pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Way, Truth, Life

Reading: Matthew 22: 15-22

Verse 16: You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.

As the religious leaders begin their attempt to trap Jesus, they begin with words probably intended to lure Him into their question.  While this may be their intent, the words they speak are full of truth.  They begin by recognizing Jesus as a man of integrity.  They have learned the hard way that Jesus always does what is right, even if it is unpopular, even if it is hard, even if it angers people.  The healings on the Sabbath and the challenging words that caused some followers to walk away are the best examples that testify to the integrity of Jesus.

Then they say to Jesus, “You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth”.  Ever since He was a young adolescent in the temple courts, where Jesus amazed those around Him, Jesus has always spoken for God and has always had solid truths at the core of His teachings on the scriptures and in all of His parables.  Jesus’ connection to God is undeniable.  He always speaks truth, even when it is a hard truth.  They end their small talk by saying that Jesus is not swayed by men because He pays no attention to who they are.

The religious leaders then try and trap Jesus using a question that pertains to the secular world: paying taxes.  His response reinforces all three things that they have said about Him.  In saying to pay to Caesar what is his, Jesus is a man of integrity, saying to follow the ruler’s laws.  In saying to give to God what is His, He is saying to follow the Law of Moses.  In His answer Jesus shows no partiality.  At His answer there is nothing more to be said.  They simply walk away amazed.

Is this how we as Christians also see and experience Jesus?  Do we honor His teachings as filled with God’s ways?  Do we believe in the truth that Jesus reveals?  After each encounter, do we walk away amazing, knowing that He is the only source of true life?  Yes, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  This is Jesus’ offer to one and all.  The invitation goes out to all.  Praise be to God.

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God Moments

Reading: Exodus 24: 19-25

Verse 21: All that night the Lord drove back the sea.

The Israelites experience God’s presence in several ways in today’s passage.  God moves the pillar of cloud to be a barrier to keep the Egyptian army at bay.  This same cloud gives light in the darkness so the Israelites can move.  God next provides a way: “All that night the Lord drove back the sea”.  The sea floor is made dry and the people of God pass over.  That same sea bed is made muddy and the Egyptians get mired down.  Chariots wheels fall off, stalling them out completely so that the waters can come over them all – drowning every single Egyptian soldier.  God at work in powerful ways.

Al times we too can see God at work n our lives.  Some of the time we can see how God has opened a door or provided a way when we saw none, bringing hope, relief, joy…  Other times a door closes or we become stymied.  After our initial frustration we find a new way or a path forward.  In both cases we can see God at work when we look back and reflect.  It is almost as if there were step by step instructions being worked out as we wandered along.  It is only with some reflection that we can see God’s hand at work.

Just as with the Israelites, we too remember these times of God’s hand at work and we rejoice.  Our faith grows as we see how God has worked plans once again for our good, demonstrating His great love for us.  This day may we look back at some of our God moments and bring God our praise.


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A Better Way

Reading: Genesis 29: 15-28

Verse 25: What is this you have done to me? … Why have you deceived me?

Today’s reading is an interesting turn of events.  Poor Jacob is tricked by his uncle and ends up with the older, less beautiful daughter.  But before we feel too bad for Jacob, let’s remember why he is here.  Jacob has fled from his home to escape the wrath of his father Isaac and his brother Esau.  He tricked the very elderly Isaac into giving him, the younger son, Esau’s birthright.  Maybe, just maybe, Jacob deserves what Labsn has done – a little taste of his own medicine, so to speak.

But before we jump on that bandwagon, we’d better take a little stock of our own lives.  Yes, we have probably been in a place like Jacob finds himself in.  We have been let down by someone we trusted.  We have had agreements and arrangements broken.  Maybe we were a faithful employee for years and years, only to see the new and younger person receive the leadership role.  Maybe we have seen a long-term friendship evaporate when someone new moved to town.  We have all been where Jacob finds himself.  We know the anger, the hurt, the frustration.

When we stop and reflect, though, we’ve all played Laban’s role as well.  Maybe we haven’t slipped the older daughter into a drunk man’s bed after he had worked for seven years for the other daughter, but we have made decisions or manipulated or crossed the line a time or two.  Maybe it was as simple as choosing how to reword something or to embellish it or to leave a detail out – to best insure our desired outcome.  In any event, we have been there and done it.  We too have made others shout, “What is this you have done to me? … Why have you deceived me”?

When we take stock, when we reflect on those moments, we realize there is a better way for us and for others.  It is the way of love, the way of the servant, the way of Jesus.  Lord, help me to be righteous, bringing honor and glory to you in all I do and say and think this day and every day.


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Way of Life

Reading: Romans 6: 12-14

Verse 14: For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Paul opens by encouraging us not to let sin rule in our mortal bodies.  It is not that Paul thought we would or should never sin once we accept Jesus, but that we should not live in sin.  For Paul, sin should not be our way of life.  Pursuing God’s righteousness should be our way of life.

Of course, our way of life is a choice.  Once sin gains a foothold it can be hard to root out.  Temptation is a reality.  Each day we wrestle with what we should do versus what the body desires.  Once that temptation takes root it begins to grow and eventually can lead to sin.  This is living a life of sin for Paul.  When we allow sin to take hold, it begins to rule how we make our decisions.  It becomes our way of life.

God, of course, hopes for us to make the decision to do right and He sent us the Holy Spirit to help us make that good choice.  But God knew we would struggle with sin, so He sent us Jesus.  In and through the blood of Jesus we can become pure and righteous again and again.  It is not a pass to sin over and over again or a type of “get out of jail free” card.  The unending grace and mercy and forgiveness is God saying ‘I love you’ over and over again.  It is God saying I love you no matter what.  The mercy, grace, and forgiveness we receive from God lets us know how much God loves us.  It is forever and always.

