pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Delve Deeper

Reading: Matthew 13: 24-30

Verse 24: The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.

Today’s parable immediately follows the parable of the sower with the four soils and the parable’s explanation.  Just as the audience is nodding in approval as they wrap their heads around this teaching, Jesus begins another parable with, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field”.  Yes, God is good so He would sow good seed.  Many would have thought back to the thorny soil in the last parable and connected the thorns with the evil one.  It is a logical connection.  But maybe not.  This is the nature of the parables.  They are intended to make us think, to lead us to delve deeper than the surface understandings, to challenge and push us forward, to pull us up short and to lead us to repentance.

Most folks who walked up as Jesus began the parable would understand the opening scene.  Evil has always existed in our world and evil men do evil things.  In almost all fields,weeds seem to be a constant presence.  And no, I did not plant weeds in my garden; but, yes, there are a lot of them.  So maybe the people there that day just dismissed the weeds as the ‘staff’ of everyday life.  For some, maybe Satan was the planter.  After all, he sows temptations into our lives all the time.

But then comes the twist.  No, don’t pull the weeds.  Let them grow alongside the wheat.  Huh?  The audience with the nodding heads would have become still.  Quizzical faces would have developed.  I imagine a long pause here by Jesus – for full effect.  Today we read the last verse and our mind connects to the judgment that will come.  Weeds to hell, good crop to heaven. Got it!

But do we?  Was or is that Jesus’ meaning?  What else could it mean?  How else could it apply to our lives?  What if the parable is about how we mature in our faith, not removing the sin until our roots are strong enough not to fall right back into it?  Just one of many possible applications!  Think, delve deep, wrestle with the things of God, find meaning for yourself.  God’s blessings on the journey.


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Choice

Reading: Romans 8: 1-11

Verse Six: The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

Why do people choose to follow Jesus?  Why do some folks choose to worship God and live their lives by what is written in the Bible?  Why do some folks choose a path in life that is hard and narrow instead of walking a road that is wide and easy to meander down?  Why do some people make these choices in deciding to be a Christian?  Why do you?

Choosing to follow Jesus and to live according to His example is a choice.  In many ways, it is a choice that runs against the norm.  By nature we are wired to seek pleasure and to desire to feel good.  Our society ingrains in us the drive to succeed and accomplish and excel – all good things in and of themselves.  Our culture champions messages like ‘just do it’ and ‘of’ it makes you feel good…’  Put all together, the world says to live for self and to just enjoy life to the max.  For some, this is their choice and this is how they live their lives.  Paul writes of these folks: “The mind of the sinful man is death”.

When one chooses to walk the wide and easy way that leads to death, life is fun and exciting and entertaining most of the time.  But soon one realizes there is something missing.  One senses that there is more to life than what they are living.  There is a void.  Philosopher Blaise Pascal described this as the “God-shaped hole in all of us”.  We are created by God in His image.  Therefore, God has a place to fill in our lives.  When we make the choice to fill the hole with God, we are choosing to be whole and complete.  We are making the choice to be a Christian.  Paul also writes of this choice: “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace”.

We make the choice to follow Christ.  It is through this choice that we find life eternal and peace beyond all human understanding.  Here we find that Jesus is our all in all, our everything.  Thank you Jesus.


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Life in the Spirit

Reading: Romans 8: 1-11

Verse Two: Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Paul opens our passage today with a strong statement: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ”.  This is a central theme of the gospel message.  Jesus took on the sin of the world and triumphed over it as He rose from the grave and ascended to heaven.  Through the sacrifice of His body and blood we are forgiven and made righteous.  We no longer have to live with sin and guilt and shame.  Through Jesus’ loving act on the cross we are freed from all of this.  In grace we are made new and restored to righteousness.  Paul writes of this in verse two: “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death”.  We are set free as well!

For most of the passage, Paul focuses on sin versus righteousness.  Paul argues that the sinful man focuses on the desires of the flesh and is self-centered and is hostile to God.  The sinful man leads a life that ends in death.  Paul contrasts this with the man who lives led by the Spirit.  The Spirit led man focuses on the desires of God and is Good-centered and tries to please God.  The Spirit led man lives a life of peace that leads to eternal life.  The key to which life one leads is determined by whether or not Jesus is in one’s life.  Paul argues that if Christ is in us, then we will lead a life that is led by the Spirit.

Paul is, of course, writing here of the big picture.  Either we are trying to live by the Spirit or we are trying to live by the flesh.  The deciding factor is professing Jesus as Lord of our life.  Once we make this decision it does not mean that we will never sin again.  It means that our focus is on living a righteous life that is pleasing to God.  Life in the Spirit means that the Holy Spirit will guide and lead and convict us, making our battle with sin more often victorious.  The good news is that when we do slip and sin, there is no condemnation because Christ had already defeated sin and death.  Instead of condemnation we are given mercy and grace and forgiveness.  Through Him eternal victory is in our grasp.  For this we say thanks be to God!


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Choose Jesus

Reading: Matthew 11: 25-30

Verse 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… You will find rest for your souls.

Jesus invites all who are “weary and burdened” to come to Him.  In the time Jesus lived, many met these conditions.  The Romans who ruled the land extracted high taxes that was a great burden to many.  Their different gods and laws also placed a burden on the people.  Living in this kind of oppression made the people weary.  And for many, the Jewish Law added another layer.  It was burdensome and made people even more weary.  From Jesus’ perspective the Law was cumbersome and impossible to keep on one’s own.

