pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Present

Reading: Job 23: 1-9 & 16-17

Verses 16-17: “God has made my heart faint… yet I am not silenced by the darkness”.

Today’s passage is probably a familiar scene to all of us. Some have yet to experience this to the extent that Job has experienced it, but for all people life will have moments of pain and hardship.

Job lived in a time we have a hard time relating to. The common understanding or answer to the “Why?” question was because one had sinned. In ancient Judaism, hardship, disease, illness – all were the consequences of sin. Job knew in his heart of hearts that he was right before God. And he accepted what had happened to him without blaming God and without seeking a reversal of the circumstances. He just wants an audience with God. In verse 7 Job says, “There an upright man could present his case before Him”. He just wants the suffering to end. He just wants to return to a relationship with his God.

Job’s friends have tried to convince Job of why he is suffering. They have encouraged Job to search within to find that sin number in his life that is obviously causing all the suffering. In our time, we do not see pain and suffering as God punishing us for our sins. This does not square with our understanding of God being loving and compassionate and with the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. Job’s friends also offer pithy sayings to try and help Job feel better. Unfortunately, at times we too can do this. “Everything happens for a reason” and other similar statements only demonstrate our lack of theological understanding. They do not bring comfort and peace. They only lead to negative emotions and more questions. In that awkward space we feel like we must talk, that we must say things. We don’t have to. A hug and a simple “I love you”, followed by just being present, sitting there in the hurt and pain, is sufficient.

In our passage Job says, “God has made my heart faint… yet I am not silenced by the darkness”. He is tired. He is feeling broken. Yet he will not be silenced. He wants to express his anger, his questions, his laments. He does not want answers or attempts at explanations. He just wants to give voice to what is inside of him. He needs his friends to listen and to be compassionate. He needs them to just be present with him in his pain and suffering. To do so is a great demonstration of love. When we find ourselves in this situation with a friend or loved one, may we simply be present in the pain and grief, listening, loving, being present.

Lord, it is hard to simply be a presence in the midst of pain and suffering. Strengthen me to simply be love and to show compassion. If words need said, may your Spirit speak your words through me. Amen.


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A Choice

Reading: Ephesians 4: 25-29

Verse 25: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body”.

Today’s five verses form four messages unto themselves. Paul begins with, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body”. In other words, do not say what others want to hear but speak the truth in love. Sometimes it is hard to say or hear, but truth is truth. Why let a neighbor pursue something that is hurtful or sinful when you can help them back to the righteous path?

The next verse is about anger. Paul’s advice – do not act out of a place of anger and do not let it fester. Find the middle ground. Offer forgiveness, be a part of reconciliation, be open to differing thoughts and opinions, allow the Holy Spirit to guide your words and actions. Why? Because when we give anger control, then we are giving the devil a foothold. Satan is already working hard enough to pry us away from our faith. Why give him a straight path into your life?

Verse 28 calls for us to work, to do something useful. Paul equates choosing not to work with stealing. Do not take from others (or the government) when you are able to work. And as a bonus you will be able to bless those truly in need. Work is good for us. Plain and simple. It is God’s design.

The last verse is a warning, followed by a better option. Paul writes, “Don’t let unwholesome talk come out of your mouths”. Don’t slander, don’t lie, don’t gossip, don’t curse, don’t judge, don’t insult, don’t quarrel, don’t grumble, don’t complain… Yes, this list is long but also very incomplete. There are many other ways that unwholesome talk escapes our lips. Paul says, instead speak only words that build others up. When we use words to encourage, to compliment, to applaud, to edify… then we build one another up in love.

Each of these ideas are choices. We can choose to do the Christian thing or we can choose the earthly thing. We can build up or we can tear down. We can glorify God or we can elevate Satan. We can walk the narrow path that leads to life or we can meander the wide way that leads to death. It is a choice. Like Joshua declared, may we too declare each day that we will serve the Lord. It is a choice. May our choice ever be for God.


