pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Understand, Apply, Live

Reading: James 1: 22-27

Verse 27: “Religion… pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”.

In James 1, verses 17 to 21, we are reminded that all good things come from God, that we should listen way more than we speak, and that we should humbly accept the Word planted in us. All of this leads up to the main purpose of our passage today: to do the things that God says to do. Today, James focuses on a few things to do.

In addressing his contemporaries, James is speaking to a problem that he must have witnessed. Jesus also addressed this problem often when dealing with the Pharisees and other religious leaders. These folks knew all of the letters of the Law inside out and could go on and on about it – they just struggled to live it out. Our words from James begin with this same issue too: “do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says”. An example today would be the person who leaves church to go to the bar. The person proceeds to get drunk and to curse at their team on TV. The next morning they scoff at the homeless beggar as they drive to work scheming how to dishonestly earn a few extra bucks. And, yes, they are listening to the Christian radio station as they drive. Instead, James suggests to look intently into the Word of God – to study it and to understand it so that we can live it. In doing so we discover a freedom as we live God’s ways instead of the ways of the world.

In the closing verses today, James gets to the heart of living out our faith. He returns again to the idea in verses 19 and 20, reminding us to keep a “tight rein” on our tongues. Then James gives us two more action points. In verse 27 James writes, “Religion… pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”. First, look after those in need. Orphans and widows would have been shorthand for all in need. Not coincidentally, we see this concept as a major emphasis in Jesus’ life and ministry. Second, live in the world but do not be of the world. Be the example of God’s love amidst the pain and brokenness. Be the light that shines hope into the darkness. Be the hand that offers a hand up and not just a hand out. Have an active and engaging faith. Don’t just read the Word, but understand it, apply it to your life, and live it out. May it be so.

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Central Command

Reading: 1st John 3: 18-24

Verse 23: “This is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another”.

We are reminded many times in 1st John that we are “children” of God. In calling followers of Jesus children of God, John is establishing a certain relationship. As children of God we have a father who loves us and cares for us. God is a father that wants the absolute best for His children. God is an understanding father that accepts us as we are yet always wants to see more out of us as we grow to become more and more like His Son, Jesus.

Like we are with our earthly fathers, we too want to please God our heavenly father. John echoes this as he writes, “we obey His commands and do what pleases Him”. The result is also the same as it is with our earthly fathers as we “receive from Him anything we ask”. My dad would have given me anything I wanted on two conditions: if he could and if it was good for me. Our heavenly father does not deal with the first limitation but does give in accordance with what is best for us.

John identifies a central command in today’s passage: “This is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another”. The first part is to believe in Jesus Christ. To do so we first confess Jesus as the Lord of our life and we accept Him as our Savior. In belief we receive the Holy Spirit, which dwells in us and leads and guides us to be ever more like Jesus. The second part of the command flows out of this first part. As we grow to be more and more like Jesus, we naturally do more and more of what He did. Jesus’ key action was to love others. This too is our command: love one another.

Both parts of this command are challenging at times. Our inner self seeks to be in control as the desires of the flesh rise up from time to time. At other times we find it hard to love one another as Satan works to separate us from His love by deceiving us and by telling us lies. Yet even the powerful allies of self and Satan cannot ever fully overcome the love of Jesus Christ that is in us. This love is always in us. John writes, “this is how we know… by the Spirit He gave us”. The Holy Spirit is also always at work, countering the desires of self and the work of Satan, always reminding us that we belong to Jesus and that we are a dearly beloved child of God. Thanks be to God for the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. May the Spirit ever lead and guide us. Amen.


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A Better Way

Reading: Genesis 29: 15-28

Verse 25: What is this you have done to me? … Why have you deceived me?

Today’s reading is an interesting turn of events.  Poor Jacob is tricked by his uncle and ends up with the older, less beautiful daughter.  But before we feel too bad for Jacob, let’s remember why he is here.  Jacob has fled from his home to escape the wrath of his father Isaac and his brother Esau.  He tricked the very elderly Isaac into giving him, the younger son, Esau’s birthright.  Maybe, just maybe, Jacob deserves what Labsn has done – a little taste of his own medicine, so to speak.

But before we jump on that bandwagon, we’d better take a little stock of our own lives.  Yes, we have probably been in a place like Jacob finds himself in.  We have been let down by someone we trusted.  We have had agreements and arrangements broken.  Maybe we were a faithful employee for years and years, only to see the new and younger person receive the leadership role.  Maybe we have seen a long-term friendship evaporate when someone new moved to town.  We have all been where Jacob finds himself.  We know the anger, the hurt, the frustration.

When we stop and reflect, though, we’ve all played Laban’s role as well.  Maybe we haven’t slipped the older daughter into a drunk man’s bed after he had worked for seven years for the other daughter, but we have made decisions or manipulated or crossed the line a time or two.  Maybe it was as simple as choosing how to reword something or to embellish it or to leave a detail out – to best insure our desired outcome.  In any event, we have been there and done it.  We too have made others shout, “What is this you have done to me? … Why have you deceived me”?

When we take stock, when we reflect on those moments, we realize there is a better way for us and for others.  It is the way of love, the way of the servant, the way of Jesus.  Lord, help me to be righteous, bringing honor and glory to you in all I do and say and think this day and every day.