pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Heart, Mind, and Soul

Reading: Romans 10: 8b-13

Verse 9: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”.

Paul writes this letter to the church in Rome longing to visit Rome. It is a trip that he will eventually make. But for this present letter, he is writing to help them understand the core of the faith and how to live as a community of believers in a pagan world. As chapter ten opens Paul is explaining that one cannot live a Christian life simply by obeying the Law. The law is only a knowledge of what is right or wrong. Following the rules is good, but this alone does not make one righteous. In verse 8 Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 30. He reminds the Romans that the word of God is in their hearts and in their mouths. In this chapter Moses is encouraging the people to “choose life” – to love God and to walk in His ways. For Moses it is the same as for Paul: live out your faith in love. Allow God to dwell in your heart, in your mind, and in your soul. Yes, follow the law, but even more than that, let God’s love flow from all you do and say and think. Allow God’s love to be the core of who you are.

Paul then goes on to the next step in verse 9. In our hearts we believe. Then our voice joins in, professing faith in Christ. In this verse Paul shares the essence of the gospel, writing, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. To confess this with our mouth, we must believe it in our heart. We cannot know that Jesus is Lord, we must believe that Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the Lord in our lives because we believe that He is the Lord over sin and death.

Jesus defeated the two greatest weapons that the world has when He went to the cross and when He walked out of the grave. Sin has no power over us because Jesus has already paid the price for atonement. Yes, we do sin but because the price has been paid, because the sacrifice was given. When we confess and repent, Jesus says, ‘You are forgiven’. We move forward as a new creation in Christ, holy and pure, leaving behind any guilt or shame. Jesus also defeated the power of death. There is no fear or unknown or thinking this is the end. Jesus said because He lives, we too shall live. If we put our faith in Jesus as Lord, then He is the way to eternal life. We are saved when we profess, “Jesus is Lord”!

This day and each day, may Christ dwell in our heart and in our mouth and in our soul. May all we see, think, do, say, and feel reflect the love of Christ that is in us. In doing so, we proclaim Jesus is Lord with all of our heart, mind, and soul. May it be so.

Prayer: God of all of creation, be my all in all. This day and every day fill me with your love so that my life is that love lived out. Fill me so much that this is all there is in me. May I be fully yours. Amen.


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Witness

Reading: Mark 12: 41-44

Verse 43: “This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others”.

This passage is a hard passage for many Christians today. Part of me wonders if it is a stay-home passage. That is a passage that people know is being preached on so they choose to stay home from church that day or they quit reading the blog at that point. It is a passage that challenges us to our core if we are willing to consider Jesus’ message and to really look within to see if we are equalling the example set by the widow.

“This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others”. She only put in two small copper coins. They were worth just a fraction of a day’s wages. This would be equivalent to a $40,000 a year business person putting in a couple of dollars at church today. Jesus and the disciples have watched rich person after rich person throw large sums of money into the temple treasury. Compared to their large gifts, it is hard to say that the widow’s offering is “more” than theirs. Yet Jesus says it is more. In fact, more than all the others.

No matter how big or small our offering is today in terms of cash value, I wonder if Jesus would say our offering was “more” when set beside all the other gifts brought to our church today? It is NOT about the cash value of the gift but is about the cost to the giver. A four-year-old could bring the best offering today, just as the widow did. Jesus explains why the widow’s gift was such. Jesus says, “They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on”. Wow.

Some folks blanch at the word “tithe”. Compared to the widow’s faith, even 10% might look weak. There was not only great cost for the widow, there was a deep, deep faith on display. When you consider what you bless your church or community of faith with each week, does it demonstrate such cost and such faith in God? In not, I ask you to reconsider your faith.

Dear Father who blesses me so richly: may I ever give to you as the widow gave. Whether my time or my money or my gifts, may the portion I give you reflect the love you have for me. Amen.


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Reflecting His Glory

Reading: Acts 17: 22-28

Verse 24: … the Lord of heaven and earth​… does not live in temples built by human hands.

Today’s passage finds Paul in Athens.  He is there doing what he always did: sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.  But Athens is not Jerusalem.  It is the center of the Greek world and has overlays of the Roman world as well.  Centuries of philosophers have sat in the Aeropagus and argued and debated all aspects and facets of life.  They have covered mortality and religion, ethics and justice, their own existence and the meaning of life.  Paul observes that the culture is very polytheistic.  They worship many different gods.  Paul takes all of this into account as he begins his sermon this day.  He begins by sharing the observation that they are very religious and then turns to the “unknown god” statue.  Paul goes on to proclaim the unknown god to be the God of all creation.  He even quotes a couple of Greek philosophers to help his case.  Paul is using a piece of the dominant culture to win over his audience.  We too have an opportunity to do this as well.

