pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty 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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Attitude 

Reading: Luke 17: 5-10

As Christians, our role is to love God and to love neighbor.  It is what we are called to do.  In loving, we are also often called to do for or to serve God and neighbor.  We usually do so willingly and obediently, so we understand Jesus’ teaching that doing so is simply our duty as Christians.  In serving our Master and Lord we should not expect extra thanks or special recognition.

Every once in a while we notice something at home or work or church that needs done.  It may not be our “job” but w notice it needs done, so we do it.  Some of the time, when we serve with good intentions, God blesses us.  For example, a couple of weeks ago I noticed that some of the windows at the church needed cleaned.  As I was getting ready to clean windows that evening, a man wandered up to the parsonage looking for an odd job to do.  I invited him to join me and our time together was wonderful.  We accomplished a hard task and we began a new friendship.  Such a blessing!

But sometimes we notice a job that needs done and we go about it grudgingly.  As we work, we run through the list of people whose job this really is or should be.  We may even become upset with them for not doing their job as we slave away to do what should have already been done.  Grudgingly, work, slave.  In this mindset, boy do we need an attitude adjustment!

Lord, when we are working grudgingly, change our hearts so we are willingly serving, being a faithful servant instead of an overworked slave.  Lord Jesus, help us to love and serve generously, following the example you set for us.  Thank you.


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Speaking, Shining

Reading: Philemon 1-21

In this short letter Paul is practicing what Jesus taught.  Paul is standing up for one of the least.  Paul is reaching out to Philemon, a good friend and fellow Christian, and asking him to receive Onesimus back not as a slave but as a fellow brother in Christ.  To help Philemon’s decision Paul offers to pay for whatever is has cost Philemon while Onesimus has been ‘away’.  Paul is truly living out his faith in no only speaking up for a slave but also by being willing to give sacrificially for him as well.

While we do not live in a time when there are actual slaves, we do have plenty of people who are marginalized and who are trapped by their situation or conditions.  We do live in a culture that excludes and leaves some on the outside looking in.  We do live in an economy where many are used and exploited.  So, no, we do not have slaves, but there are many without voice or power.  As Christians, we are called to “loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and to break every yoke”.  Isaiah 58 goes on to call us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the wanderer.

Paul was able to speak for Onesimus because he knew him.  In our daily lives our paths do not regularly cross the paths of the marginalized, the hungry, the naked.  To speak and act for them we must go to where they are and seek to know them.  It is our call to love and care for the least and the lost.  Isaiah 58 reads, “then your light will break forth like the dawn, … your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard”.  This day may we seek places and ways for our light to break forth, bringing God’s glory and live to all people.


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Freed by Jesus

Reading: Acts 16: 16-34

Today’s text is one of liberation.  The slave girl is set free from the spirit that has possessed her for many years.  The jailer is set free from an oppressive system that has kept him boxed in.  For many of us and for many in the world, freedom is elusive as we are held captive to someone or something.

For some it is the situation they are in.  Addictions to drugs or alcohol control the lives of many people.  For many more, though, the addiction is less visible or it is harder to identify, but it is there, controlling their lives.  For some it is the addiction to power or being in control.  For some it is a secret addition to pornography or sex.  For some it is an addiction to beauty or popularity.  And for some it is their addiction to technology or the latest, greatest, best new whatever.  When our focus is on the things of the world or on ourselves, we can be controlled so easily.

So what or who can set us free?  It is the same thing that set the girl and the jailer free: the power of Jesus Christ.  Giving all of our concerns to Him sets us free.   Loving what Jesus loves and loving as Jesus loves us shifts our focus from what we want to what we can offer.  Finding our contentment in our relationship with Jesus means we do not feel the need for stuff or position or recognition.

May we yield all to Him so that in Him we may find the strength to live each day as a child of God, bearing witness to His light and love, to His joy and peace.


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How Far?

Servant leadership is difficult.  It is pretty easy to serve, to go out and do for others.  There are lots of needs that can be met and many people who would appreciate a group of volunteers showing up to help them out.  If one is gifted with certain characteristics, then leadership can also be pretty easy.  As people rise into higher positions, we usually recognize these characteristics in the person.  Almost all leadership positions come with some level of power and authority.  Jesus warns against using this to lord one’s position over others.

Great leaders do not dominate but include others.  Great leaders do not dictate but they participate.  Great leaders have vision and drive and purpose and they spread this to those on their team.  Great leaders build up their team and keep it moving towards its goals and purposes.  If one is able to lead in this manner, power and authority tend to find them.  To be a servant as well can be difficult.

As servants we must sometimes do things we do not want to do.  As servant leaders we may have to lead others in doing these things.  Great servant leaders have a gift for bringing others along on these difficult journeys.  Jesus gave us many great examples of the leader serving and He calls us to do the same.  How far are we willing to go?  On the cross the Most High suffered and died for the lowly and sinful, for the sake of saving us.  How far will we go to save the least and the lost, the sinful and the broken?  Leaders go as far as needed.  May we go where He sends us.

Scripture reference: Mark 10: 42-45


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True Leadership

How often do we long for power and authority?  Not to be under it, but to have it.  How often do we think, “If only I were in charge…”?  How often do we think, “Man, I am glad I am not in charge of that …”?  At one time or another we all have these kinds of thoughts.  And the truth is that we sometimes crave power and at other times we are as happy as we can be when we have no responsibilities al all.

James and John ask Jesus if they could sit at His left and right in glory.  But alas, Jesus tells them that these spots are already spoken for.  The other ten, when they hear about this request, are naturally angry that James and John could even ask such a thing.  But in reality most of them probably fluctuated between thinking ‘how could they ask for such a thing’ and ‘why didn’t I think of that’.  Jesus gently redirects all of their focus (and ours): whoever wants to be great must become a servant, like a slave to all.  What a 180 degree swing!

True leadership in the Jesus model is exhibited by being in humble service to those in our lives.  It is making the choice to think of others before considering yourself.  It is at times denying self in order to be able to help another.  It is being willing to make a sacrifice in the name of the One who made the ultimate sacrifice.  Jesu asked James and John if they could drink the cup He was going to drink.  They said yes and they did, both giving their all and dying for Jesus, their King.  He asks us the same question.

Scripture reference: Mark 10: 35-45