pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Redemption

Reading: Ruth 3: 1-5

Verse 1: “My daughter, should I not try and find a home for you, where you will be provided for”?

Our passage today opens with Naomi expressing concern for Ruth. Naomi says to Ruth, “My daughter, should I not try and find a home for you, where you will be provided for”? Ruth has shown deep dedication to Naomi, leaving her own land to follow Naomi home to Israel so that she can care for and provide for her. Both are widows when they arrive in Israel. Naomi realizes that Ruth is young enough to remarry and knows that this would bring security to her future. Based upon her past actions and loyalty, Naomi probably felt assured that Ruth would continue to care for her.

Boaz, the man Naomi identifies as a good potential husband, is family. There is family there with closer ties, but Boaz has demonstrated kindness and good character towards Ruth already. They first met when Ruth was gleaning in his fields along with his servant girls. He shows her favor and is familiar with her story. Naomi identifies Boaz as a “kinsman redeemer” – a term for a relative who rescues a family member from trouble or a difficult situation. His invitation to continue to work in his fields and the instructions to his men to leave extra stalks for her indicate that he is stepping into this role.

Naomi suggests that Ruth go to and lie down at Boaz’s feet. She lies in the this place as a sign of respect. Servants would often sleep at the feet of their master. Uncovering his feet was also cultural and symbolic. In doing so, Ruth let Boaz know that she was there and she was using the customs of the day to nonverbally ask him to share his coverings with her. Culturally this was a right that the servants had. Symbolically she was asking him to provide for her. Boaz would go on to redeem her as his wife.

In our passage Ruth continues to show love for Naomi through her obedience. She also trusted that God would continue to guide and bless her. Ruth’s faithfulness to both God and her family are models that we can follow. In doing so, she finds redemption. She is restored to new life. This day, may we take the opportunities that God provides to offer love and care to the other, opening their eyes to the redemption that God offers to all.

Lord, may Ruth’s model of love and care be my way of living too. Help me to open others eyes to the redemption that you offer. Amen.

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What a Savior!

Reading: Mark 10: 17-22

Verse 20: “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy”.

In our passage we begin with the young man. He runs up to Jesus and falls on his knees before Him. The young man is eager to see Jesus. He has a question to ask. He runs to Jesus. The young man also looks up to Jesus or at least to His reputation. The young man falls on his knees – a sign of respect and a recognition of authority. And then the young man asks a spiritual, heartfelt question of Jesus. He desires eternal life and wants to know what he must do to gain it. Oh that we would approach Jesus each day like this young man approached Jesus!

Jesus and the young man’s conversation begins with keeping the Law. This was the goal for all devout Jews. Jesus and the disciples were in Judea so we can safely assume this young man was a devout Jew. He answers Jesus’ inquiry well, saying, “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy”. He has followed the rules. From the interactions we see between Jesus and the Pharisees and other religious leaders, following the rules, keeping the Law, was all that mattered. We too like rules. Go to church on Sunday. Receive communion once a month. Sing the songs. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Pay attention during the sermon. Put a little something in the offering plate. See you next Sunday.

Like us, the young man follows the rules, he checks the boxes. But God is not his all in all. Maybe God has most of this young man’s heart, perhaps even 90 or 95% of it. And in spite of his lack of total commitment, verse 21 says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him”. What a Savior! This is the story played out on the cross. Jesus looked at mankind and our proclivity to sin and said, ‘I love you anyway’. Jesus endured the cross, taking all of our sins upon Himself, so that we could continue to run up to Him and kneel before Him. When we do, when we come to our Lord and Savior, and imperfect as we are, Jesus looks upon us and loves us. What a Savior. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Loving Savior, thank you do much for loving me as I am. There is nothing I can do and no one and no thing can separate me from your love. Thank you Lord! 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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A World of Yes

Reading: Matthew 5: 27-37

As Jesus continues in Matthew 5, He shifts from murder and anger to the topics of adultery, divorce, and making oaths.  In much the same way as He did with murder, Jesus looks at these three as individual acts, but now adds their impact on society.  In doing so, Jesus seeks to contrast the envisioned culture of God against the current culture of man.  Jesus is laying out a vision for a new world order, one based on an economy of equality and honesty and compassion.

In each of these short teachings on adultery, divorce, and oaths, Jesus is recasting how we should look at these.  Just as with ‘do not murder’ resting upon our anger as it’s root, in these cases Jesus also delves deeper and looks at the impact of these three on the larger culture and society.  In cases of adultery, divorce, and breaking oaths, at the core is our commitment to one another.  In the culture of the day, in Jewish Law, the cases dealing with adultery and divorce  really only expressed concern for the man.  Jesus says, OK then, let the man be responsible.  Jesus says if you look lustfully at a woman, you have committed adultery.  This follows with admonition to then poke your eye out so that you do not continue to sin.  Jesus goes on to say that divorce cannot come on the whim of the man, but can come only in cases of marital unfaithfulness.  In both cases, Jesus is protecting and elevating the status of women and establishing a much higher standard of accountability for all people.

