pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Uriah’s Path

Reading: 2 Samuel 11: 6-15

Verse 11: “As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing”!

In today’s passage there is quite a contrast in characters. David chose to stay home from war, to sleep with another man’s wife, to get her pregnant, and to try and cover it all up. Uriah has dutifully gone off to war, chooses not to lie with his wife, and honors the men out in battle. He walks a different path. What a contrast to David’s path.

David knows Uriah. He is one of David’s thirty mighty men – elite warriors who have spent much time with David. David sleeps with his friend’s wife. News of Bathsheba’s pregnancy hatches a new plan. Bring Uriah home under the guise of getting a report about the war and then send him home for the night. Surely he will lie with Bathsheba and all will think he’s the father. But Uriah sleeps outside the entrance to the palace. David asks why he didn’t go home. Hear the integrity in Uriah’s response: “As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing”! How could I? This response must have stung David a bit. No worries – plan B. That night David gets Uriah drunk and tries to send him home again. Again Uriah sleeps outside the palace. He does the right thing again. Plan C begins to unfold. It works as Uriah is killed in battle. After mourning, Bathsheba will become a wife to David and the child seems legitimate.

David implicated and affected many people in his sin. Some were impacted in small ways, but impacted nonetheless. Others were obviously affected more – Uriah, Bathsheba, Joab. When we sin, we too affect others. In our minds we also try to rationalize it or to minimize the ways it affects others. But sin never affects only us. At the very minimum it impacts us and our relationship with God. Indirectly there is always a list of others negatively affected. And then there are those we hurt directly.

Just as sin has ripple effects, so too does doing good. Let us not lose sight of Uriah. In our passage today, we can also learn from Uriah. Doing the right thing is always an option. When presented with the choice today, may we choose Uriah’s path – the path of righteousness. May it be so today.

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Way, Truth, Life

Reading: Matthew 22: 15-22

Verse 16: You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.

As the religious leaders begin their attempt to trap Jesus, they begin with words probably intended to lure Him into their question.  While this may be their intent, the words they speak are full of truth.  They begin by recognizing Jesus as a man of integrity.  They have learned the hard way that Jesus always does what is right, even if it is unpopular, even if it is hard, even if it angers people.  The healings on the Sabbath and the challenging words that caused some followers to walk away are the best examples that testify to the integrity of Jesus.

Then they say to Jesus, “You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth”.  Ever since He was a young adolescent in the temple courts, where Jesus amazed those around Him, Jesus has always spoken for God and has always had solid truths at the core of His teachings on the scriptures and in all of His parables.  Jesus’ connection to God is undeniable.  He always speaks truth, even when it is a hard truth.  They end their small talk by saying that Jesus is not swayed by men because He pays no attention to who they are.

The religious leaders then try and trap Jesus using a question that pertains to the secular world: paying taxes.  His response reinforces all three things that they have said about Him.  In saying to pay to Caesar what is his, Jesus is a man of integrity, saying to follow the ruler’s laws.  In saying to give to God what is His, He is saying to follow the Law of Moses.  In His answer Jesus shows no partiality.  At His answer there is nothing more to be said.  They simply walk away amazed.

Is this how we as Christians also see and experience Jesus?  Do we honor His teachings as filled with God’s ways?  Do we believe in the truth that Jesus reveals?  After each encounter, do we walk away amazing, knowing that He is the only source of true life?  Yes, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  This is Jesus’ offer to one and all.  The invitation goes out to all.  Praise be to God.


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A World of Yes

Reading: Matthew 5: 27-37

As Jesus continues in Matthew 5, He shifts from murder and anger to the topics of adultery, divorce, and making oaths.  In much the same way as He did with murder, Jesus looks at these three as individual acts, but now adds their impact on society.  In doing so, Jesus seeks to contrast the envisioned culture of God against the current culture of man.  Jesus is laying out a vision for a new world order, one based on an economy of equality and honesty and compassion.

In each of these short teachings on adultery, divorce, and oaths, Jesus is recasting how we should look at these.  Just as with ‘do not murder’ resting upon our anger as it’s root, in these cases Jesus also delves deeper and looks at the impact of these three on the larger culture and society.  In cases of adultery, divorce, and breaking oaths, at the core is our commitment to one another.  In the culture of the day, in Jewish Law, the cases dealing with adultery and divorce  really only expressed concern for the man.  Jesus says, OK then, let the man be responsible.  Jesus says if you look lustfully at a woman, you have committed adultery.  This follows with admonition to then poke your eye out so that you do not continue to sin.  Jesus goes on to say that divorce cannot come on the whim of the man, but can come only in cases of marital unfaithfulness.  In both cases, Jesus is protecting and elevating the status of women and establishing a much higher standard of accountability for all people.

Jesus continues this theme as He turns to making oaths.  He is straightforward – do not swear by anything.  Simply let you ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.  Simple as that.  No more, no less.  This concept can, of course, be applied back to the first two topics: adultery and divorce.  When we say ‘yes’ to Jesus, we are saying ‘no’ to the world.  Our ‘yes’ to Jesus means saying ‘no’ to the desires of the flesh and to our own selfish desires.  It means honoring and respecting all people as equals, as children of God worthy of our love.  This of course extends to marriage – in the “I do” we are saying ‘yes’ to being faithful and obedient and loving to our spouses.

Jesus is calling for a world based on relationships that honor and uphold one another, that place love and concern and care for one another above our own well-being.  He is calling us to live as He lived, bringing honor and glory to God in all we do, say, and to think.  May it be so.