Where will you find yourself coming up against non-believers today?  Will it be at work?  At lunch?  Out on your walk?  And will they be worshipping an unknown god?  As we consider all of this, we also must how we could do that Paul did – use some of today’s popular culture to tie back into our God and our faith.  Maybe it is by working with integrity and honor and finding success on God’s terms.  Maybe it is by being gracious and by practicing Good listening skills while at lunch.  Maybe it is by noticing the person on the street and by taking a moment to be the hands and feet of Jesus for them.  There are many ways to meet people where they are at and to bring our faith into the situation.  Allow the Holy Spirit to lead!

But maybe you are not quite here yet.  Maybe today’s passage speaks to your own ‘unknown god’.  Is it parked in the garage?  Does it sit on a large lot?  Is it kept safe in a vault?  Or is it fragile and rests upon the opinions of others?  At times it can be easy to worship idols.  So maybe our challenge today is to identify our idol and to begin to let it go.  Paul stated, “the Lord of heaven and earth​… does not live in temples built by human hands”.  Are we living or acting as if God did live here?

Wherever we find ourselves in today’s passage, may we strive for our life to reflect His glory, “for in Him we live and move and have our being”.


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Growing

In our relationship with Jesus Christ we can be doing one of three things: we can grow to be more like Him, we can stay where we are, or we can become less like Him.  In Revelation 3:16 Jesus warns us that if we are lukewarm, He will ‘vomit’ us out.  Another word for lukewarm would be stagnant and no one wants to be stagnant.  The path of becoming less like Jesus is the path of sin and that only leads to death and destruction.  Paul instead urges us to seek to grow from “one degree of glory to another” as we strive to grow in our faith.

As Moses’ face reflected God’s glory, our lives should also reflect God’s glory that is within us.  The love that Jesus has for us is the love that we should reflect to others.  He challenges us to love others as He first loved us.  As we grow in our faith and in the depth of our understanding of Jesus, we come to know more and more how deep and vast and wide His love is for us.  As we grow in this way, we are in essence moving from one degree of glory to the next as our lives come to reflect His love more and more to those around us.

This transformation that is occurring in us should be noticeable to those in our lives.  If we are growing in our faith, others should see this.  The love and compassion we exhibit should slowly grow.  The care and understanding we offer should slowly become greater and greater.  The depth of mercy and forgiveness we extend should be ever-increasing.  In all aspects of our lives we should be seeking to become more and more like Christ.  This day may we strive to grow a little more in our faith, growing so that we may know Jesus more, reflecting His glory in increasing measure.

Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 3:17 to 4:2


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Wrestling Towards Perfection

When we question things, sometimes the answers we find surprise us.  Sometimes the answer forces us to wrestle with something and perhaps this, in turn, causes us to grow.  The question that the scribe asks Jesus is a genuine and deep question.  Jesus’ answer is direct and forces the scribe to wrestle a bit.  In the end, he at least considers a new reality and that is good.

At times we too must wrestle with our faith.  It is essential at times to reflect on how our walk with God is, on how sin is affecting our life, and on our dedication and service to God.  Questions about how closely we are following and if we are giving enough of ourselves are great questions to wrestle with.

Jesus’ answer to the scribe made him question his definition of loving neighbors, and, in particular, about not exploiting them.  It would not have been very hard for the scribe to see all the ways exploitation was occurring.  The big question is did it bring about change in behavior.

The same is generally true for us.  If we really spend time wrestling with where we are in our faith and with being the hands and feet of Christ, then we often see how we could be or do more.  In living a faith that follows Jesus Christ, we are ever on a road towards perfection.  Like Paul, may we too press on toward the goal to win the prize of eternal life.

Scripture reference: Mark 12: 28-34


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Love: Sacrificial and All-In

Throughout our lifetimes many relationships will end.  Some childhood and high school and even college friends drift apart and life takes each a different way.  Sometimes people have to move to a new state or city.  Sometimes life comes to an end for one of the people in the relationship.  Sometimes our approach to marriage is similar.  They drift apart, one moves in a new direction, or one passes.  For some couples, divorce is the solution.  It is just a little easier to part ways than it is to keep it together.  For some people their marriage with the church comes to an end.  Both of these endings may be because of drift or because one changed or because of  hurt that occurred.

Both of these marriage relationships should reflect the love of Christ for us.  Recently scientists discovered that over time in a long-term, committed relationship something called ‘pair bonding’ occurs.  As it was once written: the two shall become one.  The love of Christ must be at the center of our human marriages as well as at the heart of our relationship with God and His church.

Every relationship has the potential to end.  In our human marriage the goal when it begins is ‘to death do us part’.  We pledge love and loyalty through thick and thin.  And couples really do mean it on day one.  When one chooses to join and be attached to a church, the words are much the same as is the intent.

The reality is both marriages take work.  A lot of work – both personal and as a ‘couple’.  Although there are circumstances that cause a split, these should be far fewer than they are.  Our love in these marriages needs to reflect the pure love that Jesus Christ demonstrated.  Our effort in these relationships should reflect His effort and commitment at the cross.  May our love also be sacrificial and all-in.

Scripture reference: Mark 10: 2-12