pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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At Work

Reading: Genesis 37: 12-28

Verses 23 and 24: They stripped him of his robe… they threw him into the cistern.

Joseph does not have the best of days.  He heads out to check on his brothers and the flocks and ends up being sold into slavery.  His brothers’ hatred of him most directly leads to this event.  But the hatred did not begin today.  It is something that has been building.  The favored son comes alone, wearing that coat that Dad gave him, and evil thoughts are at hand.  Our text reads, “They stripped him of his robe… they threw him into the cistern”.

We have a tendency to want to blame someone when bad things happen to us.  Sometimes we identity a person or group of people and we cast blame on them.  Sometimes it is an occurrence of nature that causes our hardship.  Sometimes when all else fails, we blame God.  Seldom do we look inward right away to find the source of our troubles or hardship.  Joseph probably first blamed his brothers and then maybe Israel for sending him out alone.  At some points He probably questioned or blamed God.  From what we know of Joseph, it is unlikely that he became introspective.

In reality, many had a hand in what happens to Joseph in our passage today.  Israel has favored and spoiled Joseph.  This day he sends him off alone to a group of brothers who are jealous and dislike Joseph.  Joseph himself has helped build the animosity by sharing his dreams and by tattling on his brothers.  Satan has also been at work, fanning the flames of anger and planting thoughts of murder.

Although God is not mentioned in the text for today, God is also surely at work.  He softens Reuben’s heart and then Judah’s.  The caravan doesn’t just happen to come along.  Yes, in our lives nature, the bad decisions of others, and our own poor choices can cause us hardship and trial.  But in it all, God is still present.  God still has the bigger picture in sight.  His plans for us are ultimately for good and to prosper us.  As Joseph’s story unfolds, trials continue to come yet God remains at work always.  The same is true for us.  As the story of our lives unfold, may we trust into the God who loves us and seeks good for us.


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Work

Reading: John 17: 1-5

Verse Four: I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You have Me to do.

It was quite a night for Jesus and His disciples.  They gathered together one last time.  It has been a full night: the Passover meal with the institution of communion added in; the washing of the disciples’ feet; the predictions of denial and betrayal; and, the promise of the Holy Spirit.  Three chapters in John are dedicated to Jesus’ farewell discourse.  And then Jesus prays.  These are His last words in John before He is arrested in the garden.  This prayer us our reading today.

In verse four, Jesus says, “I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You have Me to do”.  He has completed the work God gave Him to do.  The work encompasses teaching us what to do as disciples of Jesus Christ.  As a good teacher, Jesus taught by example.  His work included teaching how to live as a child of God in a fallen world.  This certainly helps us see the world and those in it as God sees them, not as the world sees them.  Jesus’ task also included showing us how to be at work in the world.  This meant feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the orphans and widows, caring for the sick, welcoming the stranger and the outcast.  It is being the very hands and feet of Jesus in our world.  The work also included healing.  This too is part of our work.  We pray for other’s physical healing.  We offer words of comfort and encouragement and lift up prayers for emotional and spiritual healing.  We also work to bring healing and restoration by fighting to end injustice and oppression and prejudice when and where we can.  All of this is the work Jesus completed when here on earth.  It is the work He commands us to continue.

Verse three reads, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent”.  Eternal life comes only through knowing God and Jesus Christ.  We come to know Him n the Word.  We come to know Him through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  We also come to know Him through those we encounter in the world as we work as His hands and feet.  May we know Him well today in our study, in our prayer time, in our encounters with the Spirit, and in those we meet.


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To Those Being Saved…

Reading: 1 Corinthians​ 1: 18-31

Verse 23: We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.

Paul opens this section of 1 Corinthians with the reminder that it is the cross that has power.  It is through the power of what was done on the cross that Christians can claim victory over sin and death.  It was on and from the cross that Jesus took on our sin and overcame death and rose to eternal life.

