pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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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.


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Change

Change is hard and forced change is even harder.  In times of change we feel uncertain and emotions can rule the day.  Sometimes we wish we could just go back to the way thing were or we wish we could just disappear.  When it gets bad and we realize that we cannot handle it anymore on our own, we turn to God.

Change feels threatening and makes our world feel unstable.  We like routine and to feel secure.  All of us like someone by our side in times of stress and God fits the bill perfectly.  He wants to bring us peace, comfort, strength, presence.

In the midst of change we often seek someone else to blame.  (It is like this when we sin too!)  When our situation doesn’t improve, we can really blame God and others.  It is hard to point the finger in the mirror.  Yet when we can manage to step away for a moment and to draw a breath in, then we can begin to trust into our God who so desires to be in relationship, who so desires to pour love and guidance into our lives.  Change can be big and scary, but God is bigger and stronger.

Scripture reference: Isaiah 64: 1-9


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It’s Great Outside of the Garden

As Adam and Eve eyed the fruit of the forbidden tree I wonder what was battling in their minds.  Did they go back and between the idea of all the other foods that God provided for them each day versus eating this one that He said they couldn’t have?  To me it is almost like telling a small child not to touch the burner on the stove because it is hot – what do they do?  Touch the burner!  And the child gains wisdom, just like Adam and Eve did when they ate that fruit.  They saw they were naked and covered themselves up.

This event plunged Adam and Eve, and really all of us, into the rough and tumble world.  As the knowledge of good and evil filled their minds, hearts, and eyes they were forever changed.  There was no going back.

I wonder if we would really be better off if we were still in the Garden.  Wouldn’t it be a little like being in heaven?  God walks with them daily, provides for their food and shelter…  Now don’t get me wrong – heaven will be greater than the greatest thing one cold ever imagine – but I like this world.  I like being able to see and decide between good and evil.  I like being able to pursue God and a relationship with Him.

In the world outside the Garden we all need each other.  Adam and Eve clothed each other.  As we look at our imperfect world, are there others that we can clothe, feed, …?  The responsibility to care for the world and for others has shifted to us.  The question now is: what am I ready to do for God and for others?  What are YOU willing to do?