pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Generously and Joyfully

Reading: Deuteronomy 26: 1-11

Verse 10: “I will bring the first fruits of the soil that you, O Lord, have given me”.

Being thankful or grateful is such an important part of our faith. It was so important to God that this practice is one of the key tenets of the chosen people’s faith. Every year it was celebrated. Today we read, “I will bring the first fruits of the soil that you, O Lord, have given me”. By bringing the first fruits we act in faith and trust. Abel brought the first lambs of his flock trusting that God would give him more. In faith Abraham offered his only son Isaac on the altar trusting that God would provide.

In our passage today, the first fruits are being offered as a “thank” offering. The first grapes or wheat or olive oil or lamb or goat or… was brought and sacrificed to God along with prayers of thanksgiving for the blessings in their lives. It was a time of joy. Our passage closes with, “rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given you”. These offerings also acknowledged that it is God alone who provides. This is still an important perspective for us to keep.

These two practices remain essential to healthy faith. Our first fruit is often referred to as a tithe in the church. We usually think of it as money but it can also be our time or our talents too. Either way, God still calls for it to be the first fruits. In practice that means we write the check or give the gift at the start of the month. This demonstrates trust and faith in God. It requires much less to wait until the end of the month to give what is left. No one wants leftovers. To give thankfully and joyfully is also an essential. To give willingly with a heart that rejoices in all that God has done is pleasing to God. Remember cleaning your room grudgingly because you had to? Don’t give that way.

Lest we think it too easy, we must remember that God calls us to this thankful giving so that we learn to always live with a generous and giving heart. In the day to day of life we are also called to give of ourselves when opportunity arises. It may be time for a lonely friend, it may be a meal for a hungry person, it may be watching a young mom’s kids so she can go to the grocery store. In all we do may we be thankful to God and may we share richly with others.

Prayer: Lord, may I hold loosely to all you bless me with so that it may freely go to those in need. Amen.


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Fear the Lord

Reading: Psalm 111:10

Verse 10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.

To a degree we are all guided by fear. Fear helps us make many of our decisions. Sometimes fear is healthy. If I see a bear off in the distance when I am hiking, I will choose another path. If I fear high places, maybe I keep myself a little safer. If I fear failing my classes, I will make the choice to do my work and to study. In these cases, fear helps us avoid bad or harmful consequences. Fear can also do the opposite. Memories of my parents saying, “If your friend jumped off a bridge…”. Peer pressure is often driven by fears of rejection or being left out.

Verse ten reads, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. On the surface level, it seems odd to tie fearing God to gaining wisdom. The fear of God is not like a fear of spiders, where we avoid them at all costs. A fear of God is a healthy thing. Often in life we choose to face our fears because of our faith in God. For example, I can choose to do the right thing and possibly lose a friend or a client because I fear denying my faith when I cheat or lie or when I avoid speaking a difficult truth. I may choose to risk loving the other even though I fear being hurt or getting into a relationship that requires much energy and time. I do so because I fear what life would be like without love. Or I fear what will happen to that marginalized person if I remain silent more than I fear the consequences of speaking out against injustice or abuse. In each case, my fear of denying the nudges and whispers of God’s Spirit outweigh or override my personal fears.

The fear of God can help us correctly prioritize our lives. In our first fear is denying God, then our life will look robustly faithful. Our words and actions will be on the side of love and mercy and compassion and justice and forgiveness and the like. Understanding that God and the witness to our faith is our purpose in life is the beginning of wisdom. This day may we decide for God and His love. Amen.


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The Vine…

Reading: John 15: 1-8

Verse Four: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself”.

Today’s vine, branches, and gardener example is a great illustration of our relationships of faith. The illustration could have used a fruit tree or a blueberry bush or any number of other plants and still been a good illustration. But a grape vine is best, so that’s what God chose!

Jesus is the vine. The vine begins in the ground, with lots of roots soaking up water and nutrients needed for the branches to be healthy and to bear much fruit. The vine is the thickest and strongest part of the plant. Jesus’ words and the rest of the Bible are the life blood of our faith and our growth. They provide what we need to grow and be healthy in our faith.

You and I are the branches. We are connected to the vine and get all we need through the root – Jesus. Whereas the vine is stable and rooted, we the branches can grow this way and that. We often intertwine with other branches. In our faith journey we live and grow in community. Like a branch, as we grow and mature, we begin to produce fruit. Fruit is acts like loving our neighbor, helping those in need, offering forgiveness and mercy…

God is the gardener. He tends the soil and cares for the plant. Sometimes the gardener must add support to a new branch so that it can grow well. In our faith journey, at times we come alongside each other offering support and encouragement. At times God also prunes the branches, removing things that inhibit the production of fruit. As a branch, at times I can get going a lot of different directions. In those times, I need God to prune away some things so that more of my energy goes into producing fruit.

In order for this to “work”, for us to continue to grow in our faith and to produce fruit for the glory of God, we must stay connected to Jesus. In verse four we read, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself”. In this passage we see what happens when we disconnect from Jesus: we wither and are thrown into the fire. This cannot be! My fellow branches, stay connected to life, to Jesus. In doing so, may you bear much fruit!


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Lead Well

“One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is the light of the morning.”  How true this is!  Over the years, rulers such as these have risen up.  People like Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King, Jr., come to my mind.  Even though they led through some dark and stormy times, they led well because at their core they were men of God.  In their hearts, a healthy fear of God guided their words, actions, and decisions.  As children of God, His light shone out into that darkness again and again casting rays of love, hope, healing, reconciliation, and forgiveness.  They led through their faith.

We too are each called to be leaders.  We may be leaders of businesses, churches, or schools. We may be leaders of social groups, peers, clubs, or teams.  We may be leaders of our families or friends.  Like these great men, we too are called to lead through our faith.  However large or small our sphere of influence, we are called to fill it with God’s light.  Our dark times or tough decisions might not be on the scale of the great men, but they are of equal importance to the people we lead.

In order to lead well, we must look at what all godly leaders do to lead well.  Whether in good or bad, each day we must begin with prayer and time in God’s Word.  The Word is the lamp unto our feet and the light unto our path.  Prayer is where we connect to God and seek His will and way for our decisions.  We must also be attuned to the presence of the Holy Spirit.  We are promised that the Spirit will give us all we need.  Lead well today.  Lead well from a place walking hand in hand with God.  Lead well.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 23: 1-7