pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Serving God, Serving Others

Reading: Mark 9: 33-37

Verse 35: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all”.

The disciples are arguing about something we can argue about from time to time. As kids, we all argued with our siblings about who was our parents’ favorite. As we got a little older, we discussed who was the teacher’s or coach’s favorite. As we entered into adulthood, the discussion took place most often in our heads. Whenever we did voice our opinion concerning someone being the favorite, it was usually a manner of complaint or gossip.

Unfortunately, most people want to be #1. Some express this by being large and in charge. Some simply want to be the one others look to. Deep down, we all want to be important, to matter. Society teaches us that worth is in our possessions, our titles, our status. This equates out to being the greatest. Faith runs counter to these values and ideas. Knowing what the disciples were arguing about, Jesus says, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all”. If you want to be the greatest in God’s kingdom, be the last to consider yourself, be the first to offer yourself in humble service to one and all. How counter-cultural this is. What a radical way to consider greatness.

To drive His point home, Jesus has a child stand among them. In His day, children were at the bottom of the social and familial ladder. Jesus tells His disciples that when we welcome one of these – the least – we welcome Jesus and we welcome God into our lives. When we feed the hungry, visit the sick and the lonely, clothe the naked… then we are serving our needs last, we are being the servant of all. In the process, we often see the face of God in those we meet.

Lord God, this day may I seek to be last instead of first. May I be a giver and not a taker. May I be a person of humble faith, not a person of aloof religion. In all I do and say, maybe serve you as I serve others. May it be so each day. Amen.

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Who Is This Jesus?

Reading: John 6: 35 & 41-46

Verse 46: “At this the Jews began to grumble about Him because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven'”.

Jesus has just fed the 5,000 so the idea of Jesus and bread seem to go hand in hand at this moment in His ministry. He has encouraged those who return the next day for more food to look not only for physical bread but also to work for the “food that endures to eternal life”. He offers this “bread” to them if only they will believe. It is at this point that our passage opens today as Jesus says, “I am the bread of life…”

Some of the Jews balk at Jesus’ earlier claim when He said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven”. They cannot rectify this with the Jesus they know. The people here know His parents – Mary and Joseph – and they have known Jesus since childhood. They know where He came from. How can He now make this claim to be from heaven? They see and understand Jesus only on the literal, human level. To them bread is simply bread.

In the interceding verses Jesus makes some other claims. He claims that He is sent by God and that He only does the will of God. Jesus also reiterates that belief in Him is the path to eternal life. Then, in verse 40, Jesus claims that on the last day He will raise up all who believe. None of these claims hit a nerve. They are all beyond where His audience is stuck. The Jews can not or do not or will not move past the birth narrative that they know.

To try and help them connect to something they know, Jesus turns to the Old Testament for reinforcement. He quotes the prophet Isaiah, saying, “Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to Me”. In essence Jesus is saying to look in the scriptures and you will see that they point to Jesus the Messiah. This connection was a stumbling block for many. It continues to be today.

For all believers, we must spend time in our Bibles so that we understand this connection of Old to New. We must be able to articulate how the New Testament is the fuller revelation of the God of the Old Testament. We must be able to explain the continuing story of God’s activity in the world through Jesus. Jesus incarnate is God. Jesus is God’s love lived out in human relationships. Our role as believers is to help the lost to find and understand this truth. May we know the story of Jesus well so that we can share it with others.


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Amazing Love

Reading: 2 Samuel 18: 31-33

Verse 33: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son, Absalom! If only I had died instead of you”!

David experiences something no parent ever expects to experience. One of his children dies before he does. No one wants to bury a child. It just seems unnatural. For David, this is the second son he has lost. The first son who died, Ammon, was murdered by Absalom. Ammon had raped his half-sister, Absalom’s sister. David did not punish Ammon for the rape so Absalom took matters into his own hands, avenging his sister’s shame. This act also went unpunished by David. So it was not a total shock that the fiery and arrogant Absalom was leading a rebellion against his father, King David.

