pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Clear Priorities

Reading: Luke 14: 25, 26 and 33

Verse 26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father… mother… wife… children… brother… sister… even his own life… he cannot be my disciple”.

Two of three of today’s verses are really tough verses. Jesus says to the crowd and to us, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father… mother… wife… children… brother… sister… even his own life… he cannot be my disciple”. That is hard to read twice in such a short time. He then concludes our passage from Luke 14 by telling us that we must “give up everything” if we want to be his disciple. Jesus is using hyperbole today to make his point. He is addressing a large crowd. Those following Jesus has grown quickly and they all do not clearly understand the cost of following Jesus. Today’s verses are a bit of a reality check.

Jesus uses the word ‘hate’ today as a term to define our priorities in life. If asked what our priorities are, almost all of us would respond: God, family, work (or school). But a look into our week and our choices and decisions might not actually reflect that order. Jesus chooses his words today to drive home the point that faith must be our clear #1 priority. It must be so clear that we appear to hate our family, friends, and even our own self when compared to how much we love God. Jesus wants us to understand that there must be a striking contrast between the devotion we live and show to God and all other relationships and priorities in life. Jesus had strong relationships with his mother Mary, with the disciples, and with friends like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. ‘Hate’ would not describe any of these relationships. But his devotion to God never wanted – it was clearly Jesus’ top priority.

In verse 33 Jesus addresses the sacred cow of the secular world. Culture identifies and defines worth by what we have and by who we are in the power structures of the world. Again, Jesus is calling us to put all this worldly stuff a distant priority when compared to our faith. When we turn away and pursue the things of the world more than loving and serving God, we have lost focus on what really matters. Our priorities have been reordered.

Jesus says “Follow me” to us. That means living the priorities that Jesus lived. That means clearly committing to our faith as the most important thing in our lives and then living that commitment out. Yes, it is a hard commitment. Jesus is the only way. May he be so for you and for me.

Prayer: Lord, at times walking a life of faith can be so simple and straight forward. At other times it can be a great struggle as the flesh inside me rises up and as the voices and things of the world call out. O God, help me to walk closely with you day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Amen.

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Blameless, Upright

Reading: Job 1:1

Verse 1: “Job… was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil”.

Today we begin a short journey with Job. For the month of October we will read a selection from Job each week. It will be, of course, just a small sampling of who Job was and what his story teaches us. Even so, the passages will reveal much to us about ourselves and our faith journey.

Job was a man who lived in Ur, a city far outside of Israel. He worshipped God in a foreign land in a culture that often counter to God and God’s ways. We find ourselves in a similar position today. In our time culture and society in general is ambivalent to matters of faith, even clashing with our beliefs and practices from time to time. The values and priorities of modern culture in the western world do not align well with the values and priorities that God calls us to practice and live out.

Verse one tells us, “Job… was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil”. Job is an early example of faith. On our best days we might be blameless and upright for periods of time. While this is our goal, it is not very often our reality for long stretches of time. But because it is our goal, like Job, we too must deal regularly with the attacks of the enemy. Because we are seeking to live and walk out a life of faith, Satan is ever on the lookout for ways to lead us into sin.

Job also feared God and shunned evil. These qualities of Job are much more realistic for us. Job’s fear was not a fear of ghosts or spiders type of fear. It was more of a reverence or healthy respect of God. To have this, one must have an intimate relationship with and knowledge of God. For Job, it came from having a deep and personal connection to God. Because of this, Job shunned evil. When we love God deeply, we too will shun evil. When our love of God is strong, we desire to please God. This leads us to shun evil and therefore to avoid sin, the thing that separates us from God.

As we live out our faith, being blameless and upright are worthy goals. Fortunately, they are not one and done goals. If we stumble or even if we fail, God’s love and mercy allow us to reset our goals and to begin anew. May we strive to grow closer each day, fearing God and shunning evil in all its forms. Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit may it be so for me and for you.

God of Job, God of all people, God of me, pour out the power of your Holy Spirit on me today. Help me to be blameless and to live out an upright faith. Amen.


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Faithful Trust

Reading: Luke 16: 10-13

Trust is the key word in this passage.  Jesus begins by transitioning from talking about the shrewd manager to talking to the general audience, which now includes us.  In essence, Jesus is saying that if we prove trustworthy with the little things, then eventually we will be trusted with bigger things.  If we are trustworthy with another’s resources, then one day we will be trusted with resources of our own.  Jesus also ties this into our relationship with God.  He reminds us that if we cannot be trusted with earthly resources, then how would God ever trust us with heavenly riches?

To temper and reframe all this talk about wealth, Jesus shifts gears in verse thirteen.  He ties what we are trusted with into who we serve.  Jesus plainly states that we cannot serve two masters.  There is still the implication that the people of the world pursue only wealth, that wealth is their god.  At the end of the verse, Jesus clearly draws the line: “You cannot serve both God and money”.  Put another way, in a way that ties back into verses 10-12, you cannot trust both God and money.  But oh how we try!

Our trust must rest fully in God.  Too often we say we trust in God, but we act like we trust our money and other resources.  We allow our trust to waver and we rationalize our choices and priorities in life.  We cannot trust God in some areas and we can in others.  We compartmentalize.

Our trust must be fully and completely in God.  This means continually saying, “Your way” instead of “my way”.  It means giving without limit to the things God has placed upon our hearts.  It means allowing God to be in control.  It is terribly difficult to give up one’s will fully to God’s will.  Yet this day, may we begin.  As it is written, “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much”.


