pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Love to Give

Reading: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-8

Verse 8: “Love never fails”.

Today we turn to the famous “love chapter”. It is popular at weddings because love is the core ingredient of a lifelong commitment. But Paul did not write these words as a homily for a wedding that he was going to officiate. Paul wrote these words because he knew that love had to be the core of all of our relationships – with our siblings and parents, with our spouse and our children, with our teammates and workmates, with our friends and with the stranger that we meet.

Paul seemed to know a few folks who were talented – one could move mountains – or who were kind – one who gave generously to the poor. He also knew that we can do good things yet they can be meaningless to God. Yes, giving food to a hungry family is good and meets a need, but if I do it grudgingly in my heart or with a look of contempt on my face, then it is “nothing”. It matters not to God if not done in love.

Paul also must have known what we ourselves experience. It is not always easy to love. He reminds us of what love is and does: patient, kind, rejoices in truth, protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. And he reminds us of what love is not: envious, proud, boastful, self-seeking, easily angered, score-keeping. Loving others is hard. Yet as followers of the One who was love, it is what we are called to be too.

Our passage today closes with, “love never fails”. Paul is speaking of God’s love here. Because Jesus was the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, His love is eternal. It will never fail. Yes, prophecies and tongues and knowledge will pass away. But love will always remain. In Jesus, we find the unending well of love. It is a love that is always poured out upon us, a love that we always have to give to others. May we share love as Jesus does – freely, lavishly, openly, to one and to all.

Prayer: Lord, may I know your love so completely that it becomes who I am. Amen.


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Love at Work

Reading: Psalm 107: 17-22

Verses 19 and 20: “They cried to the Lord in their trouble… He sent forth the word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave”.

The psalmist recognizes the foolish behavior of some and identifies the consequences that came with poor choices. During our lives we have seen many people make poor decisions and we ourselves have made our share as well. After suffering because of their or our iniquities, there comes a point of admitting the error of our ways and turning to God for help. Verse 19 reads, “They cried to the Lord in their trouble”. It is a cry filled with both pain and hope. Pain because of the regret of ending up in such a place. Hope because we know that God is faithful and true.

Verse 20 bears this out: “He sent forth the word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave”. God responds to the cry for help and restores those in need. For the psalmist, the ‘word’ could come through the Spirit or it could come through the voice of the prophet. For the Christian, the word could also come from the Holy Spirit or it could come from the ‘Word’ – Jesus himself. The net result is the same: God brings healing and rescued from the grave. This could literally be the grave or it could represent being saving from eternal damnation.

Sometimes we observe this cycle of sin, suffering, conviction, repentance, crying out, healing/rescue and sometimes we experience it ourselves. In both cases, we are privy to seeing God’s hand at work over and over. Because of this we come to know God as steadfast and faithful. We come to know God’s love and mercy as unending and as a blessing for all. And we come to the place where we know God will never let us go. From here we begin to understand the depth of God’s love. It is a beautiful and wonderful thing. It is a love that we are called to share with others. May it be so today.


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Love and Redemption

Reading: Psalm 130

Verse 7: Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption.

Central to Psalm 130 are God’s unfailing love and His endless mercy.  These two characteristics of God are essential to our faith as well.  As the psalmist does, so too must we cry out to God in order to experience and receive His love and mercy.  It is in prayer that we seek these things.  It is through experiencing them in our lives that our relationship with God deepens.

The psalmist first cries out for forgiveness.  In repenting of our sins we come to realize that God offers forgiveness over and over and over.  The fact that no records are kept indicates the unlimited nature of God’s mercy.  It is new every moment.  In experiencing this is our relationship with God, it becomes a part of who we are and it becomes a practice in our lives.  We pray for this each time we pray, “…And forgive us our trespasses (or debts)…”

The psalmist also writes about the next step God takes.  Not only does God forgive us our transgressions, but also redeems us.  The price or cost of our sins is paid for by God.  We do not have to offer up a dove or a young goat.  We do not have to do anything – God simply redeems us through the power of Jesus’ blood.  Like His mercies being new every morning, we too are made new – pure and holy – through His redemption.  We also take this practice and make it part of our life.  We too love one another in this model, keeping no record of wrongs, wiping the slate clean, forgiving 70 times 7 times.

The key to living in God’s unfailing love and full redemption is our response.  Do we simply enjoy these blessings or do we go forth into the world to share them with others?  As we experience these two great characteristics of God, may we go forth with God’s character as our character, extending love and mercy and forgiveness and redemption to all we meet.  In this way, others will be drawn to the source of these things in us.


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Unending Service

Reading: Luke 12:35

Jesus instructs the disciples to sell their possessions and to give to the poor.  He does so because when we trust Him and follow the call to love others, then we store up treasures in our hearts and in heaven.  These treasures are treasures that cannot ever be taken.  The feeling of helping another in need out of the love of Christ is a treasure we will always have.  In addition, doing so places our focus on heaven and on our relationship with God.

