pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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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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Walking with God

Reading: Mark 10: 23-27

Verse 24: “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God”.

Today we continue in the aftermath of the young man walking away sad. Remember, a part of him ran to Jesus to find out how he could inherit eternal life. Probably as he can still be seen walking away, Jesus says, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven”. We can be rich in many things and in many ways. For example, an abundance of pride can be a great barrier to the kingdom. Looked at another way, in America we are all rich when compared to most people around the world. In this instance Jesus is talking about material wealth. This is a topic that Jesus teaches on frequently. Wealth or possessions often are people’s idols, over and above their faith in God. Money or wealth isn’t our only idols. To this point, Jesus perhaps turns the situation more general, saying, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God”. It is indeed hard. The road is narrow and the choices are challenging; there is a cost to discipleship.

Our pursuit of God is unlike our pursuit of money or status or popularity or anything else. With all the idols that we can pursue, the pursuit is intermittent. For example, we can work really hard for a time for that title that brings the recognition that we desire. Once we attain that, it only requires periodic maintenance. But in our relationship with God, our pursuit of God must be 24-7. We cannot take take away from being in a relationship with God to live as a person of the world for a time. God must be our sole focus, our sole purpose in life. The well-known ‘What would Jesus do?’ (WWJD) question must be our filter for all decisions, situations, and experiences.

To pursue God 24-7 is difficult. The disciples were literslky with Jesus all the time yet knew struggle. They ask Jesus, “Who then can be saved”? It is a legitimate question. On our own we cannot be saved. Salvation is not about what we do. It is all about what Jesus had already done. Just as on our own we cannot be saved, on our own we cannot pursue God 24-7. There is hope though. Jesus speaks our hope today: “All things are possible with God”. With God we can do all things. If we are in a personal relationship with God, we can walk with God 24-7 because God is pursuing us too. God’s voice whispers out when we need a reminder, His Spirit prompts us when we need a nudge or a redirect. Walking with God all things are indeed possible. May we each walk with God today and every day.

Lord, I love you and want to walk with you always. In those moments when I am weak, I know you will be strong. Thank you Lord! Amen.


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The Maker

Reading: Proverbs 22: 1-2, 8-9, & 22-23

Verse 2: “Rich and poor have this in common: the Lord is Maker of them all”.

Our three pairs of verses from Proverbs 22 all deal with the same subject. It is a man-made subject but God is certainly aware of it. For as long as humanity has existed, some have been rich and some have been poor. Sure, we use other words too: haves and have-nots, blessed and cursed, upper class and lower class, fortunate and unfortunate… Rich and poor are but two of many words we use to classify, categorize, and even judge people. We also judge by education, location, position, ethnicity, gender, religion, politics,…

Our passage today deals with a topic that we can find many, many other places in the Bible: God cares for the poor. The argument for why is the same argument for any category we choose. Verse two reads, “Rich and poor have this in common: the Lord is Maker of them all”. One can substitute any two words that represent two ends of a spectrum for ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ and the bottom line is still the same: the Lord is Maker of them all.

Let us remember these seven words the next time we want to judge or exclude or condemn someone. In a world where we are all sinners, some saved by grace, we must seek to love others above all else. Beneath any label and under that really thin layer of covering that we call skin, all of our hearts are the same. All of humanity longs to be loved and to belong and to be valued. This was how Jesus lived His life. May we choose to do so as well.

Maker of all, give me a heart to love one and all. Give me eyes to see hearts and not anything else. Help me to love and care for and welcome one and all, just as Jesus did. Amen.


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A Beautiful Love

Reading: 2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:7a

Verses 5 & 6: “David burned with anger against the man… He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity”.

Today’s passage comes in the aftermath of David’s affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah. We recall that David simply took what he wanted and then did what needed done to cover up the problem. At least that’s how David saw it. As the king, there was nothing outside of his appetite. David is far from that young shepherd boy that God anointed years before.

We too can get to a similar point. No, we may not commit adultery or murder, but we can commit a sin and do as David did. We can try and rationalize it in our minds. We can try and make ourselves feel better through a variety of distractions. We can tell ourselves that ‘x’ is a sin but at least it is not ‘y’. And a favorite: we tell ourselves that we are not as bad as ___. The other trap we fall into is offering up a hollow and insincere admission of sin. Yet even as we do so we are thinking about committing that sin again. There is no repentance involved.

To bring David face to face with his sin, God sends Nathan to tell David a story. There is a rich man with many, many lambs. There is a poor man with only one lamb. The rich man probably hasn’t even seen all the sheep he owns. The poor man treats the one lamb that he owns as if it were his child. When a guest arrives at the rich man’s home, instead of taking one from his own vast flock, the rich man takes the poor man’s one and only lamb. The poor shepherd boy in him kicks in and “David burned with anger against the man… He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity”. What a consequence David metes out! The wealthy man with a vast flock of wives and concubines now stands in the shoes of the one poor soldier with only one wife to love and cherish.