Today many people feel weary and burdened.  The lifestyle people live brings these conditions upon them.  For some it is self-imposed and for others it is their reality.  Some in our society choose to be so busy and involved in so many things that they feel like they are always running on empty.  Others in our society feel weary and burdened because of their circumstances in life.  Some in this group work and work but feel like they never can get to a place of stability and peace.  The money never seems to cover all the bills and the choice must be made between food and electricity.  Others in this group are weary and burdened because of addictions or abusive behaviors and always feel trapped and hopeless.

Jesus called out to all the people of His day and continues to call out to us today who feel weary and burdened.  Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… You will find rest for your souls”.  He invites us to walk a different path, to live a better way.  It begins by being yoked to Jesus.  This begins by professing Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives and dedicating our life to following Him.  In doing so, we commit to learning from Jesus and the example He set.  One may wonder, why take on more?  Because Jesus will bring you rest.  He will help carry those burdens and troubles.  He will give strength and courage to face those sins and demons.  With Jesus’ yoke we find contentment and peace in our lives.  To all who are weary and burdened, choose Jesus, for “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.  Choose Jesus.


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Who Will Rescue?

Reading: Romans 7: 15-25

Verse 15: For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Paul’s honest passage surely hits home.  The struggle with sin is one we all face on an almost daily basis.  Even as one matures in the faith and the daily walk of life seems to be going quite well, all of a sudden sin rears its ugly head and we wonder where that came from.  Paul also begins by expressing that he does not understand how this happens.  He writes, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do”.  As a disciple of Jesus Christ, we want to follow Him daily and to have our lives reflect His love to others.  This is what we want to do.  Yet we often fail to do this all of the time.  Instead we get caught up in ourselves and in the smallness of life and we find ourselves doing what we hate.

Paul attributes the cause of this struggle to the sin living within him.  He is aware of the desire to sin that lives in him and in all of us.  It is so because we are of the world.  All around us are reminders to gratify self instead of seeking to please God.  Satan is constantly at work within us, trying to bring us off the narrow path that leads to true life and onto the wide road that leads to death.  The evil one also tries to have a hand in preventing us from doing the good we desire to do.  He brings up doubts and fears and makes us question ourselves, making it sometimes hard to do the good we desire to do.

It would seem that all is lost.  It is not.  In verse 22 Paul writes, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law”.  For all who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we too know the light and love that lives in our hearts.  It is the courage and strength to face each day and to do the good we desire to do.  It is also the peace that passes understanding that helps us past the storms and past the doubts and fears we face.  Paul closes by admitting that he is weak and wretched.  So are we.  But we are not alone.  Paul asks, “Who will rescue me”?  The same one who rescues us all.  The passage concludes with the answer to this question: Jesus Christ!  To He alone who can rescue, we join Paul in saying thanks be to God.


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Slaves to God

Reading: Romans 6: 15-23

Verse 22: Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

Paul begins by proposing the idea that we are either a slave to sin or a slave to God.  The slave analogy implies a complete obedience of free will.  Yes, we may choose to sin.  Or we may choose to be obedient to God.  But once the choice is made, we become as a slave – doing the total will of either sin or of God.  It is the first of two stark contrasts in today’s passage.

Paul continues on to share the results of our choice.  If we choose sin, then this choice leads to death.  If we choose God, then our choice leads to life.  This is a sharp contrast: life or death.  To help us in our decision, we are entrusted to teaching that helps us make the correct choice.  This is really what life is all about – we learn so that we can make an informed decision.  As we learn and grow in our faith the choice to be obedient to God becomes an easier choice in the daily decisions we face.  Paul rejoices in the result of good Christian teaching as he writes, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness”.

As our passage draws to a close, Paul writes of the reality we all deal with every day.  He writes that we are weak and that we used to be slaves to sin.  We are weak.  Each and every day we must choose to follow God.  However, it is not a choice we make one day and then never face again.  Each day and each hour and sometimes each second, Satan is right there pushing the choice to sin.  It is a constant battle.  In the big sense, though, our choice is life or death.  As Christians we have made the choice.  In verse 22 Paul writes, “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life”.  It is a wonderful gift of God.

This day may we each make the choice to be freed from sin, to be slaves to God, and to live a holy life which one day leads to eternal life.


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Way of Life

Reading: Romans 6: 12-14

Verse 14: For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Paul opens by encouraging us not to let sin rule in our mortal bodies.  It is not that Paul thought we would or should never sin once we accept Jesus, but that we should not live in sin.  For Paul, sin should not be our way of life.  Pursuing God’s righteousness should be our way of life.

Of course, our way of life is a choice.  Once sin gains a foothold it can be hard to root out.  Temptation is a reality.  Each day we wrestle with what we should do versus what the body desires.  Once that temptation takes root it begins to grow and eventually can lead to sin.  This is living a life of sin for Paul.  When we allow sin to take hold, it begins to rule how we make our decisions.  It becomes our way of life.

God, of course, hopes for us to make the decision to do right and He sent us the Holy Spirit to help us make that good choice.  But God knew we would struggle with sin, so He sent us Jesus.  In and through the blood of Jesus we can become pure and righteous again and again.  It is not a pass to sin over and over again or a type of “get out of jail free” card.  The unending grace and mercy and forgiveness is God saying ‘I love you’ over and over again.  It is God saying I love you no matter what.  The mercy, grace, and forgiveness we receive from God lets us know how much God loves us.  It is forever and always.

This day may we choose God as our way of life.  This day may we pursue righteousness.  And this day, may we go forward knowing we are dearly loved.