pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Blameless, Upright

Reading: Job 1:1

Verse 1: “Job… was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil”.

Today we begin a short journey with Job. For the month of October we will read a selection from Job each week. It will be, of course, just a small sampling of who Job was and what his story teaches us. Even so, the passages will reveal much to us about ourselves and our faith journey.

Job was a man who lived in Ur, a city far outside of Israel. He worshipped God in a foreign land in a culture that often counter to God and God’s ways. We find ourselves in a similar position today. In our time culture and society in general is ambivalent to matters of faith, even clashing with our beliefs and practices from time to time. The values and priorities of modern culture in the western world do not align well with the values and priorities that God calls us to practice and live out.

Verse one tells us, “Job… was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil”. Job is an early example of faith. On our best days we might be blameless and upright for periods of time. While this is our goal, it is not very often our reality for long stretches of time. But because it is our goal, like Job, we too must deal regularly with the attacks of the enemy. Because we are seeking to live and walk out a life of faith, Satan is ever on the lookout for ways to lead us into sin.

Job also feared God and shunned evil. These qualities of Job are much more realistic for us. Job’s fear was not a fear of ghosts or spiders type of fear. It was more of a reverence or healthy respect of God. To have this, one must have an intimate relationship with and knowledge of God. For Job, it came from having a deep and personal connection to God. Because of this, Job shunned evil. When we love God deeply, we too will shun evil. When our love of God is strong, we desire to please God. This leads us to shun evil and therefore to avoid sin, the thing that separates us from God.

As we live out our faith, being blameless and upright are worthy goals. Fortunately, they are not one and done goals. If we stumble or even if we fail, God’s love and mercy allow us to reset our goals and to begin anew. May we strive to grow closer each day, fearing God and shunning evil in all its forms. Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit may it be so for me and for you.

God of Job, God of all people, God of me, pour out the power of your Holy Spirit on me today. Help me to be blameless and to live out an upright faith. Amen.

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Unwavering Love

Reading: Mark 7: 24-30

Verse 29: “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter”.

Jesus has left Galilee and enters into a non-Jewish region. It appears to be an intentional choice as our passage tells us that He “did not want anyone to know it”. His little get-away is soon discovered and a woman from the regions appears, seeking healing for her daughter.

People today often seek ways to make things better. Sometimes they go someplace else where the chances or circumstances at least appear better. People from all over the world, for example, come to America for a better life. Sometimes people go to a place where the reputation is excellent. For example, lots of people go to the nearby Mayo Clinic for treatment of difficult or complex medical issues.

Even though Jesus is in a “foreign land”, apparently His reputation for being a healer is known there too. A local woman comes to Jesus because her daughter is possessed by demons. She is seeking healing. Jesus gives her a version of “I’m on vacation”. It is also indicative of His focus on the lost sheep of Israel. The situation reminds me of parents with sick children going to the doctor without an appointment, insistent on their child being seen anyway. If the situation is bad enough, they will sit there and wait for an “opening”. In essence, they are saying they will sit there until the child is seen by the doctor.

Jesus tries to dismiss her. The woman ignores the “dog” slight and says, ‘But, yes, Jesus even we may have a little of you. Even us dogs might catch a crumb or two that happens to slip off the table. Yes, Jesus, maybe we can have a little healing too”. She demonstrates that, yes, she will sit there all day, just waiting for a crumb or two to fall. Jesus is impressed – maybe with her faith, maybe with her persistence – but definitely with her love for her daughter.

Lord, in this woman I see unwavering love. In Jesus’ response, I see love given to love. May I too have unwavering love as my guide, following Jesus and His Spirit as I seek to be light and love in the world. Amen.


