pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Discipleship Cost

Reading: Luke 8: 51-62

Verse 57: “A man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go'”.

As Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem he knows all about the cost of discipleship. In the first half of the passage, he meets some folks who aren’t quite ready for discipleship. They reject him – won’t even welcome him into their midst. Jesus rebukes James and John’s desire to punish them severely for not welcoming Jesus. They just are not ready yet. Jesus suggests they simply move on to the next place – perhaps some there will be more receptive.

Along the way they encounter three who sense a call to maybe follow Jesus. The common cultural commitment to follow a rabbi was a major 24/7 commitment. But most rabbis weren’t like Jesus and following them was different. To the first, the one who says “I will follow you wherever you go”, Jesus says following him won’t be comfortable. Jesus does not have a home base. He relies on those he meets along the way. Sometimes you just have to keep on going, hoping the next place is more welcoming. This isn’t what the man had in mind and he passes on following this rabbi.

Jesus next meets two more with some interest in following. Yet both have obstacles to following. Both have something else more important to do. Jesus’ basic response to both is the same. If you want to follow, 24/7 devotion is the expectation. One must be willing to prioritize Jesus above family and everything else if one is to truly follow. For these and for many, the cost is too high.

We began today with a story about some folks not even being willing to welcome Jesus and we follow up with three examples of not being able to follow once a desire to do so is felt. There is a high cost to choosing to say yes to the Lord and Savior of the world. May we each choose to count the cost and to make the costly choice of discipleship this day and every day.

Prayer: Lord, it is a hard and narrow road. The cost is sometimes physical, sometimes emotional, sometimes financial, sometimes social, and sometimes all of these. Grant me the strength and the will to choose to follow you only all of my days. Amen.

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One More Year

Reading: Luke 13: 6-9

Verse 8: “Sir, leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it”.

God made the tree in our passage today. In John 1:3 we read, “Through Him all things were made”. This tree, this tree that produces no fruit, was made by the loving hands of God. Just as it was with all of the rest of creation, this tree has the fingerprints of God all over it. In our minds and hearts we believe that we all have a purpose and a place in God’s plans. So it is for this tree as well. The man who planted the tree came to look for fruit. At this time it would have been a primary purpose for trees. The other primary purpose would be to become wood.

Our tree is young – the man has only been coming for three years to check for fruit. It is just beginning to mature to the point that it can bear fruit. At just 6 to 8 years old, though, it probably is not big enough to produce much wood for a project of any size. So, finding no fruit on the tree once again, the planter says, “For three years now… Cut it down”! The man is tired of waiting and getting no results. Let’s clear that little patch of ground and plant another tree in its place. Maybe this next one will be able to produce the fruit that is so desired.

But the gardener, the one who tends the tree, asks for patience. He says, “Sir, leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it”. Just one more year. This is a big request. Imagine starting a new job and on day one your boss says, work one year and then we’ll start paying you. Imagine three years. For the owner, fruit probably equals money. Fruit has value. At a minimum, fruit will feed the family.

We too have similar expectations. Of young people, we often ask, “When will they grow up”? In our minds, they are past the point when they should be acting a certain way. Even of some adults we think a similar question: when will they ever quit doing ___? I suppose God looks down at me at times and sees the tree. I suppose God looks down and wonders, “When…”? Like the gardener, God is patient. God’s love and patience does not just ask for one more year either. God’s patience is extravagant with me. God patiently waits for me to produce fruit. He tends to me, fertilizes me… One more year. Yes, one day this will end too. One day we breathe our last. But until then, may we live to mature in our faith, producing fruit for the building of the kingdom. May it be so for you and for me.

Prayer: Lord of all creation, do a good work in me – today, tomorrow, and each day after that. Continue to make me a work in progress, a creation that seeks to grow and mature. May my life be one that produces fruit. Amen.


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There

Reading: John 2: 1-11

Verse 3: “They gave no more wine”.

Today’s interaction is sometimes played out in our own families. I have said to my sons or daughter some version of “your room is a disaster”. There is an implication in my statement. I have said things to my wife like,”Boy am I hungry” – again, there is an implication in my statement.

In today’s passage Mary says to Jesus, “They have no more wine”. It too was probably accompanied by a slightly long-lasting look. There is the same “do something” about this situation implied. Jesus, like most kids so, offers up a protest to the parent. But Mary knows that Jesus knows that she expects something to be done about the situation. Jesus obliges, turning the water to wine.

Sometimes God is expected to be like this. We throw a similar complaint God’s way and expect Him to remove the thorn or the stress in our life. And sometimes God does. But other times there is a purpose to our trial or testing – it is something to refine us or to reshape us or to help us grow in our faith.

And every once in a while we find ourselves so deep in grief or pain or distress when we cannot even mumble a prayer to God. We do not even know where to begin. Yet God is there. God responds when we do not or cannot ask. Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord will fight for you, you only need to be still”. Rest in God. Trust in God. God is there.

Prayer: God, be with those who are hurting, who are broken, who need your presence. Amen.


