pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Markers of Success

Reading: Luke 16:19-31

Verse 19: “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linens and lived in luxury every day.”

Photo credit: Falaq Lazuardi

Today we begin to look at a parable called “The Rich Man and Lazarus.” We will first focus on the rich man. We will turn to Lazarus and other aspects of the story later in the week. In the opening verse we read about the rich man. To dress in purple was a sign of wealth and power. To wear fine linens implied a life of leisure. Both of these are signs of success. Living in luxury every day was a sign of great wealth. The rich man has arrived. He has the life. That is how society would see him, right?

The standards haven’t changed much. Our culture looks at someone in fancy clothes, jetting here and there, living large as the epitome of success. In worldly terms, yes, they have achieved a certain status. For the rich man, this became his focus. Living for self became his goal. In the story it doesn’t sound like he gave Lazarus much thought. He does know his name. At some point he at least noticed the poor beggar lying outside his door. But Lazarus wasn’t worth much attention. Too busy enjoying and living life!

While I certainly don’t jet around or dress in fine linens, I do struggle at times to “see” those in need. I can get caught up in my version of success. By nature, I’m a doer, a checklist maker. These are my markers of success – getting things done, accomplishment, focus. I can get so busy chasing after these things that I can blow past the person in need that God has placed at my door. I can get frustrated when a person or circumstance is forced, rightly so, upon my organized and planned out life. What are your markers of success that can compete with loving the one that God places in your path?

Prayer: Lord God, when I get a bit too self-absorbed, bring me back down to the heart of love that lives inside of me. Gently nudge me, smack me upside the head – do what you need to do to remind me to love others as Jesus loves me. Lessen the self inside me so that others become my focus. All for your glory. Amen.


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Anything

Reading: Exodus 17: 1-7

Verse 4: “Then Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What am I to do with these people'”?

As the people come to be in need of water, they come to Moses and they quarrel with him about it. He is their leader. There is no water. They want Moses to do something about it. Moses realizes that he cannot do anything about it so he turns to the one who can. Even though he was frustrated, Moses turns to God and God responds by providing water from a rock in the middle of the desert.

I cannot blame Moses for being a bit frustrated. Time and time again the people have quarreled and tested both Moses and God. So much so that Moses names the place of the miracle as such! Moses does what he should do – he goes to God. Unfortunately many of us do not follow this example, myself included, especially in my past. When something was wrong or needed taken care of, I fixed it or did it. That was my nature. I was a “doer”. So much so, when I was moved to my first church as the only pastor, I had to learn a couple of hard lessons. I was warned by my district superintendent not to just do everything. He made my natural leaning seem like a bad thing. Even though I was warned not to do everything, to allow others to do, I had a learning curve that proved the wisdom of his words.

Whether it is pride or the need to be in control that drives us to be a doer or if it is fear of failure or of disappointing others that drives us to get inaction, like Moses, a quick turn towards God should be our first step. And often our second and third and…

In our passage today, God pretty much ignored Moses’ frustration. God led Moses to a rock, which he struck, and water poured out. Read that again. Yes, water came from a rock in the middle of the desert. God can do anything. Anything. If we but turn. Like Moses, may our attitude be one of surrender and may our first steps be toward God. Then we too will see and experience the amazing power of God.

Prayer: Lord God, continue to mold and shape me into who you intend me to be. I am grateful for the journey so far, and I know there is far to go. I am even thankful for the times you’ve had to squash the clay, to begin almost from scratch – painful but necessary steps in my process. Day by day, lead and guide me, shape and form me, O God. Amen.


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A Living Expression

Ezra and the Levites not only read the Word of God to the people, but they also explain the meaning.  In doing so, the people can do more than simply hear the Word read; they can gain an understanding of them and apply them to their lives.  In today’s passage, they were reading from the law.  Through the priests’ explanations, the people came to see that they were falling short and they mourned.

At times we too read the Bible or hear a sermon or read a devotional book and we experience conviction or motivation.  Maybe the passage is about loving our neighbor and we realize we have been less than loving to a coworker.  Maybe the message is about forgiveness and it leads us to reconcile with a friend.  Maybe the devotional for the day speaks of an act of generosity and we are inspired to clean out the closets so that we can donate some warm clothing to the local mission.  God’s Word is active and living.  When we spend time in the Word, reading or hearing it, it has to affect how we live our life as it builds our love for God.  Through the Word, we also come to know God’s love for us.

Ezra does not leave the people mourning though.  Instead he reminds them of the holiness of their gathering and of their ability to live out the Word.  He helps them to see that when they are together, it is a time of blessing.  The blessing is both from the time spent with God and from the time spent with each other as both build up their strength.  As he sends them out to the feast to celebrate, he reminds them to continue to care for one another and to be in community.  If a brother or sister is lacking, he reminds the people to provide for them so that they too can celebrate God’s presence and strength in their lives and in the community.

We too are called to hear and then doers of the Word.  May our lives each day be a living expression of all that God places upon our hearts and then calls us to do as we continue on our journey of faith.

Scripture reference: Nehemiah 8: 8-10


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Hearers and Doers

We communicate in many ways, often without words.  People can easily pick up on our mood just by watching our facial expressions.  The things that matter most in our lives are revealed by the priorities we use to allocate what we do with the free time we have.  We can express ourselves with words as well, but James makes the case that our actions speak louder than our words.

As an individual and as a community of faith, we should have an active faith that shows our beliefs by how we live out our lives.  Simply by observing how we treat others, how we offer ourselves to those in need, and how we handle the adversity that life brings should reveal our faith.  It is often through these observations that we gain the social capital necessary to share the good news of Jesus Christ with another.

Many will gather today in worship.  If a person were to observe your worship today without being able to hear any of the words or the music, would they see joy and praise in you?  Would they see one who is happy to be in the presence of God and one who is lifted by the experience?

As we gather together today for worship, we have much to offer each other.  Today we will have the opportunity to hear the words of life.  It is a choice to listen to and to engage these words so that one can grow in their faith and holiness.  It is a choice to allow the word of God to take root and to continue to ponder how it affects our life as we go through the week ahead.  May we receive what God has to offer today so that we become doers of the word defined by the Word and led by the Holy Spirit.

Scripture reference: James 1: 17-27