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Bloom

Reading: Jeremiah 29: 1 and 4-7

The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and hauled off the leaders and gifted people to Babylon as slaves.  Many Israelites were the victims of this forced relocation.  They found themselves slaves in a strange new place, surrounded by a culture much different from their own.  Instead of instructing them to keep isolated, to long to return to Jerusalem, or to rebel, God instead instructs them to settle in, to build homes, to marry off their children.  The message is that this is not temporary.  To further indicate this God instructs them to begin praying for the Babylonians to prosper.

We too can find ourselves in a strange or foreign place.  Sometimes this is physical.  Our parent or spouse receives a new job or is transferred and we find ourselves in a new place amongst many new faces.  It can be when we head off to college or to our first ‘real job’ and we come to realize we are alone in a new world.  Sometimes our new surroundings are emotional.  We come home to find out a divorce looms and life is suddenly altered.  We receive the phone call that a loved one has passed and life is forever different.  Or one day, in the middle of a normal day, we realize that we are lost in life or are just drifting along and we long for an anchor, for a purpose.  And, of course, all of these physical and emotional changes affect our spiritual life too.

God instructed the Israelites to become part of their new surroundings.  God wanted them to grow, to multiply, to prosper in this new place.  When all else was stripped away, all the Israelites had to rely on was God.  God was the one constant for the people.  In the midst of our own times of exile, God calls out to us as well.  When all else seems new or foreign, God is still the same.  Like the Israelites, our instructions are the same: trust in God alone, cling to God alone, and bloom where God has planted us.  May we trust in God’s plans and may we obediently follow God’s will as we follow wherever God leads.


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Where You Go

The famine passes in Judah and Naomi decides to return to her homeland.  She urges Orpah and Ruth to stay in Moab, to remarry, to start life over again.  It is certainly within the realm of possibilities – both are young enough to do so.  To go against Naomi’s wished and to instead move to a foreign land would be a risky and challenging move.  Naomi knows this as she herself made the same type of move just ten years ago.

Often we too are faced with a similar choice – to stay in the comfortable, know place or to step out into uneasiness and the unknown.  It is easy to stay comfortable.  Orpah chooses to stay with her people.  But Ruth decides that she will go.  Her love for Naomi makes her willing to be that stranger in a foreign land.

Where is your ‘foreign land’?  Is it taking the time to sit and have lunch with the homeless person who asked you for $5 for lunch?  Is it going to that part of town to replace the kitchen faucet for a single mother with lots of young children?  Is it going to the jail to visit and share the love of Christ with an inmate?

Ruth said to Naomi: “Where you go, I will go.”  Christ calls us to go to many places where His light is dim and His love is unknown.  But He always goes with us.  May we, like Ruth, say to Christ and live out those same words: Lord, where you go, I will go.

Scripture reference: Ruth 1: 6-18


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Hold Onto God

A famine at home forced the family of four to move to a foreign land.  They left behind their kin, the culture they knew, their faith base, and all else that mattered to find food.  The family made the move to survive, to be in a better situation.

In smaller ways we do this all the time.  We make a little change here or there seeking to be happier, healthier, or somehow better off.  Sometimes we too make larger changes.  Maybe you have moved to a new city or state or even country to have a better ‘opportunity’.  If you have done this, you can relate to this family – strangers in a foreign land.

Just as they were getting settled, the father dies. The mother at least has her two sons.  They each eventually marry a foreign woman.  The sons are happy and the possibility of grandchildren may some day bless her life.  Slowly the foreign land becomes les foreign as they learn the ways and begin to put down roots.  Ten years later, no grandkids.  Both boys die.  She is left with just two daughters-in-law.  And more pain and loss.

Perhaps a change you have made did not work out either.  Maybe the job wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  Maybe something outside of your control changed your situation too.  Maybe like you, this woman found herself in a tight spot.  Virtually alone in a foreign land, she turned to her foundation, to God.  In Him she laid her trust.  In Him she laid her future.  Although tragic to this point, it is just the beginning of her story.  In the end it is a story of God’s blessings.  Hold onto God.  He wants to bless you too.

Scripture reference: Ruth 1: 1-5