pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Radical Love

Reading: Isaiah 50: 4-9a

Verse 7: “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced”.

The Servant faced scorn and suffering without retaliation or violence because God was with him. The Servant was able to go beyond the abuse as well. To the abuser the Servant willingly offered himself for more abuse. In doing so, the abuser will be led to question their own actions. It is love in the face of hate, giving in the face of taking. Jesus did the same over and over. For Jesus, it was summed up in His encouragements to love our enemies and to offer your other cheek to the one who has just struck you. Jesus also lived this out. At the end, from the cross, Jesus prayed for forgiveness for those who placed Him on the cross. Through God’s presence, Jesus was able to extend love instead of retaliating with hate. Like the Servant, Jesus lived out Isaiah 50:7 – “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced”.

This idea is so counter to what the world teaches and does. It us a radical love that makes the world take notice. In the world, it is not just get even but get ahead. It is done with emphasis to discourage another run at one’s money or status or position or popularity. It is power used to remind the other of who really has the power. It perpetuates the imbalance. But Jesus’ radical love offers even more than the one wants to take. When someone demands the shirt off of your back, Jesus asks us to give them our coat as well. It is a willingness to give more than is demanded.

Isaiah and the example Jesus set are calling us to look for opportunities to show love in unexpected ways. Returning from school one year I was in a drive through at a fast food restaurant. The line was long and moving really, really slow. In the other lane I noticed a woman who was clearly becoming more and more aggravated with the situation. She was pounding the dashboard and the steering wheel. She was yelling at the air in her car. I could feel her exasperation. When I got to the window I paid for her order. It was just a random act of kindness that I hope improved her day just a bit. It was small. But it is what we are called to do – to look for and to respond to others in and with love. May we all be blessed with opportunities to offer Jesus’ radical love today.

Prayer: Lord, grant me eyes to see and a heart to feel. Allow me the words to speak and the hands to serve today. If I find myself suffering, may I trust fully in your presence with me. Amen.


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Holding On

Reading: Genesis 32: 22-31

Verse 28: You have struggled with God and men and have overcome.

In a time of need, God once again comes to Jacob.  Even when Jacob cannot quite put into words the things he is feeling and needing, God enters the situation because that is what Jacob needs God to do.  God and Jacob wrestle and Jacob shows his inner grit and determination.  This time of physical testing leaves him changed.  He will always walk with a limp and he will have a new name.

As they wrestled, Jacob’s hip was touched and was wrenched.  Even this painful injury that would result in Jacob limping for the rest of his life could not force him to let go or to give up.  He held on.  He continued to wrestle with God.  Jacob passed this test.  The limp he carried forth will always remind him of when “You have struggled with God and men and have overcome”.

Jacob also walks away with a new name.  God has deemed him worthy to carry on the covenant.  This is the result of Jacob demanding a blessing from God.  He held on and would not let go of God until he received it.  Jacob demonstrates boldness and confidence by holding on until his answer is given.  He asks God for something big and holds on, expecting God to answer his request.

In our relationship with God, do we wrestle with God and stick with it so that we also overcome?  In our prayers, do we demonstrate Jacob’s boldness and determination?  When we need God – whether for an answer to prayer or for some other involvement in our lives – we should expect God to come through.  We should be open and honest with God.  At times that means we will be demanding.  Like Jacob, our prayers should be big enough that they demand an answer.  We should pray with the expectation of our answer and we should wrestle with God until the answer comes.  God desires good for us.  Do we wrestle with God like we trust this promise?  May we, like Jacob, cling to God, holding on to Him for all we need.


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Follow

Reading: John 10: 22-30

The Jews in the temple ask Jesus a question I think we ask often.  We may not always ask it verbally but I think we certainly do with our decisions and actions.  They ask Jesus if he is the Messiah.  Is he the one coming to redeem Israel, to restore them to their rightful place amongst the great nations?  They are looking for Jesus to do something grand.

His response perplexes: “You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep”.  Believe that you are the Messiah?  I’m sure they are thinking something along these lines: ‘Rid us of these Romans and make Israel great and then we will believe and then we will follow.  For now though, we’ll just do our own thing.  Yes it is nice that that guy can now walk and that that guy can see and that you fed all those people.  Really neat stuff (for them), but when will you really start leading, doing really important stuff (for us)?’

We are sometimes a lot like them.  Yes Jesus, I love you and believe in you and want to dedicate my life to you, but first I need to…  Yes Jesus, I will serve and follow you, but first would you…  We like Jesus, but too often on our terms and conditions.  Like the Jews in the temple that day, we expect or maybe even demand something grand from Jesus.  Then we will be all in.  Then…

And Jesus says to us: my sheep follow me.  It is not about what I can do for you.  It’s about what I do to you, about what I do in you.  The miracles, they just show that I am who I say I am: the Son of God, the Word made flesh.  Follow me, be my sheep, do what I did: love, serve, sacrifice, forgive.  The you will be my sheep.  Then you will know a peace that passes understanding.  Then you will begin to live eternal life.  Follow me.