pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Unity or Less?

Reading: Romans 14: 10-12

Verse 11: Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.

Paul continues his conversation about diversity in the body of Christ.  He emphasized that most of us are at differing spots in our faith journeys and that we come to the church with our own unique backgrounds and traditions.  Therefore unity must come in and through Christ.  Christ must be the one thing that unites the church.  Jesus is our “bottom line” so to speak – He is Lord of all.

Paul asks why we must judge or look down on our brother or sister in Christ who does not do exactly as we do.  When we choose to judge or condemn or belittle another’s faith or their practices of faith, we are putting ourselves in a place we should not go to.  For example, just because I prefer to read and study and pray in the early morning and another prefers the quiet of the evening does not make one of us “right” or “better” than the other.  If one church uses bread and another crackers, one communion is not better or more acceptable than the other.

The time or particular way we practice our faith are small details we use to accomplish the same goal – to grow closer to Christ as we seek to become more like Him.  This is the goal for all Christians – to become more like Christ.  But at times we fail, so Paul includes a warning, quoting from the prophet Isaiah: “Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God”.  He will not only want to know what we did with the least and the lost, but also how we treated all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Did we practice unity and did we work to bring harmony to the whole body of Christ?  Or did we remain divided, allowing it to be less?

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Love Our Fellow Man

Reading: Romans 13: 8-10

Verse Eight: He who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law.

God has always loved humankind.  Mankind was created in His image and we are intended to be like Him.  The essence of the relationship between God and human beings is love.  God loves us and cares for us in so many ways.  In return, we love God and try to live lives that are pleasing to God.  To help us understand what love is really all about, Jesus came and walked among us, revealing what it looks like to live out God’s love for humanity.  Jesus did not really come to teach us a bunch of new things but to better understand what was already there.  When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He did not make up something new.  Instead He reached deep into the scriptures and named two from the Old Testament.  Both centered on love.  Jesus said, in fact, that if we love God with all we are and if we love neighbor as self, then all the other commandments will follow.

Paul picks up on these themes today.  In an increasingly diverse church, Paul is sensing a growing need for unity and community.  So he returns to the foundation: love.  It is at the center of God, was at the center of Jesus, and must be at the center of all believers.  In verse eight Paul writes, “He who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law”.  For Paul, we must love one another.  This is where unity and community begin.  Once we truly love one another then things like trust and cooperation and hospitality are soon to follow.  Once we begin to understand this aspect of God’s love, we begin to practice it with others.

Being human himself and understanding that the church is made up of other sinful creatures, Paul also knew another aspect of God’s love was also important.  Paul knew the church also needed to know and live out God’s love revealed in His mercy.  At times our relationships require forgiveness and reconciliation.  This side of God’s love is all about renewing and restoring and forgiving.  This too is a part of God’s love for us.  This too is a part that we are called to share with one another.  In all ways this day, may we each love our fellow man.


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Love Our Fellow Man

Reading: Romans 13: 8-10

Verse Eight: He who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law.

God has always loved humankind.  Mankind was created in His image and we are intended to be like Him.  The essence of the relationship between God and human beings is love.  God loves us and cares for us in so many ways.  In return, we love God and try to live lives that are pleasing to God.  To help us understand what love is really all about, Jesus came and walked among us, revealing what it looks like to live out God’s love for humanity.  Jesus did not really come to teach us a bunch of new things but to better understand what was already there.  When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He did not make up something new.  Instead He reached deep into the scriptures and named two from the Old Testament.  Both centered on love.  Jesus said, in fact, that if we love God with all we are and if we love neighbor as self, then all the other commandments will follow.

Paul picks up on these themes today.  In an increasingly diverse church, Paul is sensing a growing need for unity and community.  So he returns to the foundation: love.  It is at the center of God, was at the center of Jesus, and must be at the center of all believers.  In verse eight Paul writes, “He who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law”.  For Paul, we must love one another.  This is where unity and community begin.  Once we truly love one another then things like trust and cooperation and hospitality are soon to follow.  Once we begin to understand this aspect of God’s love, we begin to practice it with others.

Being human himself and understanding that the church is made up of other sinful creatures, Paul also knew another aspect of God’s love was also important.  Paul knew the church also needed to know and live out God’s love revealed in His mercy.  At times our relationships require forgiveness and reconciliation.  This side of God’s love is all about renewing and restoring and forgiving.  This too is a part of God’s love for us.  This too is a part that we are called to share with one another.  In all ways this day, may we each love our fellow man.


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Every Day

Reading: Isaiah 58: 1-9a

Isaiah opens today’s passage speaking about a people who appear to be in search of God.  They appear to be seeking God and to be eager to draw near to God.  The people are fasting and ask God, ‘have you not seen it’?  Isaiah goes on to explain how the fast they are choosing is far from pleasing to God.  They may be skipping the food, but they are not drawing close to God.  Instead they exploit their workers and quarrel and fight amongst themselves.  Their fast is only lip service to God.