This day may we choose God as our way of life.  This day may we pursue righteousness.  And this day, may we go forward knowing we are dearly loved.


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The Blood

Reading: Matthew 27: 11-26

Verse 23: Why? What crime has he committed?

Today we read of the “trial” before Pilate, the Roman governor.  Like a few stops along the journey to the cross, we could ask if Jesus had to die.  Couldn’t there have been another way?  Pilate had the authority to free or to condemn Jesus.  The decision concerning life and death rested in his hands alone.

The religious authorities that have been pushing the action to this point in the story would say that Jesus has to die.  They have traded barbs with Him over the last few years and it has increasingly become an “us or Him” type of situation.  They have schemed and trumped up a charge.  They have the crowd whipped up and ready to influence Pilate.  All goes according to their plan.  Even though Pilate senses Jesus is innocent, the crowd is too much for Pilate.  They roar for Jesus’ death even as he asks them, “Why?  What crime has he committed”?  Pilate condemns Jesus to desth, but washes his hands of Jesus’ blood.

Is it all going according to their plan?  Did Jesus gave to die?  The plan being followed is not the religious authorities’ plan.  It is God’s plan.  To die, to be our sacrifice, is why God sent Jesus in the first place.  It is hard to understand why a father would send a son knowing his fate on the cross.  But God has a few years of experience with humanity.  God has sent prophet after prophet, priest after priest, king after king to try and lead the people to live in a right relationship with God.  He has seen dove after dove, lamb after lamb, cow after cow sacrificed on the altar.  None brings atonement.  None removes the guilt of our sins.  None ultimately changes the relationship between God and the people.  Mankind is sinful.  We are of the flesh so we struggle with sin.  We live in a constant battle with sin.  The old covenant left humanity captive to sin and death.

In Jesus’ death and resurrection God established a new covenant with humanity.  On the cross, Jesus took on the sin of the world.  He took on sin that was, sin that is, and sin to come.  In His sacrifice Jesus paid the price for our sin.  We do not have to offer sacrifices any longer.  Jesus is our sacrifice.  He chose the cross so that the sins of the world could be washed away.  Through His blood our sins are washed away.  Jesus fulfilled His statement: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.  Through the name of Jesus we can claim eternal life.  In His name, our sins are forgiven.  Thank you God for the blood of the Lamb.


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Salt and Light

Reading: Matthew 5: 13-20

As follower of Christ, we are called to be both salt and light. Both are essential roles in our Christian witness.  If we fail to be either, we are only partly carrying out our role.

Traditionally, salt served two purposes – salt preserved and salt flavored.  In a world without refrigeration, preserving food was an essential practice.  Food is crucial to life and is a prescious commodity, so preserving what you did not eat when you killed an animal would later sustain life.  In much the same way, our faith preserves us.  Through prayer, study, and worhsip we coat our hearts and minds with the things of God.  Then both in the day to day and in the trials, our faith preserves who we are at our core, keeping us grounded in Christ.

Sal is also a flavoring.  Many foods are bland or dull without salt.  Our faith is the salt that flavors our life.  It is also our faith that flavors the lives of those around us.  Who we are, what we do, the words we choose, how we treat others – all are flavored by our faith.  The ‘flavors’ our faith adds to all these things is love, truth, compassion, honesty, understanding…

Traditionally, light was held up to illuminate or show the way to things around the source of the light.  For example, a city was built upon a hilltop or a lamp was placed upon a stand.  The analogies of lighting the way or of casting aside the darkness are what Jesus refers to as He calls on us to be light.  Our faith should shine out from us, into the world.  Our faith should radiate out from within, bringing hope and promise and vision to a world living in darkness.  Our faith must not be private – hidden under a bowl – but public and out there for all to see.  It is through seeing our faith lived out that others see the true light and are guided towards a relationship with Jesus Christ.

We are called to be salt and light.  We each have opportunities each day to be these things to a world in need.  May we make the most of what God sends out way, seeking to bear witness to the faith we hold dear.


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God’s Ways

Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31

God’s ways and the world’s ways are often at odds.  In our daily lives we are constantly pulled in both directions.  God calls us to be loving and kind while the world fills our screens and airwaves with shows and songs that show selfishness and having fun at the expense of others.  God calls us to be generous and giving while the world touts the latest gadget, the newest car, the next best thing.  God calls us to live as servants to others while the world says do what it takes to get to the top.  These are but a few of the many ways that God’s ways and the world’s ways are at odds.

When Paul writes, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing”, we have many examples.  When we take the message of the cross out into the world, when we love and serve people radically, as Jesus did, people often do not understand.  They wonder, ‘Why would you do this for me’?  ‘Why would you come here and bring food, water, blankets’?  ‘Why would you…’?  When we respond with “Because God loves you”, it sounds like foolishness to those who are perishing.

Paul also writes of how when we “preach Christ crucified”, it is a stumbling block, it seems foolish.  In our culture, it is a stumbling block to ask someone to love God more than they love themselves.  It is a stumbling block to ask someone to genuinely love all of their neighbors.  It becomes foolishness when we explain what it really means to love others as Jesus first loved us.  Why would Jesus do that?  And then there is the ‘cost’ of following Jesus that is a big stumbling block to many.  Sacrifice seems foolish.  Until they themselves have felt God’s radical love, it does seem a foolish step for a non-believer to take.

For those who believe and call on Jesus Christ as Lord, Christ is the power and the wisdom of God.  In Christ our weakness is great strength, our foolishness is much wisdom.  “Christ Jesus… our righteousness, holiness and redemption”.  Christ alone can save.  He is no stumbling block but is the rock upon which we stand.  Christ Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only life worth living.  May the Lord our God bless our living in His ways this day, always sharing the way to life eternal with a world that is perishing.