesus that John has in Revelation.  Both Peter and John are so in awe of what they see that they both have trouble putting words to what they see and experience.  In between these two events we have he risen Lord, appearing in the garden, in a room, on the seashore,…  We see a loving God who reassures His closest friends that He is going back to be with His Father, but also promising to one day return in glory.

As we prepare to enter Lent, we embrace all of this – the Christ who was here before time, the human Jesus who walked the earth and was crucified for our sins, and the risen Messiah that will one day return to make all things new.  As faithful and obedient disciples, we cry out, “Come Lord Jesus, come!”


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Exalt and Worship

Reading: Psalm 99: 5-9

In today’s Psalm, we see four aspects of God, each requiring or provoking a response from the faithful.  Each of these aspects of God continue to be a part of our faith today.  Each is essential to a full relationship with God.

Verse five reminds us that God is holy.  In God, there is only good.  In God there cannot be any wrong or evil doing.  It is the spark of the divine in each of us that makes all of humanity have a natural bent towards doing good in the world.  Our response is to exalt the Lord and to worship our God.

Verse six speaks of calling on God.  Moses, Aaron, and Samuel are but a few who called on God.  There are many more who turned to the Lord our God in prayer.  Each came before God with honest and sincere hearts and prayers and “He answered them”.  Our response is to do the same.  We are called to regular communication with God, in the pattern of these great examples.

In verse seven we are prompted to remember God’s statutes and decrees.  The Bible is God’s guidance and directions for how to live as He intends us to live.  Our response remains the same: be obedient to God’s ways.

Verse eight recalls the struggle we all face: sin.  We will all experience temptation and at times we will all sin.  This verse reads, “you were to Israel a forgiving God”.  This remains one of God’s core characteristics.  God loves His children and constantly seeks to restore us to a right relationship with Him.  Because of this desire, our God is a loving, merciful, forgiving God.

Verse nine contains our response.  It is a reminder of what this passage opened with.  In light of all that God is, the psalmist again calls us to exalt and worship the Lord our God.  May our lives today be filled with our praise of God, worshipping the Lord our God in all we do and say and think this day.


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One Matters

Reading: Psalm 99: 1-4

Psalm 99 begins by speaking of God’s love of justice and the nation’s response.  They tremble.  God’s justice is universal – it applies to all people.  God’s justice removes power dynamics and the desire to elevate oneself over others and replaced them with equity.  When do much of our world is driven by power, position, and authority, justice stands counter to these forces, instead saying things like ‘the last shall be first’.  Of course the nations tremble.

The call of Christ leads us to stand alongside God and to champion His love for justice and equality.  Through the ages, great men of faith have gone just this, no matter the cost to themselves.  Martin Luther stood against the abuses of the church, preaching that faith alone saves.  All people can tap into faith, meaning all are loved by God, meaning all can be saved without price.  John Wesley stood for equality, believing that all people should have access to the Word of God.  He preached salvation in the fields, streets, and mines, welcoming all people, not just those who met certain qualifications.  Both of these men, and many others too, led to opening the church doors a little wider and expanding the circle of God’s love.

You and I may not be people of Luther’s or Wesley’s fame, but we too are people who are called to stand for justice and equality, to make a positive difference in our world.  We too are called to be people who say ‘no’ to injustice and inequality.  We too can each work to open the doors of our churches a little wider, to welcome all into our communities of faith, and to draw the circle of God’s love even wider.  One sheep that was lost and is now safely in the fold matters.  One son that was wayward and returns home matters.  One widow who finally receives justice matters.  Who will you matter to today?