pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Blameless, Upright

Reading: Job 1:1

Verse 1: “Job… was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil”.

Today we begin a short journey with Job. For the month of October we will read a selection from Job each week. It will be, of course, just a small sampling of who Job was and what his story teaches us. Even so, the passages will reveal much to us about ourselves and our faith journey.

Job was a man who lived in Ur, a city far outside of Israel. He worshipped God in a foreign land in a culture that often counter to God and God’s ways. We find ourselves in a similar position today. In our time culture and society in general is ambivalent to matters of faith, even clashing with our beliefs and practices from time to time. The values and priorities of modern culture in the western world do not align well with the values and priorities that God calls us to practice and live out.

Verse one tells us, “Job… was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil”. Job is an early example of faith. On our best days we might be blameless and upright for periods of time. While this is our goal, it is not very often our reality for long stretches of time. But because it is our goal, like Job, we too must deal regularly with the attacks of the enemy. Because we are seeking to live and walk out a life of faith, Satan is ever on the lookout for ways to lead us into sin.

Job also feared God and shunned evil. These qualities of Job are much more realistic for us. Job’s fear was not a fear of ghosts or spiders type of fear. It was more of a reverence or healthy respect of God. To have this, one must have an intimate relationship with and knowledge of God. For Job, it came from having a deep and personal connection to God. Because of this, Job shunned evil. When we love God deeply, we too will shun evil. When our love of God is strong, we desire to please God. This leads us to shun evil and therefore to avoid sin, the thing that separates us from God.

As we live out our faith, being blameless and upright are worthy goals. Fortunately, they are not one and done goals. If we stumble or even if we fail, God’s love and mercy allow us to reset our goals and to begin anew. May we strive to grow closer each day, fearing God and shunning evil in all its forms. Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit may it be so for me and for you.

God of Job, God of all people, God of me, pour out the power of your Holy Spirit on me today. Help me to be blameless and to live out an upright faith. Amen.


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A Beautiful Vision

Reading: Ephesians 2: 11-22

Verse 19: “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens… with Jesus Christ himself as the cheif cornerstone”.

There is an old saying about fences not making good neighbors. They separate and keep us apart. Fences are like barriers. Each one of us is a unique creation of God. As unique creations we have characteristics that can make us look and feel and seem different from one another. “Can” is an important word. How we see each other is dependent upon our perspective.

In Ephesians 2, Paul is writing about the family of God. As Christians, this should be our identity. Through Jesus Christ, God reconciled all people to Himself. In Jesus’ eyes there is no skin color, no ethnicity, no gender, no past, no… All are His brothers and sisters. All are part of the family. There are no “foreigners and aliens” but only “fellow citizens” in God’s family.

We are united by Jesus Christ as we are “brought near through the blood of Christ”. It is His blood that washes away our sin. It is only our sin that separates us from God and, therefore, from the family. Sin is the only barrier that God sees. Through Jesus Christ we are restored and renewed and are made acceptable in God’s sight. This, to me, is why Jesus is the “chief cornerstone” – upon Jesus we all stand.

When this is our understanding of how we, sinners all, are made new creations who stand blameless in the family of God, then our understanding of each other is no longer earthly but heavenly. Like our sins, in Christ all the things that could separate us and could create barriers are also washed away. From this perspective, we are all simply children of God, united by the one Spirit. When we see each other this way, we see as Jesus sees. It is a beautiful vision for our world. May we each help this to become a bit more of a reality today. Amen.


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Word

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 2: 9-13

Verse 12: You accepted it not as the word of man, but as it actually is, as the word of God.

As children we would often use the phrase, “Stick and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”.  It was a way to try and deflect and minimalize the teasing and bullying that were part of childhood, but but in reality the words were powerful and often hurtful.  As a people who communicate primarily with words, words are the foundation of knowledge and understanding and even of faith.

On the surface level, the Bible contains just words.  As Paul wrote and spoke to the many churches he founded, he used just words.  In more recent times people like Martin Luther King, Junior, just spoke words.  Words are powerful.  Words can change how we see the world, how we understand things, and how we believe and think.  Paul came to the Thessalonians and preached the gospel.  As Paul and his companions were among them, they were “holy, righteous, and blameless”.  To be heard, one must first walk the walk.  Paul and friends went on to encourage and comfort the Thessalonians and also urged them to live lives “worthy of God”.  Yet as Paul preached, it wasn’t just words.  He writes, “You accepted it not as the word of man, but as it actually is, as the word of God”.  The words Paul spoke took on life and were heard as the Word of God.  The scriptures continue to be the living Word of God and will always be alive.