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At the Start

Reading: Psalm 5: 1-8

The psalmist writes, “in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation”.  What a beautiful thought this is!  The psalmist has found value in beginning the day with God.  We are promised that His mercies are new every morning as well.  Each day we can come to God, beginning each day with a clean slate, and can invite God to be a part of our day.

It is important to thank God for His blessings of the day before.  To consciously thank God for each blessing prepares us to expect them again in the day ahead.  It also places us in the proper, humbled place.  We must also spend time confessing our sins before God.  It is so important to re-establish a right relationship with God each morning.  This act also serves to remind us of our dependence on God and of our inability to succeed on our own.

Then we can come to God and lay out requests down before Him.  We can look ahead into our day and week and we can invite God into those events and situations that we need guidance and direction on and into those things that bring us fear and worry.  Again, we are calling on God to enter into our weakness and to be our strength.  We are calling on He who can do all we cannot.

In inviting God into our day and seeking His presence in the day, we begin our day well.  We lay the groundwork to experience God throughout the day.  In admitting our need each day for Him, we elevate God and place ourselves in our proper place of humble servant.  Lord, may all that we are and all that we will be this day depend on You.  May we live this day with You as Lord and Savior, guide and friend.


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Prayer Invite

Within each person is a spark of the divine.  This is what causes us to see God in our world and to have an innate pull within us to connect to God.  As John began to baptize in the wilderness, people started to wonder if he was indeed the Messiah that they were longing for.  John must have sensed this and Jesus’ imminent coming as he announced that he was not the Messiah but that the One was indeed coming.  John’s call to repent and to live a righteous life was to prepare the way for Jesus.

As we awaken and face each new day, are we like the people on the river bank?  Are we heading into our day expecting to see and experience God at work in our lives and world?  Do we face each day with the expectation that God can and will be present and active in our lives?

It is God’s desire to be present to and active in our lives each day.  So how do we invite God in and learn to live with eyes that are focused on seeing God?  It begins with us as it began with Jesus – in prayer.  After He was baptized, Jesus prayed to God and the Holy Spirit descended on Him.  Prayer is our initial point of connection to God as well.  Prayer draws us into relationship with God.

Sometimes we can lose our sense of expectation.  Life can get routine and we fail to see God in the ho-hum of the day to day.  But God is always there.  He desires to play the lead role in our life, but He does not force His way in.  Today and each day may we begin in prayer, inviting God to be present to us throughout our day.

Scripture reference: Luke 3: 15-17 and 21-22


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Who Today?

God’s voice has always been active in our world.  In the beginning He spoke and created all things.  God continued to speak to and through the prophets for thousands of years.  Next He spoke ad Jesus, the “exact representation of His being”.  God continued to speak through the words of the apostles and disciples.  God’s voice was preserved in the Bible and He continues to speak today through this living word.  God continues to lead and guide each of us today.

As Christ was the exact representation of God, we as Jesus’ followers are called upon to grow in our faith to become exact representations of Christ.  Our journey to becoming just like Christ is one we will never accomplish in our human lifetime but we are called to grow to be more and more and more like Christ.

As we read and study the Bible, the word that stands out more and more is ‘love’.  It is in what I consider the ‘big’ passages: for God so loved the world… love the Lord your God with all your… love one another as I first loved you….  Jesus set us the example by offering love to all He met.  Then He called us to follow.

For many non-believers today we can read or quote scripture to them all day long and it will not matter.  They are just words.  It will only be when our love becomes an action and we selflessly give of ourselves to minister to their needs that they will begin to catch a glimpse of Christ.  Through love hearts will be changed.  Lives will be made new.  So, who will you love today?

Scripture reference: Hebrews 1: 1-4


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Places, Spaces, and Faces

Sometimes it is hard to get out of our boxes.  In many ways we settle into routines and ways of doing things.  Too often we allow stereotypes to determine how we see situations and people we encounter.  Our past experiences can also cloud our expectations for the here and now and for the future.  As creatures of habit with good memories I think we often miss out on God’s presence and work in our world.

When Jesus visited his hometown to preach and offer signs of His glory, He encountered this.  As the people realized who He was – just a carpenter’s son who they saw grow up an ordinary boy and young man – their amazement turned to doubt.  The teachings and miraculous signs did not continue in this environment.  The people allowed their experience and expectations to get in the way of experiencing God.

I wonder how much I miss out on because I am so tightly packed into my little box.  How many opportunities do I miss to share God with others and to experience God through others each day?  How often do I allow my judgments and low expectations to become roadblocks to being present in meaningful ways?  Yet rarely is anything in my day ever more important than moments experiencing God’s presence.  But I do not always reflect this with my thoughts, actions, and words.

May I learn to better live a simple faith and to walk on a slower path.  May I learn to live fully in each moment and person God places before me.  May my faith, heart, and eyes be like that of a child – eager to find love and joy in all the places, spaces, and faces I encounter today.

Scripture reference: Mark 6: 1-13