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Integrity

The story of King David and Uriah the Hittite is quite a contrast in terms of their integrity.  David’s infidelity has led to a pregnancy so he brings home the husband to sleep with the wife to cover it up.  After talking with him about the battle, David sends Uriah to clean up and to go home for a good night’s rest.

But Uriah does not go home.  Instead he sleeps on the front steps of the palace on his mat.  David questions him and Uriah says how could he go home to sleep with his wife when his fellow soldiers are on the battle field?  So David decides to get Uriah drunk and then to send him home to sleep with Bathsheba.  But out of loyalty to and respect for his fellow soldiers, Uriah again sleeps on the palace steps.  After weeks away at war, after sleeping on the hard ground, Uriah does not go home to his wife.  Talk about integrity and commitment!  So David sends him back to battle with instructions to the general to allow or arrange for Uriah to die in battle.

David knew at the start that sleeping with Bathsheba was wrong.  But he did it anyway.  One lie grew into another which eventually grew into a murder plot and a murder.  Even though David saw Uriah’s integrity it did not kick start his own.  He allows the lies to grow and his integrity to continue to erode.  Once a lie gains traction, it is hard to stop.

All of this happened in spite of David’s knowledge that God already knew.  In this we are the same.  As soon as we sin, God already knows.  At that point we have a choice.  Do we stop, confess and repent, and seek forgiveness?  Or do we look the other way and continue in our sin?  We know the right choice.  God’s forgiveness is a gift.  All we need to do is claim it.  May we show Uriah’s integrity when we can and admit our sins when we cannot.  God loves us equally either way.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 11: 6-15


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Conflict

No one likes conflict.  Often we avoid it.  Maybe we go the other way or we accept another’s idea.  Maybe we simply choose to not be involved or we remain silent.  Yet God calls us to stand against injustice, oppression, and all things evil.  He calls us to always do what is right.  In making these choices we can find ourselves in conflict.

John the Baptist found great conflict at the end of his life.  He spoke out against Herod marrying his own brother’s wife.  This angered her greatly.  It led to John’s arrest and eventually to his beheading.  John’s integrity would not allow him to remain silent.  John’s cost was much higher than any cost I may have to pay for following Jesus, but at times there are still costs.

Living as a follower of Jesus will at times put me in a place where I have to choose between silence and integrity.  This can be a hard choice.  When I am led by the Holy Spirit to speak and I choose to remain silent, I am less than I could be.  I am less than I am called to be.  In silence I sacrifice part of myself and my faith to avoid conflict.

But when I allow the Spirit to lead and I speak out against injustice or oppression or anything wrong or evil, then I am showing God’s ways and bringing His name honor.  When I speak hard words of truth to a friend, I am leading them back to living God’s alternative way.  In turn, I trust they will do the same when I have gone astray or made a poor choice.  Conflict is never easy, But God is always present, there to strengthen, to encourage, to lead, to comfort, and to love.

Scripture reference: Mark 6: 14-29


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Following Paul’s Example

Paul sets a great example of how we are to evangelize or share the gospel.  He has been rejected and suffered once in Thessalonica yet he returns to this place again.  He enters filled with courage to do the work which God has called him to.  No fear rests in Paul because he knows God is in his corner.  How many times do we allow that first rejection to be our last attempt to share our faith with someone?

Paul comes with pure motives.  He is not seeking to make a name for himself or to become rich.  Paul is there to share the gospel and to bring glory to God alone.  His natural bent as an encourager and nurturer also draws him back.  So often Paul sought to help others along their journey of faith.  How many people do owe know who we could treat as Paul treats the Thessalonians?

Lastly, Paul comes to build relationships.  He seeks to build upon the relationship he established during his first visit.  As the Thessalonians are build up and strengthened by Paul’s time with them, so too is Paul built up and encouraged.  How many people do we have basic relationships with that could be brought to the next level as we share our faith story with them?

May we learn to follow Paul’s example of evangelism – courageously answering our call, responding only in ways that glorify God, and seeking to build lasting relationships that allows for both persons to grow.

Scripture reference: 1 Thessalonians 2: 1-8


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Held to a Higher Standard

Last night at the young men’s Youth Small Group we prepared to study the book “Not a Fan” by discussing the difference between being a fan and being a follower. We talked about what a sports team fan may look like – wears a team jersey, catches the game on TV, reads about his team in the Sunday paper, … and about what the Christian fan might look like – wears a cross, sits in church on Sunday morning, respects/loves others, reads a Bible and/or devotional…

Then we moved into talking about what a follower would look like. How it would be different. If I were a follower of the Vikings instead of just a fan – I would know lots of statistics and facts about the players, I would be reading about who the next coach could/should be, I would be reading lots of blogs about who they should be looking at for the draft, … I would be invested in my team. What would it look like if you were a follower of Team Jesus?

As a follower it does involve things like being in church, reading and stuyding your faith, and treating others well. But isn’t it more than that? Lots of ‘fans’ do these things too. As we talked about the idea of being a follower, the idea that we must move into a relationship with Jesus became a necessity. Sam stated that you just don’t believe in Jesus but come to live for Jesus. Jesus becomes a part of who you are and becomes what makes the decisions you face in life. People come to see Jesus in you and come to see you as a new creation. They see what it means to be a Christian.

I asked the young men if their classmates look at them differently because they are Chritians. Dean told the story of a policeman that saw a lady angry in traffic – she had been cut off and was screaming and shaking her fist at the offending driver. After the officer checked her license and registration he returned them to her. She asked why she had been pulled over. He replied that when he saw her being so upset he also noticed the Jesus fish on her bumper. He had assumed the car was stolen and thought he’d better check it out.

The young men stated that others hold Christians to a higher standard. My reply was, “Shouldn’t they?”