pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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The Father’s Love

Reading: Luke 15: 1-3 and 11b-32

Verse 20: “His father saw him and was filled with compassion for him”.

Today we turn to a familiar parable. It is the story of a father and two sons. It is the story of God and us.

One son sees his father as the means to really live life as he wants to live it. He is selfish and immature. He collects what his father owes him and heads off. This son reminds me of the times I have acted selfishly and the times I have prayed prayers that speak of my own will and desires. It may have been about a new car I did not really need or about a situation that I created and needed to take steps to remedy. These actions and prayers were selfish and immature. When this son “came to his senses”, he headed back towards the father. With humility and maturity he went to his father and “his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him”.

The other son did not leave the property. But at some point he left the father-son relationship too. He saw his father as the boss that he worked obediently for. In essence he also saw his father as the means to finally being able to live as he pleased. He was just biding his time in a way that appears more socially acceptable. This is reflected in the anger over the celebration for his brother. The hard heart is revealed as he says “this son of yours”. To him too the father goes. “His father saw him and was filled with compassion for him”.

The father does not wait until his sons are perfect sons before he offers his love and compassion. The father does not require a fully repentant heart before he goes to his sons. The love of the father is unconditional and unlimited. It is a pure love. It is a love not based on efforts or merit or privilege. It is a love fully and freely given.

When we place ourselves in the story, we easily find our place. At times we are the son who is selfish and wants our way. At times we are the son who dutifully does what is expected, loathing it the whole time. God does not look at us as we are – sinful, unworthy, broken. God looks at us as the child of God that we are. God doesn’t wait for us. Like the father and his sons, God sees us and comes to us and is filled with love and compassion for us. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for always loving me – always. I am far from perfect. I seldom come close to being all you created me to be. You love me anyway. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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Stumble Behaviors

Reading: 1st Corinthians 8: 1-13

Verse One: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”.

Paul is dealing with a controversy in the church in Corinth. Because of their life experiences, one group in the church feels that eating meat sacrificed to idols is sinful. To them it has been tainted, so it should not be eaten. But to others in the church, they do not think there are other gods than God himself. Therefore, they see meat sacrificed to gods that do not exist as being okay to eat. These two groups are at odds.

Paul opens our passage today with these words: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”. He is referring to those who know it is okay to eat the meat as being ‘puffed up’ or arrogant in their stance. Instead of looking down on those struggling with this issue, those Paul calls ‘weak’ or who are less mature believers, Paul encourages them to choose love instead. Paul goes on to acknowledge that idols are “nothing at all” yet reminds the puffed up believers that some are still so accustomed to idols that eating this meat defiles them. Paul then asks the mature believers to abstain from eating such meat because it has become a stumbling block to the less mature Christians. Paul even goes so far as to call it a sin when they intentionally do something that is not a sin if that causes another believer to stumble.

We do not eat food sacrificed to idols today, but we do practice behaviors that cause others to stumble. Imagine the impact on one considering a walk with Christ if they see you regularly joining the office gossip circle or if they hear you harshly judging a fellow worker. Imagine the effect of a Christian using unethical business practices or acting in immoral ways concerning their marriage. Imagine the consequences of making your children go to youth group or Sunday school when you use the same hour to grab a coffee or to do the grocery shopping. As the world witnesses the words and actions of Christians, they can draw others to Christ or they can lead them away from Christ. Through and through we must reflect the love of Jesus Christ first and foremost. We must be diligent in our walk with Jesus, guarding our words and our actions so that we always build one another up. May it be so today and every day.


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On Our Side

Job’s journey of faith parallels ours in some ways.  In his interactions with his friends and even with God, he is stubborn, defiant, and even borders on obnoxious early on in the book.  Although overall Job is steadfast in his faith, maybe at this point it is a little immature.  At times our faith is too.  At times we are questioning or angry or defiant about something that is occurring in our life; we too question and ask why.  We openly ask where God is even though a part of us senses He is always there.

At the end of the book we see a different faith in Job.  He is humble, truthful, grateful.  Although he would never want to experience a trial like that again, he knows he is a better follower because of his experience.  He sees the foolishness of questioning God and doubting His constant presence.  Job has felt an intimacy with God that both yields and comes with a mature faith.  As life weathers and shapes us, we too become more mature in our faith and in our relationship with God.  Like Job, our experiences, both good and bad, shape who we are as a follower of God.

From Job we learn a valuable lesson: God is on our side.  At times, and particularly in hard times, we may want to question, to doubt, or may even want to curse.  In these times we must trust that God is good and above all else, He loves us.  In these times may we trust in and live into the words of Christ: not my will, but Your will.  God of love, be with us this day.

Scripture reference: Job 42: 1-6


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The Faith of a Child

Jesus calls us to accept the kingdom of God like a child.  He warns that if we do not, we will not enter it.  As He has children gathered around Him, Jesus says the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Is Jesus calling us to a basic, immature faith?  I do not think so.  For each of us, our faith starts out smaller than it will be and our faith should grow and develop naturally, as a child does.

Much like a child as he or she grows, our faith also becomes more complex as we come to understand God and our relationship with Him better.   We learn to love more easily.  We learn to forgive quicker.  And we come to understand our ‘responsibilities’ as Christ-followers in deeper and more impactful ways.  The call to serve others as Christ did becomes louder as we better learn to put self aside more and more.  The Spirit’s voice becomes clearer as we are refined and come to see ways we can follow closer and be less prone to temptation and sin.

Our faith must also hold onto some characteristics that were strongest in childhood.  As a child we were often fearless and thought we could do anything.  In faith we are called to step out and to do things we never thought we could.  With this kind of faith we step out where God is leading and trust that He can do all things.  Children also do not understand limits.  If one cookie is good, ten are better.  Such should be our understanding of God’s limitless love.  No matter how much we receive from God, there is always more.  And no matter how much we pour out, there is always more to give away.  May we love without hesitation, knowing that God can do anything.

Scripture reference: Mark 10: 13-16