pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Seeds and Yeast

Reading: Matthew 13: 31-33

Verse 33: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast… worked all through the dough”.

As we consider these two teachings about what the kingdom of God is like we get the sense that it is growing and active and alive. These words should describe our journey of faith as well.

In the mustard seed teaching Jesus compares our faith beginnings to a small seed being placed into the ground. The reality for most of us is that our faith is the result of many seeds being planted in us – some by parents and grandparents, some by Sunday teachers and pastors, some by friends… Once the seed of faith begins to grow in us Jesus begins to take root in our heart. As our faith grows and becomes active and alive, it branches out and provided places for others to come and find rest, sustenance, support…

In the second teaching, Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast… worked all through the dough”. Like the slow and steady growth of the seed, the yeast works inside the dough in a similar manner. As the yeast begins to work it isn’t really noticable. This is like the initial stages of our faith too. God is at work in us in ways that are not noticable to the outside world and sometimes not even to us. Yet God is at work. Over time we can see the dough rise as the yeast works throughout the dough. Like most of our faith journeys the process is slow and steady. And like the yeast in the dough our faith is intended to affect all parts of our lives. As we mature and our faith spreads it should come to influence all areas of our lives – family, friends, work, social activities, personal disciplines… Just as the seed grows into a tree and as the yeast spreads throughout, may our faith continue to be alive and active, always growing, ever maturing. May each day bring us one step closer to the example of our faith, Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord God, looking back I can see those seed planters. I am thankful for my parents, for those who taught and mentored me in youth group and on Sunday mornings, and for my many brothers and sisters in Christ who have journeyed with me. Thank you for the rich and powerful community of faith. Amen.


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The Day of Salvation

Reading: 2nd Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Verse 20: “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God”.

Our passage today opens with Paul’s appeal for us to be reconciled to God. He explains how Jesus took on our sin so that we might become the “righteousness of God”. As he continues into chapter six Paul proclaims, “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation”. We continue to live in the time of God’s favor and Jesus Christ’s salvation is both in the here and now as well as eternity.

The second half of today’s reading is entitled “Paul’s Hardships” in the Bible I keep on my desk at home. He begins by sharing how as “servants of God” they worked to commend themselves to the world. Through the troubles and the beatings thru showed great endurance. Paul and his companions worked hard, even when hungry and sleepless. In all times they strove to remain pure, patient, kind, honest, and loving. They saw themselves with heavenly eyes while the world just saw them from an earthly point of view. Paul and friends lived as beloved children of God, reconciled to him. They saw the world through God’s eyes, not the other way around.

We too strive to live lives that are reconciled to God. In the times we struggle to do so it is because we’ve begun to see with worldly eyes. Our challenge as Christians living in the world is to stay oriented towards Jesus Christ. Satan is regularly on the move, always seeking to get us off track. So we must be diligent and focused too.

We must be attentive to both the Holy Spirit and to our own spiritual disciplines. These two things work hand in hand to fend off the enemy. As Satan is constant, so too must we be constant. This season of the Christian year focuses us in on the habits of discernment and introspection, of confession and repentance. May we make the intentional choice to live in God’s favor and to proclaim with our lives that the day of salvation is at hand.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for your willingness to reconcile with me over and over. Strengthen me each day, both as I look within and as I live out my faith. Build me up and pour me out; help me to be more like your son today. Amen.


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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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A Love to Share

Our minds are capable of learning many things.  In school and in church we are taught a lot.  While in school we aretaught what is factually correct, in church we learn about what is true: Jesus.

In repsonse to Pilate’s questions about what truth is, Jesus responds, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  In His answer Jesus implies that there is a relationship or connection between people who know the truth and Jesus himself.  In order to know the truth, we must listen to Jesus and come to know Him.

We listen and learn by being in contact with the teacher.  Through the written Word of the Bible, through the Word spoken in church, through time in prayer, and through fasting we seek to learn about and grow in Jesus.  Our learning and connection to Jesus is in direct proportion to the effort we choose to put in and to the amount of time we spend with Him.  For example, if all we are willing to give is one hour on Sunday morning then our connection and understanding is less than it could be.  On the other hand, if we also choose to spend time in the Word and prayer each day, what we know as truth will be greater.

As we come to know Jesus more and more, what the truth is becomes clearer and clearer.  As we grow in our love of God, it start to spill out into love of all of God’s children.  This love we share with Jesus becomes a love we share with all we meet.  As we grow into Jesus, our lives are transformed by His truth.  Jesus seeks to transform us so that we become His love poured out daily to all we meet.  This day may His love radiate from us and through us in all we do and may it flow out to all we meet.

Scripture reference: John 18: 33-38


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Stand Firm

When life is going well we feel that God is with us, watching over us, guiding us, blessing us.  We feel the God of love’s presence and offer up thanksgiving for His role in our life.  When life seems a little bit sideways or the struggle comes to our little corner of the world, then often we wonder where God is.  The answer, of course, is that He is just as close in the trial as in the smooth sailing.  But for some reason our natural inclination is to assume God has abandoned us when life gets challenging.

Paul encourages us to put on the full armor of God.  By doing so we will be able to stand firm in times of trial.  The fully prepared Christian has truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and God word.  To put these on means to use and train with them each day as a Roman soldier would with his shield, sword, and armor.  If one does not train and practice daily, one is not fully prepared when the challenge arises.  We need daily practice of the disciplines of faith so we are strong and ready when the battle comes our way.  If we are diligent each day, we will be ready all the time.

When the waters get a little rough it is not because God has left the building.  It is because Satan has entered and stirred up the waters a bit.  In this moment we can flex our spiritual muscles and fall back on our training.  We can draw strength from God’s promises of salvation and peace.  We can gird ourselves up with truth and righteousness.  We can live strongly in our faith.  The full armor of God will allow us to withstand the devil and put him to flight.  Stand firm in the full armor of God today!

Scripture reference: Ephesians 6: 10-20