pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Heavenly Wisdom

Reading: James 3: 13-18

Verse 13: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, be deeds done in humility”.

In our passage from James 3, he compares earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom. Earthly wisdom is concerned with the self. It focuses on our own preferences and is driven by envy and selfish ambition. In our churches we can see this type of wisdom now and then. It usually arises when change is on the horizon. Change necessitates leaving the familiar and the comfortable. Individually we also cling to earthly wisdom when the Holy Spirit is nudging us to say or do something – for the same reasons. James reminds us that such wisdom is “earthly, unspiritual, and of the devil”.

Our alternative is to choose heavenly wisdom or wisdom from above. This wisdom is the opposite of earthly wisdom. Hear again the words that James uses to describe heavenly wisdom: “pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere”. What a contrast! This wisdom leads us to think of God and others more than ourselves. This wisdom leads us to see and love all people as God does. This sounds a lot like how Jesus operated.

Our passage today opens with this verse: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, be deeds done in humility”. In essence, James is asking us who is wise by God’s standard. In a return to the theme of James 2, it is again our works and the fruit of our faith that reveals the true condition of our hearts. When we are allowing God’s wisdom to be our guide, we live out of a good place in our heart, following Jesus’ example. We love and care for those in need. We enjoy good relationships with God, our family, friends, co-workers, teammates, and even with the stranger. We seek good rather than evil. We maintain a humble servant’s attitude as we interact with God and neighbor. In turn, we experience the good life, blessed by God. May it be so for you and for me.

Dear God, fill me with your wisdom – a wisdom that is pure and considerate and compassionate and humble and loving. May all I do and say lift others up. Empower me to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and to shine a light on Jesus and His love. This day and every day, may your wisdom guide me. Amen.

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Ways of Wisdom

Reading: Proverbs 1: 20-33

Verse 33: “Whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm”.

In my Bible, the passage for today is titled, “Warning Against Rejecting Wisdom”. My first thoughts are: who would reject wisdom? Don’t we all want to be wise? But upon a little more reflection, there are folks who are not wise, who do not make many ‘good’ decisions. And when honest, I must admit that I don’t always make the best decision. But is this all that the writer is talking about? It is being wise in life, yes, but it is more. The wisdom that calls out in the streets is God’s wisdom. It calls us to live according to God’s ways.

In a sense, God’s wisdom is calling out to Christians all the time. It is the Holy Spirit within leading and guiding us. It is also the Word of God that we read and meditate upon each day. It is the message we hear in church. It is the devotional thoughts that we consider daily. But because we are human beings, creatures inclined towards sin, sometimes we ignore the wisdom of God and sometimes we make decisions that run counter to the ways of God.

When we ignore God’s wisdom, I imagine the heavenly thoughts sound much like the words we read today. “How long will you simple ones love your simple ways?” wonders the God whose thoughts are always higher than our thoughts. He also laments, “If only you had responded to my rebuke…”. If you’d only listened to the Holy Spirit, if you’d really studied the Word… There are consequences to choosing something other than God’s wisdom. Verses 24 through 32 spell these out for us. None are good. God’s ways are always better.

Our passage today closes with these words of hope and promise: “Whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm”. Listen to God’s wisdom and live in safety. Listen to God’s wisdom and be at ease. Listen to God’s wisdom and live without fear. Yes, life is better with God.

Lord God, turn my heart and ears to your voice, whether written, spoken, or whispered into my soul. Give me the courage to not only listen but to follow. Your call is often counter to the wisdom of the world, so empower me to walk in your ways of wisdom. May it be so today. Amen.


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Fear the Lord

Reading: Psalm 111:10

Verse 10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.

To a degree we are all guided by fear. Fear helps us make many of our decisions. Sometimes fear is healthy. If I see a bear off in the distance when I am hiking, I will choose another path. If I fear high places, maybe I keep myself a little safer. If I fear failing my classes, I will make the choice to do my work and to study. In these cases, fear helps us avoid bad or harmful consequences. Fear can also do the opposite. Memories of my parents saying, “If your friend jumped off a bridge…”. Peer pressure is often driven by fears of rejection or being left out.

Verse ten reads, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. On the surface level, it seems odd to tie fearing God to gaining wisdom. The fear of God is not like a fear of spiders, where we avoid them at all costs. A fear of God is a healthy thing. Often in life we choose to face our fears because of our faith in God. For example, I can choose to do the right thing and possibly lose a friend or a client because I fear denying my faith when I cheat or lie or when I avoid speaking a difficult truth. I may choose to risk loving the other even though I fear being hurt or getting into a relationship that requires much energy and time. I do so because I fear what life would be like without love. Or I fear what will happen to that marginalized person if I remain silent more than I fear the consequences of speaking out against injustice or abuse. In each case, my fear of denying the nudges and whispers of God’s Spirit outweigh or override my personal fears.

The fear of God can help us correctly prioritize our lives. In our first fear is denying God, then our life will look robustly faithful. Our words and actions will be on the side of love and mercy and compassion and justice and forgiveness and the like. Understanding that God and the witness to our faith is our purpose in life is the beginning of wisdom. This day may we decide for God and His love. Amen.


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Mind and Heart

Reading: Ephesians 1: 15-23

Verse 17: “I keep asking that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation”.