For the Greeks and now the Romans of Paul’s day, these Gentiles saw the king or Caesar as a divine being that transcended life.  They were from the gods, ruled for a time, and returned to the gods.  Interaction was limited to their time on earth, then another would be sent to take their place.  Jesus did not fit this mold.  His ‘ruling’ wasn’t very godly and His talk of being eternal was just more foolishness.  For the Jews, oddly enough, they too were looking for a kingly king.  After many years of Roman oppression they were longing for a king like King David.  Their Messiah would be both a great religious leader and a mighty military commander.  Jesus was a great faith leader but not fully in line with the Jewish religion.  To the Jew this was a huge stumbling block that they could not get over or see past.

Today, Christ continues to be foolishness to some and a stumbling block to others.  In our society, the leading call us to climb the ladder of success, doing what you need to do to rise up.  Society says to have fun and enjoy oneself on the way – it is the ‘just do it’ mentality.  Our society tells us to accumulate, to buy bigger and newer, to get ahead, to save lots for a rainy day.  Christ says success is not measured in what you have but in who you are.  The cross says success is laying oneself down for others.  Christ says true life is not found in earthly pursuits but in following Him, doing the will of God.  Christ says to lay down our burdens and to trust in Him.  Allowing Jesus to steer our ship and to set our course is foolishness to the world.  To place others and their needs ahead of our own is a stumbling block to many.

But to those who are being saved, Christ Jesus is “our righteousness, our holiness, our redemption”.  Thanks be to God.


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Blessings

Reading: Leviticus 19: 9-18

Today’s passage falls under the heading, “Various Laws”, in my Bible.  It is part of a longer list of “Do not…” laws that appear to jump from one subject to another, as the subtitle maybe suggests.  Sprinkled throughout this chapter is the phrase, “I am the Lord”.  It occurs five times in the ten verses we read today, 19 times in the chapter.  In the repetition of this phrase we are reminded of who God is – the creator and giver of all things – and of our role within God’s kingdom.  Our role should be one of gratitude for all that God has blessed us with.  Out of this gratitude should flow a love for all of humanity.

This role is represented well in verse nine.  God instructs, “Do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather gleanings from your field”.  God repeats this same idea in the next line concerning the grape harvest.  Yes, God wants to bless us with the bounty of a good harvest, but we are not to work and work and work for every last seed of grain or the very last grape.  This simple idea has several applications.  First, we are not to be greedy.  We are to be satisfied with what God provides.  Second, we are to share God’s blessings with those in need.  Third, keep the proper perspective – God created for all of humanity, not just for us.  In following these lessons, we maintain our connection to God and to one another.  In these lessons, we remain in our proper role with respect to honoring God and loving our neighbor.

Verse nine applies to the harvest – it was very relevant in the agrarian society of early Israel.  It translates well today as well.  It applies to our time, our talents, our money, our love, our possessions – to all that God has blessed us with so richly.  True, God calls us to work.  But not to the edge, to the point where work is our sole focus and the consumer of all we are.  Yes, God gives us each talents and gifts that bring blessings to our lives.  But He gives these so that we can bless others as well.  What gift of God do you guard to closely?  How can you loosen your grip so others may share in the blessing?


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Pray for All

Reading: 1 Timothy 2: 1-7

Paul opens this section with a universal appeal for us to pray for everyone.  Paul even says to pray for the King and all in authority.  Today he would tell us to pray for the President and all elected officials.  For some this may be a challenge.  Some dislike the King.  But as a Christian, we cannot argue with Paul’s logic: God wants all people to be saved and to come to know the truth found in Jesus.  So Paul calls us to pray for all people.

There are always reasons or obstacles that can make praying for all people difficult.  First of all is our own self-interest.  We want to know what’s in it for us.  It can also be hard to pray for someone who seems to have little connection to our life.  Second, we do not like all people.  It can be very hard to pray for someone we dislike or disagree with.  Yet we are called to pray for all people.  So that they can be saved.

