pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Surrender

Reading: Genesis 45: 1-15

Verse 15: He kissed all his brothers and wept over them.

Joseph could have easily lashed out at his brothers from his position of power or he could have sought revenge.  But the bond of family and the influence of God in his life lead him to seek reconciliation instead.  Living in a foreign land without any true family had to be hard.  Even though he had been through his share of trials, Joseph had come to have a very good life.  Yet he was alone and missed his family – especially his father.

Joseph clears the room of all his attendants and court officials for two reasons.  One is so that he can be open and honest with his brothers.  Yet even the removal of everyone else does not keep the time private.  Joseph is so overcome with emotion that the officials hear his weeping and report it to Pharaoh.  The second reason is to surrender his position of power so that his brothers can draw near to him.  It is close and personal – something that would never happen in the official court setting.

Joseph seeks to be reunited and reconciled with his family.  It begins with him reaching out, surrendering his power, making the first move simply as their brother.  To repair a broken relationship someone has to make the first move.  It also requires the other party to accept the offer of reconciliation and to respond accordingly.  Both sides must be willing to let go of the past – whatever caused the separation and brokenness – and to begin to love again.  In the end, “He kissed all his brothers and wept over them”.  Then they talked.

On our faith journey, we go through cycles of reconciliation.  We sin and break our relationship with God.  Sin separates us.  Then in an act of love and surrender of self we repent and ask for forgiveness.  In His great love and mercy, God offers us grace and our sin is forgiven.  We are once again reunited with the God we love until we stumble again and then we repeat the process.  Joseph had to become less to meet his brothers again.  We too must surrender some more of ourselves each time we say we are sorry and repent and commit to a closer walk with Jesus.  Each day, may we become less and He becomes more.


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Healing and Wholeness

Reading: Genesis 45: 1-15

Verse Four: I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt.

Joseph is at a good place in his life.  He has gone through some difficult experiences but has had a sense of God’s guidance and presence during his time in Egypt.  The old hurts and scars are a thing of the past.  And then his brothers suddenly appear before him, begging to buy food.  Oh how the tables have turned!  All that distant hurt and anger must have come rushing back for Joseph.  In the text we see that this is right where his brothers go – terrified in his presence because they too remember what all they did to him.

In life we experience hurts and offenses.  We all have been let go by an employer or have been dumped by one we love or have been cast aside for a cooler or better connected friend.  More often than not we absorb the hurt and over time it lessens and we come to a new place of peace and contentment as we allow God to heal and love us.  We see that God has continued to be at work in our lives, bringing us a new job or a new significant other or a new best friend.  And then our old boss comes looking for a job or the ex shows up with regrets over their choice or the old friend comes looking for your help.  Thanks feelings come rushing back and it is hard to be loving and caring and to act as Jesus calls us to act.

Joseph exclaims, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt”. It is not, ‘I am in charge now!’ or ‘Get out!’ or anything else harsh or negative.  It is love and mercy and reconciliation that Joseph offers.  He knows that God has been with him and will continue to be with him.  He chooses to let go of the past and to embrace a future with God leading and guiding.  When we are faced with the choice to love or to seek revenge, may we also find a way guided by God’s love, bringing healing and wholeness to what was broken.


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Love and Justice and Mercy

Reading: Genesis 37: 1-4 and 12-28

Verse Four: They hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph is clearly the father’s favorite.  Israel loves Joseph more than any of his other sons.  In today’s passage, Israel makes Joseph a “richly ornamented robe”.  For a second, recall Joseph and his dreams of his brothers and even his father and mother bowing down to him.  For a second, recall Joseph’s penchant for tattling on his brothers.  Now Joseph waltzes in, showing off his new coat.  Joseph certainly plays up his favored son status.  His brother’s reaction?  “They hated him and could not speak a kind word to him”.

Later in our passage, Israel decides to send Joseph out to check on the others sons and the flocks.  He tells Joseph to “bring word back to me”.  As the brothers see Joseph coming, they plot to kill him.  In our society today, does this still happen?  Do some who live without look at those who have much with hatred and envy?  Thanks without may desire to do away with the ones with privilege and power, especially the ones who flaunt it.  So, when we go to the city to serve in the rescue mission, do those in line look at us this way?  If we act as if we are stooping down to do something ‘good’ or if we act aloof, certainly we are seen this way.  If we are unwilling to sit and hear another’s story, to communicate that they are worthy of our time and attention, then we remain distant and privileged.

Reuben speaks up for Joseph and plans to come back later to rescue him.  When violence and injustice and hatred arise today, do we act as Reuben acted?  Do we try and lessen it and plan on coming back later to partially address the situation?  Or do we stand up for what is righteous and choose to stand in the gap, saying ‘no more’?  At times we will see prejudice or hatred, injustice or abuse.  Then and there, do we addresd it fully?  Do we stand for those in need of our voice and courage?  Do we love and care for all as God loves and cares for all?  Or do we leave them in the cistern and hope to come back later?

O God of love and justice and mercy, make me an instrument of Your love and justice and mercy.


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Gardeners and Bakers

Reading: Matthew 13: 31-33

Verses 31 and 33: The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed… like yeast.