Jesus goes on to say that we must always be dressed and ready for service.  He is speaking of both our spiritual and physical readiness.  We stay spiritually ready by staying connected to God.  By spending time daily with God we keep our focus on the things of God.  This helps us to see as God sees, to feel as God feels, and to love as God loves.  We must also be physically ready.  This means we structure our priorities, our resources, our time in such a way that we can meet a need when God brings it before us.  It means we are always ready to give of our time, talents, gifts, and service when God places an opportunity before us.

The third area Jesus addresses in this passage is to keep our lamps burning.  There are two meanings or implications to this.  First, the light shines on our own path.  The light of Christ leads us on our own faith journey.  The Holy Spirit also leads and guided us in the living out of our faith.  The light allows us to keep on our journey of faith and to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ.  The second implication is for others.  When the light of Christ shines out from us, it helps others to see Him and to sense Christ calling out to them.  We are called to bring Christ to others by being His hands and feet so that “they might see your good works and give glory to God”.  The light draws others to Christ.

This day may we be willing to offer of ourselves and our things.  This day may we be ready to meet the needs of all God brings before us.  This day may our light shine into the darkness.  May this day be the beginning of unending Service to our King.


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Restoring a Sinner

Reading: Psalm 85

The psalmist expresses a cycle that is common to us all.  The people of Israel sinned and found God’s forgiveness.  Time passed and they sinned again.  The writer expresses the need for God to forgive the people once again.  The psalmist calls for God’s unfailing love to once again yield mercy and grace.  The writer reminds themselves and God that God promises peace to His people.  The the writer again requests salvation from God.

It is a cycle we often repeat as well.  Earlier in one’s Christian walk, the cycle is repeated more often but throughout life we cycle through the sin-repentance-forgiveness pattern over and over.  Being human, frail and weak as we are, we will fall into sin.  Yet God, being unfailing love and unending grace, responds over and over again with forgiveness and an invitation back into right relationship with Him.

As we look back over our journey of faith we can identify times when we came to realize that we had been sinning.  It was not obvious to us before we reached a certain maturity level in our faith.  As we continue to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ we come to junctures where we realize that what we were doing was really gossip or being jealous or lust or …  What was before simply part of who we are is one day seen as sin.  So we repent and think ‘not again’ as we are now aware that a certain behavior was sinful.  But like most sins, this one will return again.  Satan knows our weak spots and will continue to hammer away at them for a while.

As we mature in our faith and our relationship with Christ grows stronger, the time between recurrences of a sin will lengthen out.  And being fully human, we know that we may fall back into that sin once in a while.  But as we do mature, we recognize it sooner and come to a place where we stop at the temptation to gossip or whatever.  And then we begin to wrestle with other sins in our lives!

Into our constant battle with sin, into our human weakness, steps God’s love and grace.  God’s love and grace are far greater than our sin will ever be.  It is so great that nothing in all of creation is able to separate us from the love of God.  May we ever be thankful for God’s unfailing love and unending grace that always restores a sinner like me back to the true and loving relationship that is life itself.


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Unending Love, Amazing Grace 

Reading: Amos 7: 10-17

Can you remember getting in trouble when you were little?  When we were first learning to follow the rules often there were times when we simply felt that the rule did not apply to us or that the rule was wrong.  The ‘rules’ and following them were outside of our own little world.  Sad thing is that this is still occasionally the case for us in adulthood.  The pull of what we want outweighs what we see as the immediate consequences and we stray outside the lines.

King Jeroboam had strayed outside the lines.  The king and the nation of Israel have engaged in sinful living.  They have oppressed the poor, worshiped false gods, and no longer follow God’s laws.  Earlier in the book of Amos, God had issued a call to repentance through the prophet.  The king and people ignored it.  Even after God has threatened to destroy the kingdom and to send the people into exile, Israel continues to live in sin.  Because of their great self-centeredness, they angrily refuse to be accountable to God and they tell Amos to go away.

Can you recall a time when you were enjoying life just a bit too much?  Can you remember a time when you justified a poor choice or behavior because you were enjoying the results or the outcome?  At times and in seasons of our faith it can be all too easy to get off track and to find ourselves where we should not be.  Despite nudges to repent from the Holy Spirit and calls from friends and family, we struggle to break free and step back inside of God’s love and guidance.

But God continues to work on our hearts and our family and friends pray and keep trying to hold us accountable.  We come to see our sin and repent.  God, in His unlimited love and grace, pours out forgiveness and we are restored to a right relationship with Him.  Our sin is wiped away in the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ.  We are humbled by God’s amazing grace and unending love.  We find ourselves transformed and have grown in our faith.  As a new creation in Christ we are ready to again live as a child of God.  We look back and wonder how we ever got ‘there’.  We promise to never go there again, but Satan does not give up.  Sin and temptation never go away.  Yet we also know that God is greater than he who is living in this world.  His amazing grace and unending love will always triumph.  For this we shout, thanks be to God!!