pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Love Like Jesus

Reading: Luke 10: 25-28

Verse 25: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

An expert in the law comes to test Jesus and to justify himself. The lawyer wants to be right and to make Jesus look wrong. The man’s question is focused on something almost all people wrestle with: eternal life. In verse 25 he asks Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. Instead of giving an answer, Jesus draws the lawyer deeper into the heart of the issue. Jesus doesn’t want to just give an answer, he wants to be able to unpack the answer as well. Jesus asks the man what he thinks. The self-righteous, arrogant lawyer takes the bait and he has the right answer. In the culture of the day, a young Jewish child could easily come up with this answer.

The man’s answer is our answer as well. The first step towards inheriting eternal life is to love God completely. One must love God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. Once filled with the love of God, one is led to step two. One is naturally led to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus would go on to amend this too. In John 13:34 we are directed to love one another as Jesus first loved us. Jesus’ standard for love is one that is complete and unconditional. When one invests time studying Jesus in the Gospels, one finds the example of selfless and sacrificial love. Jesus loved and ministered to every single person who came to him, from the lawyer in today’s passage to the prostitute to the widow to the tax collector to the hungry crowd to the lame, deaf, mute, leper… Not once did Jesus place his wants or needs ahead of another’s needs.

The lawyer’s question is personal and selfish: what must I do? He knows the two commands but is focused on self. The two commands do not involve the word “I”. Neither did Jesus’ understanding of loving God and loving neighbor. At times I can find myself asking the same selfish question as the lawyer. In those moments my concern for the other is minimal at best. My culture and my nature tends towards the selfish. The call, though, is to love God and to love neighbor. Daily the self must die so that I can love God and others unconditionally. As Jesus said, “Do this and you will live”. May it be so.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, your model of love is the one I strive for. Help me, through the power of your Holy Spirit, to love God and to love neighbor fully and without hesitation. Kill the fleshy man within me. Build up my love for God and for others. Amen.


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Favor

Reading: Luke 1: 26-30

Verse 30: “Do not be afraid… you have found favor with the Lord”.

Out of the blue, an angel visits Mary.  Her first reaction is what I think mine would be: fear.  The angel greets her and then tells her that the Lord is with her.  Maybe her fears subsided a bit knowing that God was with her.  In that moment, though, Mary must have really been wondering what would be coming next.  I would be!

Our passage tells us that Mary was “troubled” – again, a reaction I think most of us would have if an an angel appeared to us.  At a minimum, if I am being honest, knowing that I was on the brink of something big, I would be really troubled.  While it is probably quite exciting when an angel comes for a visit (I assume it is), there is also the scary recognition that things are about to change pretty seriously.

The angel then says to Mary, “Do not be afraid… you have found favor with the Lord”.  The first part is good to hear, but the second part is great to hear.  Mary has found favor with God!  Hallelujah!  Praise be!  Amen!  Yes, it is indeed wonderful to know that she has found favor with God.  While in this setting it is particularly good news for Mary, our reality is that this is good news for us as well.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we have all found favor with God.

In the book The Shack, the lead character Mac and God have frequent conversations.    Most of the time when the conversation is about people in Mac’s life, they are people that he could do without.  Each and every time God says, “Oh yes, I am especially fond of that one”.  Every time.  Although it is just a fictional book, I believe this part to really be true.  God is especially fond of every human being because we are all children of God.  He loves us all.  And some – those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior – have found favor with God.  Talk about good news!  Hallelujah and amen!


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Every Day

Reading: Isaiah 58: 1-9a

Isaiah opens today’s passage speaking about a people who appear to be in search of God.  They appear to be seeking God and to be eager to draw near to God.  The people are fasting and ask God, ‘have you not seen it’?  Isaiah goes on to explain how the fast they are choosing is far from pleasing to God.  They may be skipping the food, but they are not drawing close to God.  Instead they exploit their workers and quarrel and fight amongst themselves.  Their fast is only lip service to God.

I believe this problem persists to this day.  Some go to church every Sunday morning but are not engaged in worship.  They consider their day or week ahead during the message, they nod off during prayer time.  Even though they were only physically present, they still ask God and others, ‘Didn’t you see me in church’?  Isaiah asked if a fast consisted of only bowing one’s head and wearing sackcloth.  We could ask, is Sunday only for warming a pew and standing and sitting when everyone else does?

Isaiah goes on to describe the fast that is pleasing to God.  It is one that loosens the chains of injustice and unties the cords of the yoke, one that sets the oppressed free, one that feeds the hungry and clothes the naked.  It is a fast that draws one close to God so that one is transformed to be more like God, to be filled with compassion and to be moved to act on behalf of the lost, the least, and the lonely.  It is a fast that takes place in the heart, not upon the lips.

This too must be how we practice our faith.  We cannot preach compassion on Sunday morning and then turn our backs on those in need.  We must be moved to engage those who are struggling and are in need.  We cannot worship God on Sunday morning and then exploit our workers on Monday.  We cannot lift our voices in praise on Sunday and then curse and gossip at the restaurant on Tuesday.  The faith we practice on Sunday and each day as we read our Bibles and say our prayers must be the same faith we live out every moment of every day.  It must be so.  May it be so today and every day.