Nathan says to David, “You are the man”! At once David recognizes the depth of his sin. We too come to these moments. Maybe it is the Holy Spirit, maybe it is a ‘Nathan’ that God has sent into our lives. God sends us a messenger to draw us back into a right relationship with Him. The conviction falls heavy upon us and we fall before the throne, begging for mercy. In that moment, Christ reaches out, helps us up, and reminds us that the price has been paid. Once again we are made new, holy and perfect in His sight. It is a beautiful love that we find in Christ. Thanks be to God.


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The Light of God

Reading: 2nd Corinthians 4: 5-6

Verse Five: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake”.

In Jesus we receive the fuller revelation of God. In Jesus we get a witness to the love of God for humanity. In Jesus, God in the flesh, we witness what it looks like to love each other as God loves us. Through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ we welcome His light to shine in our hearts, illuminating the path to walk as we follow Jesus in our daily lives. This light is the “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”. Just as it was when Moses encountered God in the Old Testament, this light is the goodness and love of God shining out into the world.

It is the light of Jesus Christ inside each of us that shines out into the lives of all we meet. It is the light that guides us to preach and serve. Paul writes, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake”. There is both words and actions in how we share our faith with others. With words we seek to share the good news if what Jesus has done for the world and what He has done in our lives. In those words we proclaim Jesus as the Lord of our lives and we invite others to do the same. We seek to do the same as we serve those we encounter each day. Through acts of piety and mercy we invite others into a relationship with Jesus. In doing these things we become the fuller revelation of God to others. We bear witness to the love of God for humanity. We testify to His love with our love. All of this is said and done “for Jesus’ sake” – to bring glory to God.

This idea of sharing our faith by both words and actions begs the question: to whom do we go? We are commissioned by Jesus to make disciples of all people. We are sent to the rich and the poor, the lowly and the esteemed, the educated and the illiterate, to those like us and to those who are different from us. Herein lies one of the greatest challenges of our faith. It is easy to share the love of Jesus with our fellow believers. It is even relatively easy to share Jesus when with a group serving at the local mission, for example. The difficulty comes in those moments when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable, in those situations when we encounter someone who is different than us. Even then – especially then – the light of God that shines in us must be shared. May we be willing to let that light shine out into the world. When we do we will find that it illuminates something familiar as we see the face of Christ in the new friend that we have met. It is then that His glory is revealed. May we be willing today and every day.


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Simply a Gift

Reading: Ephesians 2: 4-10

Verse Eight: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and is it not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

In the grand scheme of our faith, being saved into eternal life is the hope we have in this world. To draw near to the end of life knowing one is destined for eternal glory brings comfort and assurance that is hard to describe. The opposite end of the spectrum, life without hope, brings despair and a “what now?” feeling of helplessness and finality. It is hard for me to imagine living without hope, yet some do.

Once we make the choice to enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, we see and experience life differently. Our connection to God and His love journeys with us both in the joys and in the trials of life. We have a definite sense that we are not alone. In those times of joy we know that God’s hand is at work, bringing us blessing. In times of trial, we can feel God’s hand upon us, guiding and supporting us. The one who created all things created us and desires to journey through life with us. All we need to do is invite Him in.

As we get to know Jesus, we begin to live into the “immeasurable riches of grace” that Paul writes of in verse seven. As we live into His grace, we begin to understand the nature of these riches. As we do so, we soon come to learn two things. First, God’s grace is unlimited and always available. Second, it is not earned or gotten somehow by us – it is a free gift. In verse eight Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and is it not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”. Saved through faith by grace. Simply a gift. Oh what love! Thanks be to God. Amen.


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Strong and Loving

Reading: Psalm 62: 9-12

Verses 11 and 12: “O God, you are strong… O Lord, you are loving”.

There is a shift as we move into the second part of our reading from Psalm 62.  Verses five through eight were all about placing our trust in God and today’s passage begins by reminding us of our limits and shortcomings as human beings.  The psalmist reminds us that no matter how rich or poor we think we are, no matter how important or lowly we think we are, it does not matter because we are simply a breath.  Soon we will be no more.  For the psalmist, this means that all of our hope and trust must be in God alone.  The things of this world and our pride will not last and they will not save us.

The Psalm reminds us that we are all equally powerless before God.  Even though we know deep down that we really cannot control much in this life and that when our time comes we cannot delay it in any way, we still turn to things like riches and position to determine our worth.  We also tend to compare ourselves to others to feel value.  And too often when we feel that we do not compare well, we turn to judging others as a means to elevate ourselves.  Things have not changed too much since the Psalm was written.

Our passage today comes near to a close with these words: “O God, you are strong… O Lord, you are loving”.  In the face of our pettiness and frailty, we are reminded of the eternal truths of God.  God remains strong and loving in all ways and at all times.  When we can choose to focus on God’s goodness and strength and love, then we can rest content in who we are as a child of God.  When we know God in this way, the things of this world pale.  Yes, we are but a breath, but we are a breath that has been breathed by God.

As our passage closes, it speaks of rewarding us accordingly.  When we walk this life with a deep and abiding trust in God’s strength and love, then we are assured of our eternity with God.  Our future does not get any better than that!  Each and every day may we trust into the only thing that truly lasts – the Lord our God.