pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Seven Years

Reading: Genesis 29: 15-28

Verse 20: Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

Jacob came to work for Laban after fleeing from home.  Jacob was his sister’s son, so Laban took him in.  After a month, Laban was coming to appreciate Jacob’s work, so he asks Jacob what he would like in exchange for his efforts.  Jacob has fallen in love with the beautiful Rachel so he names her as his desire and offers to work for seven years for her hand in marriage.  As I think about his offer, it seems like a long time.  Rarely does a dating relationship last longer than a few years unless marriage is the plan.  In such cases, people date for a while, consider and talk of marriage, and then set the date.  For most with marriage on the mind, they will cut it off and move on pretty quickly if the other is not “the one”.

Extending the idea of working for seven years, what would one be willing to work for for seven years?  If I had my mind on a new car, for example, would I be willing to work for seven years, saving a little each month, until I had enough money to buy that car?  In a job, would I be willing to work for seven years to make that next step up the chain of command or to earn that first raise?  Yet in the context of today’s story, these things are small targets or goals.  When our thoughts move outside the concrete, there are many things we work much longer than seven years for.  When we do so, these are the things that really matter in life.

I look at my marriage and see something that I am still willing to work hard for.  I look at my college-age and post-college children and see many years of raising them and am still very dedicated to working at raising them.  And then I turn to my faith.  At 51, this is a journey longer than any other in my life, yet I still continue to seek to draw closer to God.  Looking back, I can see how my relationship has grown and deepened.  Seven years seems like a small blip on the timeline.  In this sense, I can relate to Jacob.  Seven years “seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her”.  May our love for God ever be the same.


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Choice

Reading: Romans 8: 1-11

Verse Six: The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

Why do people choose to follow Jesus?  Why do some folks choose to worship God and live their lives by what is written in the Bible?  Why do some folks choose a path in life that is hard and narrow instead of walking a road that is wide and easy to meander down?  Why do some people make these choices in deciding to be a Christian?  Why do you?

Choosing to follow Jesus and to live according to His example is a choice.  In many ways, it is a choice that runs against the norm.  By nature we are wired to seek pleasure and to desire to feel good.  Our society ingrains in us the drive to succeed and accomplish and excel – all good things in and of themselves.  Our culture champions messages like ‘just do it’ and ‘of’ it makes you feel good…’  Put all together, the world says to live for self and to just enjoy life to the max.  For some, this is their choice and this is how they live their lives.  Paul writes of these folks: “The mind of the sinful man is death”.

When one chooses to walk the wide and easy way that leads to death, life is fun and exciting and entertaining most of the time.  But soon one realizes there is something missing.  One senses that there is more to life than what they are living.  There is a void.  Philosopher Blaise Pascal described this as the “God-shaped hole in all of us”.  We are created by God in His image.  Therefore, God has a place to fill in our lives.  When we make the choice to fill the hole with God, we are choosing to be whole and complete.  We are making the choice to be a Christian.  Paul also writes of this choice: “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace”.

We make the choice to follow Christ.  It is through this choice that we find life eternal and peace beyond all human understanding.  Here we find that Jesus is our all in all, our everything.  Thank you Jesus.


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Life in the Spirit

Reading: Romans 8: 1-11

Verse Two: Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Paul opens our passage today with a strong statement: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ”.  This is a central theme of the gospel message.  Jesus took on the sin of the world and triumphed over it as He rose from the grave and ascended to heaven.  Through the sacrifice of His body and blood we are forgiven and made righteous.  We no longer have to live with sin and guilt and shame.  Through Jesus’ loving act on the cross we are freed from all of this.  In grace we are made new and restored to righteousness.  Paul writes of this in verse two: “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death”.  We are set free as well!

For most of the passage, Paul focuses on sin versus righteousness.  Paul argues that the sinful man focuses on the desires of the flesh and is self-centered and is hostile to God.  The sinful man leads a life that ends in death.  Paul contrasts this with the man who lives led by the Spirit.  The Spirit led man focuses on the desires of God and is Good-centered and tries to please God.  The Spirit led man lives a life of peace that leads to eternal life.  The key to which life one leads is determined by whether or not Jesus is in one’s life.  Paul argues that if Christ is in us, then we will lead a life that is led by the Spirit.

Paul is, of course, writing here of the big picture.  Either we are trying to live by the Spirit or we are trying to live by the flesh.  The deciding factor is professing Jesus as Lord of our life.  Once we make this decision it does not mean that we will never sin again.  It means that our focus is on living a righteous life that is pleasing to God.  Life in the Spirit means that the Holy Spirit will guide and lead and convict us, making our battle with sin more often victorious.  The good news is that when we do slip and sin, there is no condemnation because Christ had already defeated sin and death.  Instead of condemnation we are given mercy and grace and forgiveness.  Through Him eternal victory is in our grasp.  For this we say thanks be to God!


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Word

Reading: Isaiah 55: 6-13

Verse 11: My Word that goes out from my mouth, it will not return empty…

Our passage today opens with a great invitation: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near”.  This is an open-ended invitation, but the writer goes on to encourage even the wicked to seek the Lord ‘for He will freely pardon’.  The invitation to be in God’s presence is open to all.  It remains so today.

