pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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God Restores

Reading: Psalm 126: 4-6

Verse 5: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy”.

In our song of ascent this week we acknowledge with the psalmist that life is not always rosy. There will be times when it feels like our fortunes need restored too. The Negev is a dry, desert-like place in the southern part of Israel. There are many dry stream beds that flow only during the seasonal rains. In the understanding of the day, when God sends rain, it restores life and all are blessed. Looking to God in our dry or testing times can remind us of how God has restored us before and brought life back to us. To ask God to do that again is to remind ourselves that God is faithful and loving and will respond once again.

In verse 5 the psalmist writes, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy”. In our day to day lives, the real world continues along. The sun will rise soon this morning, bringing light and warmth to the earth. The rains will perhaps fall here today and will push on to the east later in the day. All over the community students will make their way to school and adults will go to work. Some will go with a sadness or a hurt because of a situation or circumstance in their own lives. In our Psalm, some go out to work to sow seeds because that is what needs done that day. Some of these sow in tears. But like the rains that refresh the desert and bring life, God will restore the fortunes of those who weep. They will find joy in life and will harvest with songs of joy. They will bring in the sheaves with joy because God has poured down His blessings into their souls and lives with His presence and love and provision.

In our memory banks we can recall dry seasons that we have walked through. As people of faith we store them up not to remember the trials but to remind ourselves of how God was present in the trial and of how God led us past or out of the trial. We remember how God’s blessings restored our faith over and over. We build hope and trust in God’s continued love and care and provision from this day forevermore. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Dear God, you are so faithful and so good to me. Over and over again you have restored me and brought joy and hope back into my life. Thank you also for my times in the desert because there I come to know you face to face. Amen.


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Gardeners and Bakers

Reading: Matthew 13: 31-33

Verses 31 and 33: The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed… like yeast.

Our two parables today are seemingly about something small – a tiny mustard seed and some yeast.  These two parables follow two others.  One is about the receptivity and sticking power of a seed of faith and the other about the weeds of sin that can grow in people’s lives.  Taken in the context of the today’s parables, the previous two are all about the planting of a small seed as well.

Just as the tiny mustard seed becomes a large tree that gives shelter and rest to many, the tiny yeast works its way through the whole batch of dough, causing it all to rise.  These are like the good seeds planted in the good soil that produce a crop 100, 60, or 30 times what was sown.  Satan’s “bad” seeds also work the same way – producing a crop that must be bundled at harvest time.

This brings us to two questions.  First, how are we planting seeds or being yeast?  Second, what kinds of seed or yeast are we planting or mixing in?  Like the sower and the baker, we are called to work in and through all areas of our lives – at work, at home, at church, on the ball field, in the restaurant… – and with all we meet all the time.  Like the mustard seed, we are called to offer even the smallest of kind words or the simplest act of kindness, trusting that God can do a mighty work through any act of love or kindness or grace or mercy or … that we can offer.  How? Any place, any size, any time.

Hopefully we are choosing to sow good seeds and to act as good yeast.  In our simple and small acts and words we want others to see Jesus.  If we are all-in, 24/7 Christians then we are like the yeast – permeating all aspects of our own lives with our faith as well as permeating the lives of those we cross paths with each day.  What kind?  The kind that speaks love.  The kind that Jesus spoke.

The small seeds and the simple leavening yeast bear witness to the love of Jesus Christ in us and to the love He wants to share with the whole world.  May we be good gardeners and bakers today.


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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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Reap

Reading: John 4: 27-38

Verse 35b: I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest.

The disciples return just as Jesus finishes His initial conversation with the Samaritan woman.  It is an unusual scene by the norms of the day, but the disciples have seen Jesus engage any and all time after time.  He does not appear to be a man with any barriers.  The woman heads back to town to tell others of her encounter with Jesus and people from town head to the well to meet Jesus.  As the disciples have returned with food, they offer Jesus some.  His response puzzles them: “I have food to eat that you know nothing about”.  Staying on the surface level, they wonder if someone else has brought Jesus some food.  Further explanation is clearly needed.