Even then David’s first reaction when it comes down to a fight is to try and protect Absalom. David’s army gains a hard-fought victory. It is a costly battle – over 20,000 die that day in the forest of Ephraim. News comes first of the great victory. The messenger is elated to share the news that the Lord has delivered all who rose up against the king. David cares not but only asks about Absalom. The messenger replies, “May the enemies… all be like that young man”, letting David know that Absalom was killed. The Word then says, “The King was shaken”. David went to mourn this personal loss, crying out, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son, Absalom! If only I had died instead of you”! The victory on the battlefield is meaningless to David because Absalom died. Like all parents, David wishes he could trade places with his child.

The love of a parent for a child is on vivid display here. The pure love models the love that God has for each of us. Yet it is pale by comparison. God sent His own Son to die for others. God sent Jesus knowing that Jesus would endure the cross to bring forgiveness of sins and hope for eternal life. God incarnate, God in the flesh, sacrificed Himself for the sinners. That death had to pain God the Father deeply. But the greater love for you and me prevailed. As a parent, this would be so hard to do – especially when He had the power to stop it. The atonement, the sacrifice, had to be made. It is an amazing love revealed in God the Father. Thanks be to God for the amazing love for all of His children, imperfect as we may be. Thanks be to God.


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Loving the Child

Reading: 2 Samuel 18: 5-9

Verse 5: “The king commanded, ‘Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake'”.

David’s son Absalom has led a revolt to become king by force. He is a ruthless man who formed an alliance that has led to a civil war against his father and his supporters. The troops prepare for battle. As they are heading out, David says to his leaders and the army as a whole, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake”. After all, Absalom is still his son.

One could certainly argue that David’s refusal to deal with his sinful children had led to this very moment. His children have gone unpunished for a long time. Rebellion and disobedience go hand in hand with how they have been raised. Yet still overriding all of this is a father’s love for his child. This may not seem to make sense, but neither does God’s love for us.

When I think about how often I sin against God’s ways and allow pride or jealousy or gossip or … to creep in, then I am amazed that God still loves me. God’s love is a love for us that just keeps coming, no matter how many times I say I’m sorry and repent of whatever I’ve fallen into. Maybe this is the love that David is trying to model with Absalom. Maybe David is hoping that he has finally learned. If not, like God, David will still love his child.

Our passage ends with Absalom stuck in a tree. This will be his end. But when we are stuck in our sin, it is not the end. God comes along and gently sets us down on the ground. We took the ground as we offer up our apology. God dusts off our sin and sends us back on our way through life. He smiles lovingly as we head off to try again. He says, “See you soon”. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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Trusting Faith

Reading: Mark 5: 21-24 and 35-43

Verse 23: “Please come and put your hands on my daughter so that she will be healed and live”.

In today’s reading a desperate father comes to Jesus. He falls at Jesus’ feet and begs Him to see his dying daughter. As a parent, I would do almost anything for my children. I think most parents fall into this mindset. We would give up much or do anything in our power to save our children from suffering and hardship.

Jarius is certainly willing to risk for his daughter. As the ruler of the synagogue, he is aligned with the powers that be. These powers, the Pharisees and Herodians, have already clashed with Jesus and have begun to plot His demise. Risking his position in the synagogue and within the powers that be, Jarius goes to Jesus. His daughter is dying. Jarius meets Jesus and falls at his feet. He begs Jesus, saying, “Please come and put your hands on my daughter so that she will be healed and live”. His daughter is dying. The time is short. He is desperate. Jesus is his last resort.

We are often like Jarius. We come to Jesus when we feel as if He were our last resort, when time has about run out, when we are desperate. We first try and do it on our own. Then we turn to “experts” next. We only turn to our faith when the end is near. Then we expect an instant solution, a quick fix. We can be sure that Jarius had a sense of urgency about his request. When he begged Jesus to come, “now” was certainly implied.

This is often our mindset when we pray. Jesus, answer my prayer now. Answer it how I want it answered. Now. Do what I want right now! We are not good at waiting. We do not do well waiting patiently for God’s will to be revealed. Perhaps if we started praying first…

Just as Jesus is finishing His conversation that interrupted the trip to Jarius’ home, Jarius receives some bad news – your daughter is dead. Immediately Jesus offers hope: “Don’t be afraid; just believe”. He is saying, keep the faith Jarius. Hold onto your faith. Turn your desperate faith into trusting faith. Believe. Allow your faith to be real. I cannot imagine what was going through Jarius’ mind as they walked to his house and then into his daughter’s room. This is how we must walk sometimes too: unsure but trusting in Jesus anyway. Like Jarius, may we walk in trusting faith, believing in God’s plan.