The Word continues to be alive as it works in and through each of us.  As we read the Bible and hear the Word proclaimed, it creeps into our hearts and minds and takes root.  It shapes and forms and refines us.  It challenges and convicts us.  It becomes who we are as we grow in our faith and deepen our relationship with Jesus.  And when we share our faith with others, it becomes a word planted in their lives, waiting for the living God to take that seed and to make it grow.  As we go forth and live holy and righteous lives we are encouragement and love and hope to the world around us.  As such we too will have the opportunity to share our faith and the story of the good news of Jesus Christ.  This day, may the living word flow in and through us, bringing Christ to the world.


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Our Great High Priest

Jesus is our great high priest, perfect in all ways, full of mercy and grace.  He is one who can sympathize with our human weakness yet is still perfect Himself.  Jesus is holy and blameless and pure – set apart from sinners in this, yet also interceding on our behalf.  What great love the Father has lavished on us through His Son!

Unlike human priests (and pastors) who sin and struggle with life, Jesus forever remains our great high priest.  Jesus will live and serve forever – at least until He returns!  In His role as the great high priest He gives us access to the Father.  He is the conduit through who we can begin to know God.  Jesus also intercedes on our behalf to bring about our salvation.  Lastly, in His time here on earth, Jesus gives us the example of what God’s love lived out looks like.

What does all of this mean for you and me in our daily lives?  It means we have a savior who we can go to and draw strength from at any time and for any need.  It means we have a friend who is on our side.  Even though He sits enthroned beside God almighty, He still intercedes before God on our behalf.  Through the strength He gives and through the intercession He provides, He makes our salvation possible.  On our own we would surely fail.  And Jesus provides us the perfect example of how to live.  Although we will never attain perfection, still we strive to love God and neighbor as Jesus loved them.  Oh perfecter of our faith, oh great high priest, lead us this day and every day!

Scripture reference: Hebrews 7: 23-28


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On Solid Ground

The psalmist cried out for vindication from his enemies.  He asks God to test him and to try him as a means of proving he is worthy of God’s rescuing hand.  In the midst of a trial or unpleasant experience we often have similar thoughts – I have followed your ways God, I have been faithful in worship, I have given my gifts –  so why is this happening to me?

The psalmist also uses the company he keeps as leverage point.  He makes his case that he does not hang out with the evil doers, with the wicked.  He reminds God that he loves God’s home, that he loves to spend time in the sanctuary.  Our arguments fall along the same lines.

In the psalm we also find our true strength in the midst of the storms.  He proclaims praise for God and tells of God’s wonderful deeds.  In doing so he remembers a God who loves and cares for His people.  He reminds himself and God that he leads a blameless life.  Our God too is a loving God, a God who cares for us in the midst of our trials.

The psalm ends with “my feet stand on solid ground.”  When we are in a relationship with God we too stand on solid ground.  Even when life is storming all around us, we stand firm on the solid rock of Jesus.  Despite all that life throws at us, we can stand assured that in the end whether the trial or life itself, we will be triumphant because we stand upon our faith.

Scripture reference: Psalm 26


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Job’s Great Example

The story of Job fascinates me.  A devout and faithful man suffers unjust persecution.  He loses all of his family and all of his possessions and is afflicted with illness.  His wife and friends badger him and go so far as to advise him to just curse God and die.  But Job does not turn from God.  He questions why he is suffering but he remains faithful.

Almost daily we see examples of unjust suffering in our world.  It can come from a natural disaster or from one’s fellow man.  It can affect one person or dozens or the masses.  In all people’s lives there are times of unjust suffering.  For many, our response is not like Job’s.  We wonder why God is punishing us or we get angry at God or we walk away from our faith.

The story of Job reveals to us in great detail that unjust suffering does occur in our world.  It also reveals that God does not cause it and that God remains present to us in the midst of our suffering.  It is up to us if we continue to draw upon God in the midst of our suffering or if we get angry or if we walk away or …

Job sets us a great example.  He was blameless yet suffered.  He was put to a severe test and he came through it.  He relied on God, listened to God’s voice, and drew upon His strength.  We too will suffer at times.  May we also realize that we are not alone and may we draw upon God’s strength, love, and presence as we journey through our hardship.

Scripture reference: Job 1:1 and 2:1-3