pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Be Generous

Reading: Luke 16:1-9

Verse 3: “What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job.”

The gospel lesson for this week is one of Jesus’ most difficult teachings. It is one we can read through again and again and still scratch our heads. Is Jesus really commending someone for being dishonest? For cheating his boss? After all, the manager reduces debts owed to his master or boss, all to make those debtors indebted to him instead. And when the boss finds out, he commends the manager for acting shrewdly. Maybe money isn’t the most important thing in the world. Maybe the way we use money is what really matters. Jesus seems to agree. In verses 9 he advises, “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

The master was impressed because the manager used money to gain an advantage – in this world. Here is where Jesus differs. He advises us to use earthly wealth to gain advantage in the life to come. A time of hardship led the manager to act as he did: “What shall I do now?” he thought. We all find ourselves in places of hardship. We all know people who are in hardship. Whether on the receiving end or on the giving end, Jesus advises us to be generous with our money – which is really God’s money. Use earthly wealth to help others, to alleviate hardship, to build relationships and connections. Do so not for our own earthly gain, but do so for the glory of God. Then, in the end, we will know heavenly blessings. May it be so.

Prayer: Lord God, help me to be shrewd with the money you’ve blessed me with, using it in ways that reveal your love and care for us all. May my sharing be counter cultural, leading to conversations about faith, about compassion, about generosity. Amen.

My master is taking away my job.”


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Good Works

Reading: Ephesians 2: 6-10

Verse 10: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works”.

In our passage yesterday we focused on how God saved us from our sins through his grace and love. Paid for by Christ, grace is available to all who call on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Grace rests upon God’s no-matter-what love. God loves us no matter what we do, no matter what we do not do. This unconditional love is the core of who and what God is. Once we accept this love, Christ becomes alive in us. God’s love comes and dwells in our hearts in the Holy Spirit.

In today’s passage we hear about our response to God’s love and grace. In the gospels Jesus was clear that the highest calling of a disciple is to love -> love God, love one another. Jesus himself defined this as the mark of a disciple. Paul begins today by reminding us that grace is a gift. It is not something we can earn or work for. This is a humbling thought. Because it is a gift, freely and generously given, we are not to boast. We can be tempted to boast about things that God has given us: beauty, strength, physical or intellectual abilities… Humility is the key here too.

Paul does suggest we respond to the gift of grace and to the unconditional love of God. In verse ten Paul writes, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works”. What are “good works”? Jesus identifies some: feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned, clothing the naked, housing the wanderer, loving our neighbor. Good works also include lifting the other, alleviating or sharing other’s burdens, walking through the valleys, sharing food and other blessings, standing with the powerless and marginalized, including others in our faith communities… Simply put, it is being Christ to the world. It is being light and love in the world, sharing the gifts that we have received. May we be generous as we spread his love today.

Prayer: Lord God, help me to love well today. In all I do and say may I share your love with others, helping each to feel the kingdom of God drawing near. Amen.


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Dominion

Reading: Psalm 22: 23-31

Verse 28: “Dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations”.

Photo credit: Erik Van Dijk

The words that we read in today’s Psalm seem far from the realities of our world. The world feels like it is full of suffering. Many of their cries seem to go unanswered. The poor do not appear to be satisfied. All the earth has not turned toward the Lord. In the midst of these continuing realities, verse 28 calls us to a higher truth, to an eternal reality: “Dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations”.

The hope that we find in our faith reminds us that this world and its trials are temporary. God is truly in charge and one day the Lord will be the only king or ruler. All people past and present will “kneel before him”. This is a future scene that one day will come. As we live out our day to day lives, do we simply wait for Christ to return or to call us home? Do we just go through the motions of life and live with the suffering and the cries and the plight of the poor? Should we be okay with all the lost souls?

As Christians in the modern world reading these words written long ago by King David, our role is to connect to that “future generation” and to be the ones who “proclaim his righteousness” and who share the hope we have with a world in need. Rather than seeing ourselves as David and the Jews did and do – as a chosen people set aside for God – may we see ourselves as Jesus saw and lived out his ministry: as one sent into the world to minister to needs, to care for the marginalized, to alleviate suffering. May we, by our words and actions, proclaim that the kingdom of God has drawn near, manifesting this reality in the world. May all that we do and say reveal the dominion and rule of Christ here and now. In and through us, may Christ reign.

Prayer: Lord God, open my eyes and heart to the cries of the suffering and to the needs around me. Lead and guide me to make your love known in this world. Amen.


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Suffering

Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-14 and 5:6-11

Verse Nine: Resist him [Satan], standing firm in the faith.

Suffering is the overarching theme in today’s passage.  Peter opens by reminding us that we may suffer for our faith.  He says, “do not be surprised” and encourages us to “rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ”.  To really suffer for our faith is foreign to us, isn’t it?  To rejoice because we are suffering for our faith seems even more foreign!  Yet over the course of our faith journey, most of us can look back and see times when holding fast to our faith led to some decisions and choices that had a ‘cost’ and came with some suffering.  Maybe it was a relationship that you had to let go or a work decision that kept your integrity but cost a promotion or a windfall in your bank account.  This is the type of suffering that most Christians we know suffer.  But the reality is that there is much pain and suffering just beyond the doors of our beautiful churches and just down the street from our nice neighborhoods.

Every community, big or small, has its share of suffering.  When Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us, He knew we would.  We find suffering clustered here and there.  In my town it is called “housing” and in all communities there is a similar neighborhood.  The housing conditions are poor, people go without heat and/or electricity for stretches, and food is sometimes scarce.  In larger communities there are also homeless shelters, safe houses, and halfway houses.  In big communities there are the “projects” and in some huge cities whole communities are built out of cardboard and scrap metal and there is no running water or electricity.  Go to this place in your community and you will see that there is pain and suffering, there is hurt, and there is a loss of hope.

Our call as Christians is clear: go.  Go!  Go and do what you can when you can.  Alone you and I cannot end the suffering…  But we can alleviate some and lessen some.  We can bring food and clothing and whatever else material is needed.  We can bring food and sometimes clean water.  We can fix a leaky roof, a broken window, or a creaky set of steps.  We can sit and hear someone’s story and offer some words of hope.  We can also work to address some of the root causes and systematic forces that cause the pain and suffering.  This can be through education, through voicing opposition to the systems that work against those in poverty, and through fighting things like prejudice and stereotyping and judging.  This day and every day may we “Resist him [Satan], standing firm in the faith”.  Evil comes in many forms.  Today may we resist all forms if evil and suffering as we seek to bring the hope and love of Christ to a world in need.