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Trusting Faith

Reading: Mark 5: 21-24 and 35-43

Verse 23: “Please come and put your hands on my daughter so that she will be healed and live”.

In today’s reading a desperate father comes to Jesus. He falls at Jesus’ feet and begs Him to see his dying daughter. As a parent, I would do almost anything for my children. I think most parents fall into this mindset. We would give up much or do anything in our power to save our children from suffering and hardship.

Jarius is certainly willing to risk for his daughter. As the ruler of the synagogue, he is aligned with the powers that be. These powers, the Pharisees and Herodians, have already clashed with Jesus and have begun to plot His demise. Risking his position in the synagogue and within the powers that be, Jarius goes to Jesus. His daughter is dying. Jarius meets Jesus and falls at his feet. He begs Jesus, saying, “Please come and put your hands on my daughter so that she will be healed and live”. His daughter is dying. The time is short. He is desperate. Jesus is his last resort.

We are often like Jarius. We come to Jesus when we feel as if He were our last resort, when time has about run out, when we are desperate. We first try and do it on our own. Then we turn to “experts” next. We only turn to our faith when the end is near. Then we expect an instant solution, a quick fix. We can be sure that Jarius had a sense of urgency about his request. When he begged Jesus to come, “now” was certainly implied.

This is often our mindset when we pray. Jesus, answer my prayer now. Answer it how I want it answered. Now. Do what I want right now! We are not good at waiting. We do not do well waiting patiently for God’s will to be revealed. Perhaps if we started praying first…

Just as Jesus is finishing His conversation that interrupted the trip to Jarius’ home, Jarius receives some bad news – your daughter is dead. Immediately Jesus offers hope: “Don’t be afraid; just believe”. He is saying, keep the faith Jarius. Hold onto your faith. Turn your desperate faith into trusting faith. Believe. Allow your faith to be real. I cannot imagine what was going through Jarius’ mind as they walked to his house and then into his daughter’s room. This is how we must walk sometimes too: unsure but trusting in Jesus anyway. Like Jarius, may we walk in trusting faith, believing in God’s plan.


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Breaking Chains

Reading: 1st Peter 3: 18-22

Verse 18: “For Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God”.

Noah was saved because of his righteousness. Because of this, he was chosen by God to survive the great flood. Out of the flood came God’s covenant to never again destroy the earth by water. Instead, God will have mankind’s best interests at heart. And then, at just the right time, God sent Jesus into the world. Instead of the rains, God sent love.

Christ came for two main purposes. The first was to show us what God’s love looks like when lived out to perfection. Before He died, Jesus made it abundantly clear that all Christians are to do the same – to live God’s love out into the world. The second and main reason Jesus came was to save mankind. Through the purchase of His blood, Jesus made atonement for our sins. Peter sums it up this way in our reading today: “For Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God”. For us, the unrighteous, Christ died to bring us to God.

Peter connects this gift from Christ to the waters of our baptism. In our baptism, the waters symbolically wash away our sins and our old life. In baptism, Peter also says we receive the “pledge of good conscience”. In simpler terms, this means that we are led to act and live righteous lives as we walk out our faith as a new creation in Christ. It is the Holy Spirit in us, which marks us as a child of God in our baptism, that leads us to walk out our faith, sharing God’s love with a world in need.

Peter refers to Christ, being made alive by the Spirit, going and preaching to “spirits in prison”. He went to hell to save some lost souls. This too is one way that we can live out God’s love. We can go to the lost and the broken and share the good news of Jesus Christ. We can lead them to the waters of baptism so that they too can be made clean and can receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, walking ever more as a beloved child of God.

As Christ’s light and love lived out in the world, may we be led by the Spirit to help the least and the lost break the chains of sin and death, freeing them to live a life in Christ. May it be so today and every day. Amen!