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Mary Time

Reading: Luke 10: 38-42

“Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her”.  What is better is to sit at Jesus’ feet, to listen to His words, to meditate on their meaning, and to apply them to our lives.  Just as Mary did this, we too are called to daily do the same.  We are called to what is better, to spend time with Jesus.

Life is busy and there is always much to do.  We can easily fill our days up with a long to-do list.  There are so many people and things we are committed to.  We can all relate to Martha in this story.  She is feeling the pressure to always be on the move so that all gets done.  She is a doer and a worrier.  One cannot read this story without feeling at least a little like Martha and without feeling at least a little conviction.

I think a little conviction is good now and then.  It allows us to examine our lives, our practices, our priorities.  There is no need for guilt.  The story simply allows us to evaluate if we are spending enough ‘Mary time’s or not.  Deep inside we all feel the pull to spend time daily with God and we all know that life is better when we do so.  Once the habit is established, our daily personal time with God is closely guarded and kept sacred.

It does not matter if our Mary time is early in the morning, during our noonday break, or in the evening sometime before bed.  It does not matter if our time with God is relatively short or if it is really long.  Each of us are unique and need to find our own best way to come and sit at Jesus’ feet, to connect our heart and soul to His.  If you do not have Mary time each day, try it for a few weeks.  Pick a spot in the New Testament and read and reflect and pray for a little while each day.  If you do have some Mary time each day, blessings on your time each day in His presence!


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The Parade

Reading: Luke 19: 28-40

Most of life is routine.  We settle into our daily schedules and we prioritize so we can accomplish all we need to get done.  We sometimes experience a blip but we can usually push through and get back on track.  As Jesus began the journey to Jerusalem, He knew the journey would end at the cross.  Not many journeys end this way.  But even Jesus kept on track – He taught and healed along the way as He neared the city.

Then came the parade.  He sent two disciples ahead to find a vehicle for the guest of honor but that was all Jesus did in terms of organizing the parade.  Note that He did not send two disciples to this town and two to this village to drum up a big crowd.  Jesus simply got on a donkey and headed towards Jerusalem.  As the parade continued it picked up momentum on its own.  After all, the guest of honor was someone lots of people had heard about and wanted to see.  By word of mouth the parade route filled up and energy grew.

Clip-clop after clip-clop excitement built and pretty soon the crowd began to sing and shout and cheer.  The people who came out to see Jesus, this simple man who taught and healed in powerful ways, were suddenly cheering for a King who could raise up a powerful army to defeat the Romans.

I think Jesus knew where the building emotions would lead to as the parade continued.  The idea of a King to lead by power and might is just so juxtaposed to who Jesus was.  He never used the power and might that was surely His to use.  Jesus’ power came in how He loved others, in how He built relationships, and in how He humbly served.  The parade served to show the world who Jesus was not.  He lived to show us who He was so that as His disciples we would follow His example.  May we go forth into the world to love, to build relationships, and to serve others humbly, all for His glory and all for His kingdom.


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Hearers and Doers

We communicate in many ways, often without words.  People can easily pick up on our mood just by watching our facial expressions.  The things that matter most in our lives are revealed by the priorities we use to allocate what we do with the free time we have.  We can express ourselves with words as well, but James makes the case that our actions speak louder than our words.

As an individual and as a community of faith, we should have an active faith that shows our beliefs by how we live out our lives.  Simply by observing how we treat others, how we offer ourselves to those in need, and how we handle the adversity that life brings should reveal our faith.  It is often through these observations that we gain the social capital necessary to share the good news of Jesus Christ with another.

Many will gather today in worship.  If a person were to observe your worship today without being able to hear any of the words or the music, would they see joy and praise in you?  Would they see one who is happy to be in the presence of God and one who is lifted by the experience?

As we gather together today for worship, we have much to offer each other.  Today we will have the opportunity to hear the words of life.  It is a choice to listen to and to engage these words so that one can grow in their faith and holiness.  It is a choice to allow the word of God to take root and to continue to ponder how it affects our life as we go through the week ahead.  May we receive what God has to offer today so that we become doers of the word defined by the Word and led by the Holy Spirit.

Scripture reference: James 1: 17-27


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Alignment

David is often called a “man after God’s own heart”.  Although he had his moments of poor choices and bad decisions, in the end David always humbly came back to God seeking His forgiveness.  No matter how mighty or great he would become, David honored God’s call on his life in the end.  David recognized that he was just a small part of God’s plan.

David so desired to return the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem because it symbolized God’s presence with the people of Israel.  To live as a people of faith it is very important to have a sense of God’s presence nearby.  Corporately we gather for worship to gain a sense of God present with us.  Individually we can experience His presence in times of prayer and study as well as at times throughout the day as we feel God through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

David offers extravagant worship to God for allowing the ark to return.  He knew that all is simply better when life is lived in relationship with God and in alignment with His plans.  In this David is a great role model for us.  And like David, we too have a role to play in God’s grand plan for our world.

To live in alignment with this plan we must submit our will, our desires, our plans, our priorities to God’s.  We must align our goals with God’s goals for a world known for justice, love, peace, and grace.  As we live out our lives in alignment with God we bring healing and restoration to our world.  Each and every day as we live as a follower of Jesus Christ, we make a heavenly difference in the world.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 6: 12b-15