pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Falling Short

Reading: 1st Corinthians 8: 1-6

Verse 3: “The man who loves God is known by God”.

Paul begins this section on food sacrificed to idols by speaking of knowledge. He is talking about what is inside our heads. This is usually where faith begins. Most Christians follow the same path: learning about God, Jesus, and faith in Sunday school, youth group… as they mature in faith until one day the head knowledge becomes heart truth. As is true with almost everything in life, in our faith we understand more and more the longer we journey in faith. Within the Corinthian church some were relying their superior knowledge and it was causing division and it was hindering the faith journey of the new believers. In our churches today, we still do this at times. We allow our knowledge to “puff” us up.

The first way this happens is when we make our churches feel exclusive. We all look and talk alike, we act alike, we appear to be perfect Christians. We have those that we gravitate to each Sunday morning. A visitor can feel like an outsider very quickly, especially when they are not like the homogeneous crowd. Someone who comes because they are struggling with something really feels out of place when they enter a room full of people without any faults or issues. To further create a sense of “us” and “them” we use insider language and big fancy words. Maybe most regulars know what sanctification, justification, atonement, sacrament… mean. But if you are new to the faith, these terms can make you feel like an outsider very quickly.

In the Corinthian church the mature believers knew “that an idol is nothing at all”. To them, idols were just carved pieces of stone or wood. The mature believers knew that there was only one God, only one Lord. But for the new believers, the ones who had grown up worshipping these idols all their lives, this idea was a struggle. The mature believers were saying, in essence, “just get over it”, “just believe what I say I believe”. They were not willing to walk in love with their new brothers and sisters in Christ. They were not willing to enter the struggle, to walk alongside the one wrestling with their conscience.

We do this in our churches when we fail to talk about our sins and struggles. Church becomes a social club for the perfect and for the saints. Nope, no sin here. We know all we need to know to be good little Christians. In verse three Paul writes, “The man who loves God is known by God”. Loving God must lead to loving others. Jesus unpacks the truth of this idea in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25: 31-46). When we say we love God, when we say all are welcome in our churches but do not really welcome the sinners and broken people into our communities of faith, we are falling short. When we look down on those “obviously” dealing with sin by making them feel unwelcome, we are falling short. When we indirectly but clearly say come back when you have your life together, we are falling short. May it not be so church. May it not be so.

Prayer: Lord God, help me to truly love others as a witness to my love for you. Strip away my pride and judgmental tendencies, guide me to walk side by side in love with those in struggle, with those living outside of your love. Give me the courage to admit my struggles and sins within the body of Christ. Grant me a welcoming and compassionate spirit. Amen.


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Is God the Focus?

Reading: 1st Corinthians 7: 29-31

Verses 29 and 31: “…the time is short… For this world in its present form is passing away”.

Paul writes today of the constant tension that Christians have and always will live in. Our passage today begins with “What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short”. Here Paul is first thinking in terms of Jesus’ return. The first believers believed that his return was imminent. Paul is also thinking of our time here on earth. Our lives, even if we live into our eighties or nineties, is but a mist compared to eternity. Under both of these arguments, Paul is calling the Corinthians and all believers to really focus in on what matters most during our lives so that our eternity is spent in heaven with God.

In the body of this passage Paul tells his readers not to focus on family or on happiness or mourning or on the things we own. He warns us not to become too “engrossed” with the things of this world – status, wealth, titles, popularity… As folks who live in this day and age, we know the lures of this world quite well. Society and culture elevates these very things that Paul warns about as the meaning and purpose of life. Society and culture seek to tie our value and our identity and our “success” to what we own and to the power we have because of our title or position or wealth. According to Paul, all of these things are not to be our focus. He sums up our passage and his argument with these words: “For this world in its present form is passing away”. One day all of this will be no more. One day a new heaven and earth will be the reality. My house, my car, my bank account, my job, my titles, my accomplishments – all will be no more. And if I die before Jesus returns, I will not keep or take any of these things with me. They do not matter.

Paul reminds us today to focus on God as our first love, as our main connection, as the focal point in this life. The wisdom of the ages has taught us that where we spend our time and our money truly reveals what is most important to us. As you consider your allocation of these resources, do they reveal God as your focus? Is God your priority?

Prayer: Lord God, while I begin my day in time with you and while I “work” at a church, too often I am concerned with the things of this world. Draw me away from these concerns and desires and pull me deeper into love with you. Delve into my heart, be my all in all. Amen.


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Holy

Reading: Leviticus 19: 1-2

Today’s verses contain quite a challenge.  God calls us to be holy.  What does it mean to be ‘holy’?  Does it require us to be loving all the time, to never sin, to always be a servant to others?  Is this a 24-7 thing?  When taken from the ‘why’ part of these verses – “because I, the Lord your God, am holy” – it would appear impossible for us.  Yes, God is holy.  Yes, God is without sin.  Yes, God is love.  It is just who and what God is.  And so God tells us to be holy too.

The call to be holy is akin to a parent saying a child, ‘now be good’, as they head out the door to school or to some event.  Yes, the parent wants their child to be good, but this is not always the case, even though most children head off intending to be good as they leave the house.  This too is our struggle.  Even though one awakens every morning and seeks God’s guidance and direction in the day ahead, at times we falter and sin.  This is a limitation of our humanity.  But the grace of God is greater than our weakness!

John Wesley called our walk of faith the “journey towards perfection”.  That is what we are on.  No, I am not perfect.  No, I am not always holy.  But is that my goal?  Yes!  We are ever called to push on “towards the goal” of attaining life in Christ in heaven.  To do so, to accomplish this task, we are being transformed day by day.  It is a slow but steady process.  The transforming work is done by God alone, but others play a role.

For our part, we must seek God daily and invest in growing closer to God, to being holy.  We read and meditate on the Word, we pray and we worship.  W choose to engage with other Christians for support, encouragement, and accountability.  The gift of the Holy Spirit also plays an important role.  God created each of us and knows each of us intimately.  Therefore, God knows our reality.  Into our limitations, God breathes the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit constantly prays for us, continually works to keep us aligned with God, convicts us when necessary, always working to draw us closer to God, closer to holiness.  Yes, we are imperfect, but thank God for His unending love and patience, for the presence of the Holy Spirit, and for ever drawing us closer and closer to being holy.


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Christ’s Witnesses

On our bulletin we have a box listing the staff of the church and on the first line it reads: “Ministers…. The Congregation.”  It is important to define the body of Christ as those whose ‘job’ it is to go forth in ministry to the world.  All Christians everywhere have the charge to go forth into their world to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

The idea that all Christians are part of this work of the church first originated during the Reformation and was referred to as the ‘priesthood of all believers’.  It is not the role of just the pastor or priest, but the role of all believers to be priests in their world by being the witness and presence of God to those in their midst, to their neighbors.

Clergy do have a role to fill.  Those calls to formal ministry must offer the sacraments and must lead, teach, guide, and equip the people of God to be minnisters to their neighbors.  These clergy and the whole body of Christ prays for one another, encourages one another, hold one another accountable, supports one another, and works alongside one another.  All of us together help build the kingdom of God here on earth.

Jesus Christ was and is and is to come.  We, as the priesthood of all believers, must carry His message of love and grace and forgiveness out into a world living in darkness.  As believers we must all be Christ’s witnesses and presence in the world through our words, actions, and deeds.  Today may we represent well.

Scripture reference: Revelation 1: 4b-8