pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Living Faith?

Reading: Isaiah 1:1 and 10-15

Verse 11: “The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to me”?

Our passage today has some pretty tough words for Israel. In verse ten Isaiah compares them to Sodom and Gomorrah – two towns that were so evil that God wiped them from the face of the earth. If that were not enough, God goes on to say, “The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to me”? It is just empty offering after empty offering after empty offering. God has had enough and finds no pleasure in such actions. The stream of offerings is compared to “trampling” in the temple. For a people and religion built upon the sacrificial system, it is quite a thing to hear God say, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings”.

To what would God compare this in today’s church? What motion or actions are we going through that feel to God as if it were meaningless? Where is our worship far away from our actual living?

A big part of what was driving God to make such a declaration was how the people were living out their faith. They were failing miserably. Yes, they were going through the motions of worship and sacrifices. Their hearts were far from God. It showed most in those easiest to neglect and abuse. The poor were being oppressed and the widows and orphans were being neglected. Those without power and those without voice were not being taken care of. These are the ones nearest to the heart of God. They are far from the hearts of God’s people. They were showing up on the Sabbath and they were checking the sacrifice boxes. And then they were leaving the temple and returning to the world where they took advantage of their workers, used unfair scales in the market, and ignored the cries of the needy. Today this would equate to those who leave church on Sunday to eat, drink, and be merry while swearing at the TV as their team loses or to those who use dishonest business practices to earn a little more profit. Do such as these show up on Sunday morning and then go out and neglect the poor and needy around them?

Verse fifteen ends with a tough indictment: “Your hands are full of blood”. If said today, what would God be referring to in our lives? What must change so that our worship leads us out the door and into acts of mercy and kindness and love?

Prayer: God, it can be easy to focus on self or to rush through devotions or worship to get on with life. Slow me down, soften my heart, attune my ears to their cries, and open my eyes to see their realities. Lead me to action, living out my faith in ways that are pleasing to you. Amen.


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God’s Great Love

Reading: Psalm 107:43

Verse 43: “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord”.

Psalm 107 is filled with memories of God’s actions on behalf of the people. At times, God’s history with Israel included ‘tough love’ – that necessary love that is hard to administer. It is a love that is usually harder on the parent than on the child. The root is still love.

As we remembered yesterday, our faith journeys are also filled with God’s actions in our lives. Each action is also based upon God’s love for us. Perhaps for you, like the Israelites and like me, the love you experienced was tough love now and then. At the time it was hard to hear or to experience. But looking back it was the best way to handle it. God always knows best.

Each time God took action in the lives of the Israelites, they were drawn closer to God. This too is our story. All of God’s actions are experiences with God’s great love for us. It is truly amazing and wonderful. But it cannot stop there. Like Paul and Peter and all those in the early church, God’s love must be evident in our lives. We cannot simply know God’s love, we must be God’s love. We cannot just know the good news, we must be the good news. We must be the gospel lived out to others.

For the Israelites, when they considered “the great love of the Lord”, it colored or affected all of their relationships. It deepened their love for God, their love for their fellow believers, and their love for the one in need. May it be so for us as well.

Prayer: Lord, lead me to live out my faith today. Guide me to be love to all I meet. Fill my heart, my mind, my words, and my actions with your love today. Amen.


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Worthy

Reading: Matthew 10: 24-39

Verse 38: Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Today’s passage is tough.  Jesus’ words confront and challenge and shake us.  Or so they should.  This is not the warm, fuzzy, lovey-dovey Jesus talking here.  This is the Jesus that makes us squirm in our chairs as we read and contemplate this passage.

Jesus begins by encouraging us to be like him – “the student is like his teacher”.  He encourages us not to fear “them” but instead to speak the good news in the bright daylight and to proclaim it from the rooftops.  Jesus advises us not to fear men but to fear the one who holds our soul.  He clarifies this by telling us that if we acknowledge Him before men, He will acknowledge us before God in heaven.  He holds our souls.

Just as with those who heard Jesus speak these words, our choice is the same: Jesus or “them”.  He was probably referring to the religious authorities and the Roman occupiers at that time.  Today, our “them” can be similar but is more complex.  Of particular concern would be our choices of popularity, power, and position over the narrow way of Jesus.  It would be our pursuit of wealth and possessions instead of chasing our relationship with Him.  We must daily ask who we place as Lord of our lives.

Jesus continues to bring it, telling us that He did not come “to bring peace, but a sword”.  Nothing warm and fuzzy here.  In case they (or we) were thinking a little repentance and pruning to cut away the sin in their (our) lives, He clarifies.  Jesus says we must love Him more than mother or father, sister or brother, …  We must love Jesus above and over all else.  It is hard.  It is challenging.  It is a full-time commitment.  Jesus defines it this way: “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me”.  It is a daily choice.  Am I worthy?