Paul is thankful for the church’s faith in Jesus and their love for the saints.  He writes that he has “not stopped giving thanks” as he remembers them in his prayers.  But Paul is not content to end his prayers of thanksgiving here.  He goes on in the next verse to write, “I keep asking that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation”.  Paul realizes that the church in Ephesus is not “there” yet.  This verse finishes with these words: “so that you may know Him better”.  This is the purpose of our journey of faith too.  As followers of Christ, we never fully know Jesus.  Each day of our lives we can know Him more and more, coming to be more and more like Christ.

We know Jesus in two interconnected yet different ways.  We first come to know Jesus in our minds.  Whether as a child in Sunday school or as an adult who later comes to faith, we begin by learning about Jesus.  Whether that is through the Sunday school stories or through seeing faith lived out in the lives of other Christians, we first come to know Jesus.  This head knowledge eventually travels the path to our heart and we begin to sense a need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  When we get to know Him sufficiently we respond to that “knock on the door of our heart”, one day finally professing Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our life.  Then Jesus has a place in our heart.  But beware – we are not “there” yet either!

Paul’s prayer is for the Ephesians and for us to have the “Spirit” of wisdom and revelation.  In having a spirit that yearns to know Him better, Paul prays that the eyes of our heart be enlightened so that we know both the “hope to which He has called you” and the “incomparably great power” for us who believe.  In coming to know and live into these two requires both wisdom and revelation because these two are both in our heart and in our mind.

This day may we have mind experiences that cause our heart love of Jesus to grow as well as heart experiences that reaffirm and expand our mind knowledge of Jesus Christ.  In both ways we continue to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ, ever drawing closer to Him.


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Listen

Reading: Genesis 2: 15-17

Adam and Eve began in the garden.  Each day they walk and talk with God, enjoying all that God has provided.  They have been given almost unlimited access to the garden and all of its bounty.  The one restriction God places is upon the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God lets Adam and Eve know that they will die if they eat of this one tree.

Can you remember as a kid when your Mom or Dad said, “Don’t do” this or that?  At least some of the time these were things you never would have thought of on your own.  But more often than not, your wise and loving parents knew from experience that sooner or later that tree or rooftop or toy your sister had would be more than you could resist.  We were the same way.  All parents are.  If there was something that could harm or be bad for our children, we warn them about it.  God was doing the same thing in the garden.  God knew that once the knowledge of good and evil entered the minds of mankind, that the world would never be the same.  He was right.

As grown adults, we continue to get many warnings.  Sometimes they come from our spouse or our friend or our coworker.  Sometimes the warnings even come from our own minds.  Sometimes the words are in the form of a whisper from the Holy Spirit.  Like we would have been when we were children, we would be wise to heed the warning, to listen to the voice of those with our best interests at heart.  This day, O Lord, help me to be obedient and faithful as I try to follow the example of Jesus.  It is only possible through your power and presence, so please be with me today.


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Kingdom Builders

Reading: 1 Corinthians 2: 12-16

As followers of Jesus Christ, we receive the Spirit from God.  Through our baptism we become part of the family of God.  When we accept Christ as the Lord of our life, we are blessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  It is the Spirit that helps us to discern and understand the things of God.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit we come to know the gifts and talents that God has blessed us with and how to use them for the glory of God.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth to encourage them and to spur them on to action.  Paul reminds them that when they allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them that they will speak not with human words and wisdom but instead they will speak words taught by the Spirit.  With the power of the Holy Spirit they will speak to others “expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words”.  God will fill them with “the mind of Christ” so that they are able to share Jesus’ light and love with others.

Both remain true today.  God has blessed every member of every church with gifts to be used for the kingdom.  As members of the body of Christ, we are called to help each other discover our gifts and talents.  We do this through fellowship, by getting to know one another, and by inviting one another to come along as we go forth to serve Christ in the world.  We also do this through prayer and study, allowing the Spirit time and space to reveal who God created us to be.  Once we know our gifts and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the use of our gifts, then through the power of God we will be able to do great things for the kingdom of God.

May we each play our role well – both by seeking the Holy Spirit and by faithfully serving God with the gifts we have been blessed with.  May we each be kingdom builders today.


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God’s Power

Reading: 1 Corinthians 2: 1-16

Paul was well-educated and knew the Jewish faith inside out.  He could quote from the scriptures all day long.  He could probably recite all 623 codes found in the Law.  Paul was a man with great knowledge.  And he was very smart – he knew that the power to transform lives was held by God alone.  So Paul chose to proclaim faith, not religion.  Paul chose to share the words brought to him by the Spirit instead of relying on all the fancy religious terms and rules he knew so well.  Paul chose to speak from the heart and not the mind.

When we come to the sacred place of being able to share our faith with someone, they want to know the source of our joy, peace, and contentment.  They want to know how God has transformed us.  They want to know how accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will change them forever.  There is no interest in knowing what committee we are on or where to sign up to be an usher.  The seeker simply wants to feel what we feel and to experience the power of Christ in their life.  They want to hear and feel from our hearts what it means to be in a relationship with Jesus.

Others will come to us in times of pain or brokenness.  They often do not know where else to turn.  They have exhausted their other options.  Some have a sense that only God can help.  It may be prompted by a sudden tragedy, by an unexpected job loss, a request for a divorce that comes out of nowhere.  Here too we must speak from the heart and must rely on the power of God to give us the words to say.  Like Paul, we must trust in God to lead and guide us and to help us “speak not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths”.  In situations that are truly beyond us and make us feel inadequate, we must call upon God and seek the power of God.  Then the words we speak will be the wisdom of God.

In all things we must rely on the Lord our God.  This is true of our words, our actions, our relationships.   May we ever seek God first, trusting fully in God’s power alone.