pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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A Plumb Line

Reading: Amos 7: 7-9

Verse 8: “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer”.

God has called Amos out of the field to be a prophet to his people. The people have been living in ways that are displeasing to God. The king has led the people astray and the priest has followed along. The king and priest and the people are comfortable, even happy, in the lifestyle that they have settled into. The practices of caring for the other – the widows, orphans, needy… – have all been laid aside. Amos has been sent to pronounce judgment.

Today’s passage begins with God standing by a wall that has been built perfectly true. The wall and it’s perfection represent the law. The law is what is just and true and right. God stands by his wall. He asks Amos what he sees. Amos is still faithful to God and to the law. He sees a plumb line showing the wall to be true. God says to Amos, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer”. Amos is the plumb line. It is his voice that will try to call the people back to right and holy living. God will not spare them. Their hearts have become hard because they have come to love other things. Destruction and ruin will come. The voice of the prophet is not enough to fix all that is wrong.

In our world and perhaps in our lives we find much that is askew and wrong. For a long time the world has preached power and wealth and popularity. These things have been emphasized so long that they are the norm and they are embraced. To say that accumulating excessive wealth is wrong is looked at as abnormal today. The world sees self as #1 so to encourage people to care deeply for the needy draws odd looks. Amos’ world and our world are pretty similar.

In our world and in our lives, where is God calling us to apply the plumb line? Where can we make things align better with God and his plans?

Prayer: Lord, help me to search deeply within, to search for what needs to be set right. Give me the courage to change what needs changed. Go with me, O God. Amen.

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Moments of Faith

Reading: 2 Kings 5: 9-18

Verse 17: “Please let me… be given as much earth as two miles can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord”.

Naaman humbles himself and does what Elisha told him to do. It seemed so simple. On the journey over to Israel and then to Elisha’s house, Naaman must have envisioned some grand process to be healed. He must have thought a lot about returning to normal life. He would no longer be an outcast. No longer would his only human contact come through the violence of battle. No longer would others look at him in disgust. There would be a lot of emotions inside of Naaman.

After dipping himself seven times in the Jordan, Naaman’s flesh is restored, becoming “clean like the flesh of a young boy”. Healing! Healing! Naaman and his folks head back to Elisha’s to give him the thank you gifts that they brought. Elisha refuses the gifts. The proud Naaman would have become angry and perhaps left the gifts in a pile in the road. But Naaman is not so proud any more. He knows how he was healed: by the one true God. We cannot miss Naaman’s request: “Please let me… be given as much earth as two miles can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord”. He wants dirt. He must return home to continue his service to the king. But he wants enough dirt to stand or kneel upon to worship God. This request shows how grateful he is for his healing and how moved he is by God. To take a physical piece of Israel home to worship on speaks volumes about the impact of the healing upon Naaman. He wants to remember his God moment.

This is something we all do. As I look back over my faith journey, I can recall images of God moments. These experiences are etched in my mind. There are also physical items – like Naaman’s dirt. Each item is tied to a faith experience that moved me forward on my journey of faith. Take a moment or two and recall your God moments. Join me in thanking God for each and every one of them.

Prayer: Living God, thank you for the many ways and times that you have touched my life, reminding me over and over of your love for me. Please continue to do so. Amen.


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The Solution

Reading: John 21: 1-14

In the Gospel of John, Jesus has already appeared to the disciples two times, but they have not yet been empowered.  They are still in the “now what?” stage.  Jesus is indeed risen, but…  Fear of the authorities is maybe a little less now, but it is still real.  In the midst of all this waiting around behind locked doors, Peter announces that he is going fishing.  The combination of knowing Jesus is alive and being couped up for a while may explain his decision.  But for Peter, part of it may be the emotions he is personally dealing with.  Bold and fiery Peter swore allegiance to Jesus at all costs, even death, but had denied even knowing Jesus three times that last night.

So maybe Peter was seeking to return to something he knew, to his roots.  Up until meeting Jesus he had always been a fisherman.  We all find comfort in knowing what we are doing, in the familiar.  Out on the water with his friends, Peter probably found a measure of peace.  Doing something familiar probably took his mind off his guilt.

Sometimes we are not unlike Peter.  After a tough day a big bowl of ice cream or a bag of chips sure can help a lot.  For some, addictive or destructive habits can be where they turn.  We run the gamut with our coping mechanisms.  But our root cause and solution are the same: something has created tension or angst and we want to occupy ourselves somehow, so we reach out for what we know.

When Peter is in the boat and he comes to recognize it is Jesus on the shore, he immediately jumps into the water to get to Jesus quickly.  His fishing trip didn’t really fix anything.  Peter knows Jesus can.  In our times of trial may we too quickly look to Jesus.  May we too go to Him without hesitation.  Jesus is always the solution.  Always.


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Called to…?

In today’s section of Jeremiah, God is promising the Israelites a return to normal.  It has been so long that captivity and exile have become almost normal for them.  But their faith in God has kept them connected to and in touch with what is their normal homeland.  Thus they long to return and to once again live in safety under God’s protection.  It is a great place to live.

For most of us, this is were we exist.  We live a relatively comfortable and secure life.  There is food in the fridge and gas in the car.  The house is warm and is secure.  Employment will be at the same place tomorrow and my family will be around me in the evening.  This indeed is wonderful ‘normal’ and a great place to live.

But for some this is not the case.  In our call to care for the poor and needy, this situation disturbs my peace.  Even though it got down to the low single digits last night, some people slept outside.  Many of the people without the basics we take for granted will abuse drugs and/or alcohol as a means to cope with the despair, hopelessness, and other feelings generated by their situations.  The substance abuse often leads to an increase in the acts of violence on the streets and to the higher levels of fear that permeate the homeless community.  I do not think I would last long in this world, but it is ‘normal’ for far too many people.

So what is God calling me to do?  Is it to donate warm clothing to the local shelter?  Is it to volunteer time at the nearby day center?  Is it to teach a class that empowers one who is struggling to make positive changes in their life?  It may be one or more of these or something entirely different.  Lord, help me to discern where and how You are sending me to be in ministry to those in need.

Scripture reference: Jeremiah 31: 10-14


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Living and Vibrant

In our worlds I think we appreciate and prefer the routine.  We are creatures of habit.  A slight variation or small twist is okay now and then, but in general we like the predictable.  Life is more manageable when we know what to expect at work, at home, at church.  We have our role and we fill it.

In our faith I think we also prefer the known.  On Sunday morning we sing, pray, read a little scripture, hear the message.  And we pass the offering plate!  In our private faith lives we have our own routines – maybe time with God in the morning or maybe it is time before going to bed.  Even our prayer life is probably predictable to a large extent.

While we prefer the comfort and predictability found in the routine, it can become too comfortable.  We can show up, punch the clock, and go through the motions – at work, at home, at church.  And in each of these places, when we are too comfortable with the status quo, we can miss the opportunities that God places before us.

Sometimes God is disruptive – a major event or a person or situation we cannot avoid happens into our life.  But more often He is quiet – it is a person we could normally pass by or it is a line from a reading or the sermon that catches in our mind.  Instead of moving on and ignoring that tug or nudge, stop and engage that person.  Instead of just letting go of that line, wrestle with it.  Allow God to be a living, vibrant part of your life.  Allow this to become your new ‘normal.’  He is an amazing God who has amazing things for His children.  He will not disappoint.