Jesus continues this theme as He turns to making oaths.  He is straightforward – do not swear by anything.  Simply let you ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.  Simple as that.  No more, no less.  This concept can, of course, be applied back to the first two topics: adultery and divorce.  When we say ‘yes’ to Jesus, we are saying ‘no’ to the world.  Our ‘yes’ to Jesus means saying ‘no’ to the desires of the flesh and to our own selfish desires.  It means honoring and respecting all people as equals, as children of God worthy of our love.  This of course extends to marriage – in the “I do” we are saying ‘yes’ to being faithful and obedient and loving to our spouses.

Jesus is calling for a world based on relationships that honor and uphold one another, that place love and concern and care for one another above our own well-being.  He is calling us to live as He lived, bringing honor and glory to God in all we do, say, and to think.  May it be so.


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Faith and Relationship

Jesus grew up and lived for almost 30 years in the same small town.  Almost everyone in town must have known Him.  But they knew Him in the kid-next-door sense.  They had watched Mary and Joseph raise Jesus.  The saw Him do all the things boys from good Jewish homes do – He read and studied the Scripture, He participated in the Passover and other holidays each year, He learned His father’s trade.  When Jesus began His ministry it was away from His hometown.  This passage tells us that as a teacher and healer, He was respected and admired.

In today’s reading we find Jesus back at home.  He reads a passage from Isaiah and all spoke well of Him.  They were amazed at the words that came from His mouth.  But then Jesus spoke of other prophets who went to and ministered to those from ‘outside’.  What He was implying stirred the people up to the point that they were about to throw Him off of a cliff.

It is interesting that this story is in the Bible.  It is not a feel-good story and the people do not seem to gain any understanding from Jesus’ words.  They seem to miss the fact that Naaman was healed by faith.  They don’t remember that the prophet went to the widow in Sidon because of her deep faith.  In His hometown the people knew Jesus the person.  They did not know the Messiah.  The teachings and healing that they were hearing about were admired and respected, not believed.  In essence Jesus was saying that they lacked faith.  They had to have faith, not just know who Jesus was.

The same is true for us.  We can know all the stories in the Bible.  But we must go beyond simply knowing the stories and must enter into a personal relationship with Jesus.  We must believe that the stories are true and that Jesus’ miracles still happen in our lives.  We must call on Him as Lord and Savior to allow any of His power to begin to work in our lives.  Believe.  Have faith.  Know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Scripture reference: Luke 4: 21-30


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What Should We Do?

Many people came out into the wilderness to see John the Baptist.  He preached a simple message of repentance.  He told people to get rid of the sin in their lives so that they were ready for the coming of the messiah.  Instead of looking within and searching their souls, many people asked John, “What should we do?”  His advice was pretty simple.

To the common person who asked, John said if you have two of something, to give to one who has none.  In doing so today we can clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, feed the hungry, and visit the orphan, widow, and prisoner.  Yes, this sharing includes our time and our presence.

To the tax collector, many of whom were know to overtax so that they could line  their own pockets, John said to collect only what is due.  For the business owner this means to charge a fair price and to pay a fair wage.  To the employee, to be content with your fair pay.

John’s advice to the soldier was to not extort or otherwise abuse one’s authority.  This advise extends to all in positions of authority – to the judges and other government officials, to teachers and parents, to caregivers and providers, and to all else who have authority over another.  In essence, John is saying to treat others with respect and dignity.

As we ask this same question, “What should we do?”, may we heed John’s advice.  May we lay aside the greed, the self-centeredness, the desire for power and may we pursue the things he championed – sharing, giving, treating others well, and offering of self to others.  What great ways to prepare ourselves for the coming of the messiah.

Scripture reference: Luke 3: 10-18


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As We Begin

Psalm 8 is both humbling and empowering.  It poses the question, “what is man that you are mindful of him?” amidst the reflections on all that God has amazingly created.  Yet the psalm also acknowledges that God made man “ruler over the works of your hands.”  Within the setting of this psalm though it is a ruling full of love, respect, honor, and care.

“Turn, turn, turn…”  Ecclesiastes 3 is also a great passage to start off 2015.  ‘To everything there is a season.’  Yes, remember the great Simon and Garfunkel song – a time to be born, a time to die, a time to…  This passage (and song) is such a great reminder of the natural give and take that life really requires and that is a part of God’s plan.

As we begin a new year, may we take a moment to consider where we fit in and contribute to this masterpiece that God has created.  To contribute we must be attuned to the world and people around us.  Our common experiences combined with our common faith connects us together in one huge family.  May God grant us eyes to see His world from His perspective and hearts to live and love as He loves.

Scripture references: Psalm 8 and Ecclesiastes 3: 1-13