pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Work… Eat

Reading: 2nd Thessalonians 3: 10-13

Verse 10: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat”.

As interconnected people we often have to work together to accomplish or achieve things. This is true at work, in sports, and in our churches. If four people are each working on a part of a project and one person fails to do their part, then the project remains incomplete. In team sports all members on the court or field must each perform their specific duties if the play is to be run well. In church, each member needs to contribute in some way or the church is less than it could be.

When I was still teaching, at times I would have my students work in groups. Occasionally one would not do much. Often the others would pick up the slack because they wanted to succeed. They might finish, but the end product would be less than if all four had done their part. Once in a while the lazy student would become disruptive, taking away from the group’s effort. If redirection did not work, the last resort was to form a “group of one”. This is what Paul is hinting at today’s passage as he addresses the sin of idleness.

In verse ten Paul reminds the Thessalonians of the rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat”. When one fails to contribute and also draws away the resources of the group, this negative balance brings the organization down. But this is just one consequence. It seems the idle folks have found something to do. They have become busybodies. This most likely involves gossip and other forms of negative behavior. They have become the student in the group not only failing to contribute but also being a barrier to the rest of the group completing their work. Paul urges them to get with the program – to “settle down and earn the bread they eat”. Be a contributor and not a taker. In the following verses Paul goes on to offer the “group of one” advice: “do not associate with him”.

The danger of being idle can also affect our personal faith. If we become willing to hit the snooze button instead of getting up to pray and study the Bible, then we inhibit our faith growth. If we become willing to allow a friend to take us fishing on a Sunday morning, then we are missing out on an opportunity to grow closer to God. If we choose or place worldly things or people ahead of our faith, we are being spiritual busybodies. When we do these things, we are choosing not to eat the bread of life. We are also likely filling ourselves with things that negatively affect our relationship with God. When we stray from our spiritual disciplines, our connection to God and to others suffers. Instead, let us each be encouraged by Paul’s words: “Never tire of doing what is right”. Then we will be pleasing to the Lord our God.

Prayer: Lord God, when I am tempted to skip my quiet time or to not go to that study or meeting, remind me of Paul’s warning and encouragement. Whenever I choose you, life is so much better. May it be so. Amen.


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Love at Work

Reading: Psalm 107: 17-22

Verses 19 and 20: “They cried to the Lord in their trouble… He sent forth the word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave”.

The psalmist recognizes the foolish behavior of some and identifies the consequences that came with poor choices. During our lives we have seen many people make poor decisions and we ourselves have made our share as well. After suffering because of their or our iniquities, there comes a point of admitting the error of our ways and turning to God for help. Verse 19 reads, “They cried to the Lord in their trouble”. It is a cry filled with both pain and hope. Pain because of the regret of ending up in such a place. Hope because we know that God is faithful and true.

Verse 20 bears this out: “He sent forth the word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave”. God responds to the cry for help and restores those in need. For the psalmist, the ‘word’ could come through the Spirit or it could come through the voice of the prophet. For the Christian, the word could also come from the Holy Spirit or it could come from the ‘Word’ – Jesus himself. The net result is the same: God brings healing and rescued from the grave. This could literally be the grave or it could represent being saving from eternal damnation.

Sometimes we observe this cycle of sin, suffering, conviction, repentance, crying out, healing/rescue and sometimes we experience it ourselves. In both cases, we are privy to seeing God’s hand at work over and over. Because of this we come to know God as steadfast and faithful. We come to know God’s love and mercy as unending and as a blessing for all. And we come to the place where we know God will never let us go. From here we begin to understand the depth of God’s love. It is a beautiful and wonderful thing. It is a love that we are called to share with others. May it be so today.


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Stumble Behaviors

Reading: 1st Corinthians 8: 1-13

Verse One: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”.