In addition to bringing others before God, praying for all benefits us as well.  We are being obedient to God’s word and this shows respect and love to God.  Praying for all is what Christ did and still does, so doing this brings us nearer to Christ.  Praying for all opens our eyes and hearts to others.  It makes us more loving and empathetic.  It places neighbor ahead of self.  Praying for all replaced judgment with empathy and love.  It helps us to see all as children of God in need of salvation.  Praying for all also leads us to offer healing and hope to a world so in need.  It changes how we speak to and treat others.

Pray for all.  Not only does it bring them before God, it also changes our attitude, our heart, and our outlook.  Prayer draws us into being more Christ-like.  May we pray often.  May we pray for all.  May our prayers draw us ever closer to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.


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Priority

Reading: Luke 14: 25-27

Jesus wants to make sure those in the crowd understand that to follow Him is a commitment.  He is beginning to head to Jerusalem to face the cross; He wants all to know the level of allegiance that walking this road will require.  To continue to follow Jesus, each must pick up and carry their own cross.  Jesus wants His audience then and us now to fully know what is expected.

First and foremost we must lay all else aside.  Jesus and our relationship with Him must take precedence over all other relationships in our life.  Our relationship with Jesus needs to be above our relationships with our family, our friends, our teammates, our bosses, our coworkers, our job, our interests, our possessions.  In our lives, Jesus must rule over and above all else if we are to become His disciple.  Then all of our other relationships will be in their proper place.  All will be secondary to our relationship with Jesus but all will be better because of this dynamic.  We will be a better father, brother, husband, wife, worker… because our relationship with Jesus is our priority.

Making and keeping Jesus our priority is a challenge.  We live in a fast-paced world that places high demands and expectations on us.  We live in a world that has radically different expectations than Jesus has.  The world says to place self above all else.  Jesus says for self to get way at the back of the line.  The world says to accumulate as much as we can.  Jesus says to give as much away as we can.  The world says to just do it if it makes you feel good.  Jesus says to seek ways to make others’ lives better.

To walk with Jesus as His disciple is hard.  The path is difficult.  The choices and decisions are counter-cultural.  The relationship with Jesus takes supreme commitment.  But the life lived in Jesus is the life worth living.  It is a life filled with hope, love, mercy, grace, contentment, forgiveness, and peace.  May we all be strong in our walk with the Lord.


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Journey to Share

Readings: John 12:8a and Isaiah 43: 16-21

God parted the sea as a path to freedom for His people and as a means of destruction for their enemies.  God provided water in the dryness of the desert for their physical needs and to remind them again to trust Him.  Mary blessed Jesus by anointing Him and Jesus tempered Judas’ complaint by reminding him that the needy will always be present.

As we walk along our journey of faith, we also have experiences that grow our trust in God and some that allow us to bless others.  In the first case we learn from our trials that God is always near, that we can trust Him with all things, and that He will provide.  In the second case as we grow in our faith we come to see that we too can  anoint others and in this way share God’s blessings with them.

From these two things, our focus begins to change.  We begin to see others and their needs more clearly.  We become freer to give away to others because we gain trust that God will provide.  We come to better see needs and to understand how we can meet them as we begin to journey with Jesus alongside those in need.  Our increased awareness of the needs of others, both strangers and friends alike, deepens both our inclination and ability to help.  As we come to understand that helping carry another’s burden does not weigh us down but instead blesses us, we gain strength in our mission to others.

Verse 18 speaks of God doing a new thing.  As we grow in our trust and as our mission to those in need develops, we see more and more from a new perspective.  Our focus becomes more and more like Mary’s – seeing God’s kingdom more and the world’s less.  Seeing and responding to need builds God’s kingdom.  Offering more of ourselves shares Jesus increasingly with the world.  God seeks to do a new thing in each of us.  Can you sense it springing up?  Through our lives, may we ever bring glory to God as we strive to build His kingdom here.