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A Simple Thanks

Reading: 2nd Kings 2: 8-12

Verse Eleven: “As they were walking along and talking together…”

In one devotional I read today, it referred to the term “outlier”. Immediately my mind went back to many years teaching 7th grade math. We identified outliers when we were studying mean, median, and mode. An outlier in math is a piece of data that stands out from the other data. Outliers can really impact the mean, or the average. In its original content in the book my devotional referenced, an outlier was a regular person who practiced a skill or talent or job thousands and thousands of times. The result was extraordinary skill or proficiency at their chosen pursuit.

Using both of these understandings of outlier, the term pertains much to our faith. In today’s passage, Elijah is an outlier. He was a prophet who stood far outside the norm. At times, he was practically the last one standing for God. He spoke the truth no matter the risk, always being obedient to God. Accordingly, Elijah is widely accepted as the greatest Old Testament prophet. In our passage, Elisha shows the dogged persistence required to become an outlier. He has personally witnessed Elijah’s absolute faith in God and his total trust to go where God sent and to say what God said to say. It is something he wants for himself, so he follows closely as Elijah’s end draws near. Elisha’s persistence pays off as he sees Elijah taken, thus receiving the reward: a double portion of his spirit.

It is interesting to me that Elijah is taken not in some suspenseful moment but simply as they are “walking along and talking together…”. Elijah had just nonchalantly yet miraculously parted the Jordan so they could cross, allowing them to continue to simply walk and talk. These ideas remind me of our faith journey. We too walk and talk through life alongside God. Much of the time life is routine or normal. Yet by walking close and talking consistently, we grow deep in our relationship with God. And we do have moments, times God parts the waters, allowing us to safely pass through. Some of the time we do not even know God has intervened. Other times, it is right there for us to see. At times God gives us these moments that awe and uplift us. These too build our relationship.

As I ponder my daily walk with God, blessed here and there with those “God moments”, I am humbled and awed. I simply say: thank you God!


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See

Reading: Psalm 17: 1-7 and 15

Verse 15: And I, in righteousness, will see your face.

The psalmist is confident that he will see God.  In his cry for an answer to his prayer there is evidence of a relationship that has been established that leads him to really believe that God will answer.  In a similar way, the psalmist believes that the faithful life he has led will allow him to see God.  In verse fifteen he writes, “And I, in righteousness, will see your face”.

As we live out our lives as Christians, we hope one day to see God face to face as well.  This influences how we live our daily lives.  We seek to be righteous in our living, but we are not always as holy and righteous as we would like to be.  This is one of the reasons that God sent Jesus.  Ultimately, Jesus came to die for our sins.  He also came to be an example.  In Jesus, we see God in the flesh.  We see God’s love embodied in the life and ministry of Jesus.  As we read the Bible and allow it to become part of our living, we begin to see God face to face.

We also have the opportunity to see God in each other.  As we go about our daily lives, there are moments where we can be the words and hands and feet of Jesus to another.  In these moments, they can come face to face with God and His love through us.  And sometimes we are the ones blessed to see the face of God.  Sometimes, when we are giving of ourselves and being a good follower of Jesus Christ, suddenly we see God in the face of the one we are talking with or serving.  We experience what it means when Jesus said, “Whenever you do this for one of the least of these…”

Yes, one day we hope to literally see God face to face.  But until then, may we see God in the Word and in the living out of our faith, as we seek to daily show God’s love to others.


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Paul’s Secret

Just how “Christian” is our society?  How you answer that depends on your definition of the word ‘Christian’.  However you define the word though, I think it is true that the US is much less ‘one nation under God’ than we used to be.

As Paul stood to address the people of Athens in Acts 17, he faced a tough crowd.  There were very few followers of Christ there and the people followed a variety of beliefs and lifestyles.  But Paul had done his homework.  He had gotten to know their ways and ideas.  Paul could take them from where they were to where he wanted them to be because he could relate to them and their ways of thinking.  We too can do this with our friends, neighbors, coworkers…  Paul was then able to begin to share his faith with them.

Paul’s secret is our secret too.  The one true God is our God.  The creator of the earth and all on the earth is our God.  He is Lord of all life.  And He loves us.  Some people don’t know the secret yet.  Maybe you know some of them.  It is our call to share the good news with all the peoples.

Paul goes on to later write: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him”.  It is our call to share the secret.  After all, isn’t it great to share?!