Paul is dealing with a controversy in the church in Corinth. Because of their life experiences, one group in the church feels that eating meat sacrificed to idols is sinful. To them it has been tainted, so it should not be eaten. But to others in the church, they do not think there are other gods than God himself. Therefore, they see meat sacrificed to gods that do not exist as being okay to eat. These two groups are at odds.

Paul opens our passage today with these words: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”. He is referring to those who know it is okay to eat the meat as being ‘puffed up’ or arrogant in their stance. Instead of looking down on those struggling with this issue, those Paul calls ‘weak’ or who are less mature believers, Paul encourages them to choose love instead. Paul goes on to acknowledge that idols are “nothing at all” yet reminds the puffed up believers that some are still so accustomed to idols that eating this meat defiles them. Paul then asks the mature believers to abstain from eating such meat because it has become a stumbling block to the less mature Christians. Paul even goes so far as to call it a sin when they intentionally do something that is not a sin if that causes another believer to stumble.

We do not eat food sacrificed to idols today, but we do practice behaviors that cause others to stumble. Imagine the impact on one considering a walk with Christ if they see you regularly joining the office gossip circle or if they hear you harshly judging a fellow worker. Imagine the effect of a Christian using unethical business practices or acting in immoral ways concerning their marriage. Imagine the consequences of making your children go to youth group or Sunday school when you use the same hour to grab a coffee or to do the grocery shopping. As the world witnesses the words and actions of Christians, they can draw others to Christ or they can lead them away from Christ. Through and through we must reflect the love of Jesus Christ first and foremost. We must be diligent in our walk with Jesus, guarding our words and our actions so that we always build one another up. May it be so today and every day.


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Wrestling Towards Perfection

When we question things, sometimes the answers we find surprise us.  Sometimes the answer forces us to wrestle with something and perhaps this, in turn, causes us to grow.  The question that the scribe asks Jesus is a genuine and deep question.  Jesus’ answer is direct and forces the scribe to wrestle a bit.  In the end, he at least considers a new reality and that is good.

At times we too must wrestle with our faith.  It is essential at times to reflect on how our walk with God is, on how sin is affecting our life, and on our dedication and service to God.  Questions about how closely we are following and if we are giving enough of ourselves are great questions to wrestle with.

Jesus’ answer to the scribe made him question his definition of loving neighbors, and, in particular, about not exploiting them.  It would not have been very hard for the scribe to see all the ways exploitation was occurring.  The big question is did it bring about change in behavior.

The same is generally true for us.  If we really spend time wrestling with where we are in our faith and with being the hands and feet of Christ, then we often see how we could be or do more.  In living a faith that follows Jesus Christ, we are ever on a road towards perfection.  Like Paul, may we too press on toward the goal to win the prize of eternal life.

Scripture reference: Mark 12: 28-34


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The Hospital We Call Church

John Wesley once noted that sometimes a Christian’s behavior is the greatest obstacle to a non-believer being saved.  Today some churches are refered to as a social club for the holy and righteous.  In some houses of worship we say guests are great but we do not treat them that way – especially if they are not just like us.

In today’s passage from Mark, Jesus addresses our behavior as a follower.  In figurative but somewhat harsh language, we are advised to cut off a hand if it causes us to sin or to gouge out an eye if it causes us to sin.  Jesus tells us it would be better to live maimed or partially blind than to keep sinning and to eventually enter hell.  His point is that our behavior is critical, not only for our faith journey but also for the non-believer who sees us living out our faith.

Jesus concludes this teaching with the call to be salt to the people we encounter.  Through our gracious and loving words and actions we are to ‘season’ the world with God’s grace and love.  As we live out our call to build up His kingdom here on earth, our positive witness will draw the non-believer to seek this same grace and love.

Our behaviors must attract people to God, not make them question having a relationship with Him.  We must offer love and grace when others need it and offer honest and repentant words when our behavior necessitates this.  We must live in the knowledge that we are all sinners saved by grace alone.  May we offer Christ to the world this day, inviting others to join us in our hospital for sinners that we call church.  For it is there we are healed too.

Scripture reference: Mark 9: 42-50