Jesus then explains that the true ‘food’ that feuls Him is to do the work of God.  Perhaps knowing that the townspeople are heading their way, Jesus says, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest”.  Jesus and the disciples are about to be joined by people who are searching for the Messiah, the Savior of the world.  Jesus has down the seeds, now the harvest is at hand.  He tells them that the hard work is done – He planted faith in the woman who has in turn planted seeds in the people who approach.  The disciples will now “reap what they did not work for”.  Where do we fit in the story?

First, Jesus’ call to look to the fields applies to us.  There are many in our lives ‘ripe’ for the truth and saving grace of Jesus Christ.  It is our role to help people to the well so that they can drink of the ‘living water’ that Jesus offers.  Second, we need to be ready to reap what the Holy Spirit works in someone’s heart once they accept Jesus as Lord.  This “work” is the work of the Spirit.  We can only plant seeds and inspire searching.  God alone makes the seeds grow into faith.  Lastly, we need to be ready to step in and walk alongside that new believer, nurturing and guiding their growth.

As we look at those in our lives, who is searching, who is ripe to meet Jesus Christ?  What can we do today to sow seeds of faith?  How can we be ready to reap and walk with those new to faith?


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Reaping Good, Always

Reading: Galatians 6: 7-16

Paul opens this section if his letter to the Galatians with two key points.  The first is that we reap what we sow.  The second is that we must not grow weary of doing what is right.  While these two ideas are directly related, each point of emphasis has its own challenges.

We have all experienced the ‘reap what you sow’ concept both with the good we do and with the evil we allow into our lives.  When we sow good into the world, we so often receive good in return.  For example, when we serve a meal at the local mission, it is good but we are usually the ones mist blessed by it.  On a more basic level, when we are kind and loving towards our fellow man they tend to be loving in return.  On the other end of the spectrum, when we sow evil by allowing greed, anger, gossip, gluttony, … into our lives, then we hurt both others and ourselves.  It is a hard road to only sow good with Satan and his emissaries always working to tempt us.

Paul’s second point is to not weary of doing what is right.  As Christians our natural bent in life is to do what is right in the world.  It is the example set by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Our natural disposition as disciples is to be a servant to those in our lives.  Jesus calls for us to die to self so that we can better see the needs of others and to act accordingly.  For me this us easiest when the task is simple.  I could help an elderly woman to her car with her groceries all day long.  The challenge comes when there is risk to ourselves in serving another or in correcting a wrong that is occurring.  It can be hard to do what us right over and over.  Like Peter we ask, ‘how many times?’ – how many times must I forgive them?  How many times must I help the same person?  Jesus’answer was a simple ‘forever’ – just as long as God will forgive and love us.  Just as long.

May we find strength, grace, love, forgiveness, and encouragement in our saving relationship with Jesus Christ so that we may reap good to build His kingdom here and so that we may not grow weary in our own pursuit of His kingdom in our lives.


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Being Good Soil

How good is our soil?  Are we receptive to the seeds God wants to sow into our faith?  When we are good soil, we hear the word of God and understand it.  As God’s roots take ahold of us, He becomes a part of all aspects of our lives.  We in turn come to bear fruit not only with our words but also with our actions and deeds.

As we seek to be sowers, we must be humble and submit to the yoke of Jesus Christ.  As we seek to build the kingdom we must acknowledge the fact that all we can do is sow.  We are utterly dependent upon God to make the seeds grow and for new life to spring forth.

When we accept God’s call upon our lives, we take up that yoke 24/7 by connecting to God through prayer, study, worship… to nurture our faith, to better understand the Word, and to better equip ourselves to be sowers of seeds of faith.  We have to first be good soil to sow into other’s lives.  Work your soil!

Scripture reference: Matthew 13: 18-23