pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Blessings to Praise

Reading: Psalm 119: 1-8

Verse 7: “I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous ways”.

Psalm 119 is a very long, long song of praise. The song speaks of the joy found in faithful living. For the Israelites this revolved around the covenants and their relationship with God. To live faithfully brought both joy and blessings to their lives. The psalmist uses the word “blessed” twice in the opening verses. The blessings come when one walks according to the law of the Lord and when one seeks God with all their heart. The blessings are not worldly but are spiritual. The simple presence of God in one’s life and the maturing of one’s faith are the blessings that come through obedient and faithful living.

As Christians we add another layer to this idea of faithful and obedient living. Adding to and fulfilling the Old Testament commandments and bringing a new covenant into the mix, Jesus provides us the best example to follow concerning obedience to God and faithful living in this world. Like our lives, Jesus’ life was not always happiness and hugs. He experienced times of trial and suffering. Jesus had times of grief and sadness. Jesus felt the sting of rejection and the challenge of those who read and interpreted scripture differently than he did. In all cases, though, Jesus consistently looked first to God and not to his own wisdom or strength or to the ways of man. Whether in the moment during ministry or alone on a hillside in prayer, God was always present to and in Jesus’ life. God desires the same relationship with you and with me. Following obediently and living faithfully leads to a close, intimate, personal relationship with God. This is the same blessing that the psalmist speaks of in Psalm 119.

In verse seven we read of the psalmist’s response. Here we read, “I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous ways”. What a joyful response to God’s blessings! This should be our response as well. Our praise can be in worship. It can be in a prayer. It can be in serving another. It can be in walking with someone through their grief or trial. There are many ways to praise the Lord. This day may we seek to be obedient and faithful servants, taking Christ to all we encounter today.

Prayer: Lord God, there is no better journey than the one I walk with you. Whether life is awesome or as bad as it can get, your abiding presence is my constant companion. Help me to walk faithfully all of my days, offering all of me as a fragrant offering to you. May it be so. Amen.


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Attitude

Reading: Philippians 2: 5-11

Verse Five: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus”.

The opening verse from today’s passage is challenging. To try and take on the attitude of Jesus feels like a pretty daunting task. After all, He is Jesus.

Regardless of the pursuit or goal, a good attitude goes a long way in determining success. Some might even argue that it is one of the most important characteristics of people who are successful. I think this applies two ways when we think about our attitude as a follower of Christ. First, our personal attitude or outlook must believe that we can be like Christ. Trusting in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit goes a long way in thinking we can follow Jesus. Second, we must understand Jesus’ attitude and seek to live out what He lived out.

Jesus’ attitude is revealed in two actions in today’s passage. First, He “made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant”. For us to take on this attitude, like Jesus, we must first die to self. Only when we have given up the rights to our own selfish desires and wants can we truly take on the heart of a servant. From this place of surrender, Jesus was able to meet all where they were at and to meet their needs as He could. The idea expressed by John the Baptist applies well here: I must become less so that He can become more.

The second attitude we see today is, “he humbled himself and became obedient to death”. In many ways, the second is like the first attitude. It is maybe an extension of the first too. Humility does have something to do with becoming nothing, but it also acknowledges God’s role in our successes. We see God’s presence as what brings us success in following Jesus. It is not our own doing. Over and over Jesus credited God. So too should we. The idea of becoming obedient to death helps us to understand the depth of commitment to the other. First most of us, sacrifice of time or resources is what will be required. But for some, it may be the giving one’s life. It is hard to know if we could do such a thing when pressed to the choice.

Today and every day, may we strive to have the attitude of Jesus Christ, loving and serving all we meet.


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Jesus, Our Superhero Model

Jesus was an amazing combination of real human and heavenly God.  He was like a superhero – normal person most of the time – yet now and then demonstrating the amazing.  And true to superhero code – He never used his powers for his own good!  But more often than not, Jesus was a humble servant – to any and to all.

We most often live in the ordinary.  Just a simple person, getting by day after day.  Yet once in a while we have the chance to step into the amazing.  We have the opportunity to live beyond the human limitations.  Sometimes we find it in a time of prayer or perhaps during worship.  It is that amazing moment simply being in His presence.  Sometimes we find it when we step out of our own comfort zone and into another’s world to engage them where they are at.  This idea is what awes me about Jesus – he accepted all he met at face value and offered what he could to them.  So often when we do for others, they are certainly helped but it is us who has gained the most.

In John 10:10 Jesus promised, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  Got your cape and tights ready?  Where will you find and give life abundantly today?


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Justice and Mercy – Room to Grow!

The lectionary readings for this week are centered around the idea of living a life that reflects what is important to God and not centered on what the world says is important or powerful or to be sought after. Living in God’s economy may be the way to look at it – investing ourselves into the people we encounter seeking ways to make their lives better when we can.

In Micah 5 the people of Israel are accused of the various economic injustices that exist. They have transitioned from oppressed to oppressor. It is a hard line to cross and not be vengeful or abusive of the newfound power. Micah 6: 2b reads: “For the Lord has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel.” In the days of Micah, Israel was the Jewish people. In our times, we are Israel.

In a corporate sense, God can still make a pretty compelling case against His people. If the question were to be: “Do we do ALL we can to help the poor and oppressed living in various places around the world?” then my answer would be a loud ‘No’. As I pondered this I thought about the clothes I wear that were made by barely-paid people working in unsafe conditions. I thought about all the food I eat that came from the hands of over-worked and under-paid people. Part of me knows that slowly things are improving for people, but part of me wonders what else I could do.

If the question got more personal and became: “Do I do ALL I can to help the poor and oppressed in the community in which I live?” then I would have a hard time defending my case or my position. True, my calling is not to just work with this segment of our society, but at times I do have an opportunity to be justice and mercy for someone. And do I always extend these when I can? Mostly, but not always. So in the week ahead, it will be on my heart and mind to seek ways to better answer these questions. It is my hope and prayer that you will join me as well!