Then, in verse eight, God reminds us of the difference between us and God.  God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”.  The word God uses to define the difference is “higher” – as in too big or too expansive for us to fully understand.  We love and worship a huge God.  Yet God loves little us.  That is an amazing love.

The passage then shifts to nature.  God speaks of the rain and snow that doesn’t simply fall from the sky and return to the sky.  It falls for a purpose.  It waters the earth.  In doing so the rain and snow bring forth new life and seed for the sower.  Water is an essential for all life.  Life cannot exist or continue without water.

The the Lord says that His Word is like the water.  It does not return empty to God but “will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it”.  It is like water in that it nourishes our souls and brings life to us.  And life water to all life, God’s Word is essential to our spiritual life.  We must drink deeply and God will accomplish whatever He wants through us.

The end of Isaiah 55 speaks of the new life we find when we drink of God’s Word.  Verse 12 says, “you will go out in joy and be led forth in peace”.  When we dwell in the Word of God we do go out into life full of joy and resting in His peace.  As we dwell in the Lord’s Word, may we allow it to settle deep down in us to achieve and accomplish God’s purposes in our life.


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Slaves to God

Reading: Romans 6: 15-23

Verse 22: Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

Paul begins by proposing the idea that we are either a slave to sin or a slave to God.  The slave analogy implies a complete obedience of free will.  Yes, we may choose to sin.  Or we may choose to be obedient to God.  But once the choice is made, we become as a slave – doing the total will of either sin or of God.  It is the first of two stark contrasts in today’s passage.

Paul continues on to share the results of our choice.  If we choose sin, then this choice leads to death.  If we choose God, then our choice leads to life.  This is a sharp contrast: life or death.  To help us in our decision, we are entrusted to teaching that helps us make the correct choice.  This is really what life is all about – we learn so that we can make an informed decision.  As we learn and grow in our faith the choice to be obedient to God becomes an easier choice in the daily decisions we face.  Paul rejoices in the result of good Christian teaching as he writes, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness”.

As our passage draws to a close, Paul writes of the reality we all deal with every day.  He writes that we are weak and that we used to be slaves to sin.  We are weak.  Each and every day we must choose to follow God.  However, it is not a choice we make one day and then never face again.  Each day and each hour and sometimes each second, Satan is right there pushing the choice to sin.  It is a constant battle.  In the big sense, though, our choice is life or death.  As Christians we have made the choice.  In verse 22 Paul writes, “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life”.  It is a wonderful gift of God.

This day may we each make the choice to be freed from sin, to be slaves to God, and to live a holy life which one day leads to eternal life.


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Way of Life

Reading: Romans 6: 12-14

Verse 14: For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Paul opens by encouraging us not to let sin rule in our mortal bodies.  It is not that Paul thought we would or should never sin once we accept Jesus, but that we should not live in sin.  For Paul, sin should not be our way of life.  Pursuing God’s righteousness should be our way of life.

Of course, our way of life is a choice.  Once sin gains a foothold it can be hard to root out.  Temptation is a reality.  Each day we wrestle with what we should do versus what the body desires.  Once that temptation takes root it begins to grow and eventually can lead to sin.  This is living a life of sin for Paul.  When we allow sin to take hold, it begins to rule how we make our decisions.  It becomes our way of life.

God, of course, hopes for us to make the decision to do right and He sent us the Holy Spirit to help us make that good choice.  But God knew we would struggle with sin, so He sent us Jesus.  In and through the blood of Jesus we can become pure and righteous again and again.  It is not a pass to sin over and over again or a type of “get out of jail free” card.  The unending grace and mercy and forgiveness is God saying ‘I love you’ over and over again.  It is God saying I love you no matter what.  The mercy, grace, and forgiveness we receive from God lets us know how much God loves us.  It is forever and always.

This day may we choose God as our way of life.  This day may we pursue righteousness.  And this day, may we go forward knowing we are dearly loved.


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God Rescues

Reading: Psalm 13

Verse Three: Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.

The psalmist, David, is in need of God’s rescue.  He is being put hard to the test by his enemies and it seems that God’s reputation is on the line.  As a man well-known for relying on God and being blessed by God, defeat would appear to be either the consequences of sin in his life or that he has fallen from God’s favor as king.  In any case, David is certainly feeling as if he is out of God’s presence and care.

The is a feeling of desperation in David’s voice.  In verse three he says, “Look on me and answer”.  Sometimes we too approach God in a similar manner.  We feel as if we deserve an answer and we can even feel as if we deserve the exact answer we want.  We can also have the ‘how can you let this happen to me, God?’ attitude.  David then says, “Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death”.  Death is a pretty final step.  David feels as if this is the option if God does not intercede on his behalf.  He is very hard-pressed.

As we fast forward in the faith story, we have a different take on the finality of death.  Our resurrected Lord has conquered this foe too.  Even death could not hold Jesus.  In Him we find the promise of eternal life, so we do not fear death in the same way that David did.  Yet none of us really wants to die either – we love our families, friends, and other aspects of life in the here and now.  But ultimately our hope in eternity arches over anything life can throw at us.  In the end, God does rescue David and his heart rejoices.  May w too rejoice in the God who rescues no matrer what the day brings, knowing that we too rest in God’s hands.