Our two parables today are seemingly about something small – a tiny mustard seed and some yeast.  These two parables follow two others.  One is about the receptivity and sticking power of a seed of faith and the other about the weeds of sin that can grow in people’s lives.  Taken in the context of the today’s parables, the previous two are all about the planting of a small seed as well.

Just as the tiny mustard seed becomes a large tree that gives shelter and rest to many, the tiny yeast works its way through the whole batch of dough, causing it all to rise.  These are like the good seeds planted in the good soil that produce a crop 100, 60, or 30 times what was sown.  Satan’s “bad” seeds also work the same way – producing a crop that must be bundled at harvest time.

This brings us to two questions.  First, how are we planting seeds or being yeast?  Second, what kinds of seed or yeast are we planting or mixing in?  Like the sower and the baker, we are called to work in and through all areas of our lives – at work, at home, at church, on the ball field, in the restaurant… – and with all we meet all the time.  Like the mustard seed, we are called to offer even the smallest of kind words or the simplest act of kindness, trusting that God can do a mighty work through any act of love or kindness or grace or mercy or … that we can offer.  How? Any place, any size, any time.

Hopefully we are choosing to sow good seeds and to act as good yeast.  In our simple and small acts and words we want others to see Jesus.  If we are all-in, 24/7 Christians then we are like the yeast – permeating all aspects of our own lives with our faith as well as permeating the lives of those we cross paths with each day.  What kind?  The kind that speaks love.  The kind that Jesus spoke.

The small seeds and the simple leavening yeast bear witness to the love of Jesus Christ in us and to the love He wants to share with the whole world.  May we be good gardeners and bakers today.


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Complete Relationship

Reading: Romans 8: 12-25

Verse 17: We are heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.

Paul began life as Saul.  His faith was rooted in being one of the “chosen people” and there was a certain exclusiveness to this.  As he studied and came to know more he became a Pharisee.  He became part of a very exclusive group within an exclusive faith.  His view of faith was based on lineage and a long list of rules to keep to maintain good standing with God.  But then Saul met Jesus.

Jesus got ahold of him and, as Paul, he came to understand God and our relationship with God from a whole new perspective.  Instead of the God of the Old Testament, Paul came to know and preach the God embodied in Jesus.  He came to see Jesus as the fuller revelation of God’s presence and being.  Just as the Old Testament continued to develop the relationship between God and His people, so too does the New Testament – through the love and witness of Christ and then through the continued development of the church.

Paul came to understand that all people are God’s people.  He saw a universal love instead of a limited or select love.  Paul also came to understand that grace and love were universal and free to all.  To access this love and grace, to become part of this family of God, all one had to do was accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  It was Paul’s route and he lived to help all he met to make the same decision.  He came to live out the indwelling Holy Spirit that led and guided him as he shared the good news of Jesus with all he met.

Paul also grew to understand that it was a complete relationship.  It was an all-in, all day, for better or worse type of a relationship.  In verse 17 Paul writes, “We are heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory”.  Yes, once we join the family we are heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ – heirs to salvation and eternity in a glorious heaven.  But Paul was writing to the church in Rome.  They were facing suffering and Paul wanted to encourage them in and through this as well.  The early followers of Jesus, especially the disciples and apostles, rejoiced when they suffered for Christ.  They felt like Jesus in His suffering.  They also knew that suffering would lead to a time in glory.  Like the groanings of birth, Paul knew that the trials and suffering would lead to new life.  It is a good reminder to us as well.  Like Paul, may we be encouraged and remain in God’s love, openly accepting the free gift of mercy, grace, forgiveness, and new life.  For this great love we join the saints in saying, thanks be to God!


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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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Alive

Reading: Romans 6: 1b-11

Verse Six: We that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with.

Paul writes today of a willingness to die to self.  It is a willing choice to accept Jesus as Lord, to figuratively die with Christ, and to make the choice to kill the sins that live in our lives.  It is a lot of talk about death, but to die is necessary so that the new creation in Christ can live in us.  Paul was a man that did not avoid death.  He was a man who died over and over again to sin in his life and who literally faced persecution and threats of death.  Eventually he would be martyred, dying for the Jesus he loved.

Paul begins by reminding us that as we are baptized into Christ, we are also baptized into His death so that we can be raised to new life in Christ.  Paul extends the idea of new life here as a follower of Jesus to one day being “united with Him in resurrection”.  For Paul, dying to our old self first brought death to the “body of sin” that we used to occupy.  With this, Paul tells us that we are no longer slaves to sin but instead “we that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with”.  In Christ we are freed from the power of sin.  In Christ we live free from the entanglements and guilt and shame of sin.

For Paul, when we die with Christ we also share in His mastery over death.  In “dying with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him”.  In rising from the grave, Christ demonstrated that death has no power over Him.  Death is not the end of all ends.  It is simply the end of our mortal bodies.

Paul closes this section by returning to dying to sin.  Paul reminds us that Christ “died to sin once for all”.  In Jesus’ sacrifice He conquered sin for all people for all time.  This is the grace you and I live under.  No matter what sin we fall into, we can repent and seek mercy and find forgiveness.  Once for all.  Sin has no power over the believer.

We find freedom in choosing to follow Jesus Christ, dying to self so that sin and death have no power over us.  In this choice to follow we instead live into the joy of new life, resurrection life, and life in the Spirit.  Thank you Jesus for providing the way to be “alive to God in Christ Jesus”.