I believe this problem persists to this day.  Some go to church every Sunday morning but are not engaged in worship.  They consider their day or week ahead during the message, they nod off during prayer time.  Even though they were only physically present, they still ask God and others, ‘Didn’t you see me in church’?  Isaiah asked if a fast consisted of only bowing one’s head and wearing sackcloth.  We could ask, is Sunday only for warming a pew and standing and sitting when everyone else does?

Isaiah goes on to describe the fast that is pleasing to God.  It is one that loosens the chains of injustice and unties the cords of the yoke, one that sets the oppressed free, one that feeds the hungry and clothes the naked.  It is a fast that draws one close to God so that one is transformed to be more like God, to be filled with compassion and to be moved to act on behalf of the lost, the least, and the lonely.  It is a fast that takes place in the heart, not upon the lips.

This too must be how we practice our faith.  We cannot preach compassion on Sunday morning and then turn our backs on those in need.  We must be moved to engage those who are struggling and are in need.  We cannot worship God on Sunday morning and then exploit our workers on Monday.  We cannot lift our voices in praise on Sunday and then curse and gossip at the restaurant on Tuesday.  The faith we practice on Sunday and each day as we read our Bibles and say our prayers must be the same faith we live out every moment of every day.  It must be so.  May it be so today and every day.


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Our Witness

In today’s passage Jesus warns us about making a show of our faith.  When we practice our faith out in the world, it must not be showy or draw attention to us.  In times of worship, it is another matter.  To proclaim the Word, to pray out loud, to lift voice in song – these are public displays of faith practiced in a closed setting.  It is the purpose for gathering.  No one who comes to church is offended when these actions occur.  We are gathered to worship as a community.

As Christians, our worship and love of God should extend outside the walls of the church and beyond the security of our homes.  In extending our faith, we must always be genuine and sincere.  If we are praying before a meal out in public, it should not be loud and showy.  It should be just as it is at home.  Reverence and respectful are words that come to mind.  Bowing heads and saying a quiet prayer may draw attention from those around you.  It is a witness to our faith that exposes others to faith without being offensive or rude.

At times we may notice someone who is struggling or having a bad day.  To take the time to notice, to offer understanding and empathy, and to offer to pray for them are great witnesses to our God.  Simply asking if you could pray for them is a great witness to God’s love and to your love for all of humanity.

These are good examples of how we to practice our faith in the world.  But the greatest and most impactful way that we witness to our faith is by how we live our lives day in and day out.  In the ways we treat others, in the ways we conduct ourselves, in the choices we make, and in the words we use – this is our truest witness to who Jesus Christ is in our lives.  May we honor Him in all we do, bringing glory to His name.

Scripture reference: Matthew 6: 1-6


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Worthy Soil

Often we do not sow seed where we can.  Sometimes it is because we see another’s ‘soil’ and think ‘Why bother?’  So we withhold God’s word through us from that person.  And maybe it was just the things they needed to hear at that moment.  Or maybe it was just the story we needed to share!

How often is it us that does not receive?  Do we miss some blessing or experience God is trying to send us because we are hard soil, rocky soil, or soil choked with weeds?

On a regular basis our soil needs tilled, fertilized, and watered.  Do we practice compassion and generosity instead of a ‘me-first’ attitude?  Do we spend time building our faith to gain strength and inspiration to serve?  Do we spend time listening to the still, small voice of God as He calls us to do this or to serve there?  To go out and sow seeds, we must first become soil worthy of God’s garden.

Scripture reference: Matthew 13: 1-9


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A Heavenly Gasp

Does your family have any unique practices or traditions – a special dish at the holiday season, a quirky birthday celebration, something you do every Easter…?  Maybe you don’t understand it or even understand where it came from, but you go along because that is what is expected.  Then at some point, someone says something like, “Hey, this year instead…” and you gasp!  Or sometimes the tradition or practice fades because you moved away and one Easter morning you realize you don’t ‘x’ anymore and you feel like something is suddenly missing. As a Christian family we get our traditions and practices from Christ.  He is our firm foundation, our Cornerstone.  We are called to be His “living stones” – to live our lives in a way that brings Christ to the world.  Like our family traditions, we find our identity in Christ. Sadly, like some of our own family traditions, sometimes we don’t always fully understand or even like some of the Christian traditions and practices that we are called to.  Sometimes we fail to live them out.  For example, do we always embrace tolerance and practice respect?  Do we always love our neighbors as ourselves?  Sadly, not always.  At these points the gasp does not come from us. But the good news is that we are precious to Jesus.  Despite our human limitations, He continues to build us into His holy nation, a people called to God.  We belong to Him.  Our journey is simply growing more and more like Jesus every day.  And despite ourselves, we do.  It is through Jesus.  Thank you Lord!!