pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Sincere, Devoted, Selfless

Reading: Romans 12: 9-21

Verse 10: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves”.

The section for today is titled “Love” in my Bible. If I had to choose just one word to describe or define God or Jesus, love would be the word. Love guides all that the divine does and says. In today’s passage, Paul encourages us to live the same way.

“Love” is a word that has many applications and even more degrees at the human level. Love, like most words, can be tossed around and can be easily manipulated. It can be twisted for our own purposes. These types of uses fall under the “hate what is evil” part of verse nine. Paul begins today by slicing through all of this by writing “love must be sincere”. Other translations use pure or genuine. It is a calling to love as God and as Jesus love. As Paul urges us to “cling to what is good”, I am reminded of the WWJD slogan. Well, Jesus would love.

In verse ten Paul writes, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves”. The first part of this verse mainly covers agape or brotherly love but the same ideas are essential with all forms of love. Being devoted means commitment and investment in the relationship. It means always honoring and respecting the other person. This approach naturally leads into the second part of this verse. Genuine or sincere love makes the intentional and purposeful choice to place the other person’s needs and wants ahead of our own. This is a call to selfless love. Often it is a sacrificial love. Here too we are reminded of the love that Jesus Christ modeled throughout his ministry and especially on the cross. There he put the needs of the entire world before his own wants as he conceded “not my will but your will be done” to God in the garden.

As we consider what sincere, devoted, selfless love looks like today, may we be thankful for Christ and for others who have loved and who love us this way. And may we strive to love in this model ourselves. May it be so with all we meet.

Prayer: Lord God, to have such a love is admittedly not always easy. The easier path is selfish and inwardly focused. Open my heart to love as you love. Help me to deny self and to even die to those parts of myself. Mold me and shape me to love as you first loved me. Amen.


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Call on God

Reading: Psalm 17: 1-7 and 15

Verse 6: “I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer”.

Today’s Psalm is a prayer to God for help and protection. As I read David’s words, I know that I have prayer similar prayers at times. Just as it is from time to time with my prayers, in David’s prayer there are two angles. The first is mentioned above – a desire for help and protection. We all pray these prayers, usually daily at least. If these prayers are not for ourselves, we certainly raise them for family, friends, and others. These prayers can be sincere petitions for God’s touch or presence or they can be prayers of anguish and desperation.

As we read today’s Psalm, for me there is also a familiarity with the righteousness of David’s prayer. He is assured of his own righteousness and holy living. David claims to have “kept from the ways of the violent” and that his “feet have not slipped”. There is almost an air of ‘Look how good I am God. How can this be happening to me’? Again, I too have prayed this kind of prayer from this place in my heart. When we have been striving to live faithfully and something unjust or unethical happens to us, it is natural to question God as to why it is happening. Even though it may be our natural inclination, it is dangerous ground to try and leverage God or to expect better because of what we perceive as our own superior righteousness or goodness.

In verse six David shows his trust in God. Here we read, “I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer”. David is sure that God will hear and answer. The Psalm also closes with David trusting in God. He believes that in the morning, when all of this has passed, that he will see God’s face. The trust that God will see him through is a trust that we too should model. As we ourselves bring our prayers and petitions to God, may we humbly exhibit the same deep trust in God’s presence and care and love for us. Day by day may we too see God’s face.

Prayer: Lord God, remind me daily of your love and care. In ways small and large grant that I may see your hand at work in my life and in the church. May I ever trust in you alone. Amen.


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Childlike

Reading: Psalm 71: 1-4

Verse 2: “Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me”.

In our Psalm today, as in many of the Psalms, there is an honest cry to God for help, for rescue, for refuge, for deliverance. The psalmist cries out to God almost like a child would cry out for help… Verse 2 reads, “Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me”. There is an honesty and a trust that reminds me of how a child asks their human parent in times of need. The child has an almost unshakable belief that the parent will come through.

Jesus encourages us to have the faith of a child or to have childlike faith. It is a faith that comes openly and honestly to God with our sincere requests as well as our grandiose dreams. It is a faith that says and believes that God can do anything – no request is too big for God. It is a faith that comes with no pretense and with no agendas. It must be refreshing to God when we come to Him like a child, like the psalmist, with this pure faith.

As adults we struggle to have this kind of faith. We like to pretend that we have it all figured out and to act as if everything were under control. This makes it hard to ask for help. It is hard to ask our spouse or co-worker or boss for help. Ask God for help?! To admit we are in need of help, to cry out to God in our times of trial – well, that is just childlike. And it is exactly what God wants.

Like the psalmist, this day and every day may we seek to have a childlike faith, coming to our loving heavenly Father with and and all prayers. May we bring God our greatest joys and our most heartfelt sorrows. And like a child, may we trust our heavenly Father with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Prayer: Lord, grant me an honest and humble heart. May I come to you ever open and always honest, trusting in you alone. Amen.


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Let Us…

Reading: Hebrews 10: 19-25

Verse 21: “Since we have a great high priest over the house of God…”

Jesus opened the way for us – “a new and living way” – to enter into God’s presence. No longer is access limited to the one person chosen by lot to enter on everyone else’s behalf. “Since we have a great high priest over the house of God…” All who call on Jesus Christ as Lord can enter into God’s presence through Jesus.

In today’s reading there are four “Let us…” statements that are responses to the access provided by Jesus, our great high priest. They begin with “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart”. With an assurance that we are cleansed from our sins, we draw close to God. The second is “let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess”. We hold fast because God, the one who made the promise, is always faithful. The covenant to be our God and to always love us is neverending. We hold fast to our faith because we have the promise of God’s presence and love.

The third statement is “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds”. We begin by loving each other as Jesus first loved us. In this model, we will be people who go out and love others. Our good deeds are the vehicle to express that love. The fourth statement goes along with the third. “Let us encourage one another”. We do so by meeting together regularly – not just for Sunday morning worship but also for Bible study and prayer, for food and fellowship, and one on one to mentor and support.

These four statements are great reminders to us that we are in this together. They were given to a people living under pressure in an increasingly pagan world. This sounds familiar. In our post-Christian world, this day and each day may we cling to these “Let us…” statements. Amen.

Prayer: Lord God, today remind me of your promises and your love. Lead me to draw close in true faith, assured of your love. Help me to meet with and to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ so that we may encourage one another to be your hands and feet, your salt and light in a lost and hurting world. May it be so this day and every day. Amen.


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Broken

Reading: Luke 15: 1-3 & 11b-32

Today’s parable is familiar and allows for interesting perspectives.  One can easily see the story from multiple character’s views and can easily relate to each because most of us have filled all three roles at points in our lives.  If not us personally, we have been privy to others playing these roles.  The age-old question is always: who do you best relate to?  To me, the answer can vary at different times and maybe at times it can be all three that we relate best to.

Generally the older son is seen as the responsible son, at least at the beginning of the story.  He stayed and worked faithfully.  Like a good soldier he has been trudging along all these years.  One can easily envision the scorn and disgust he felt as the younger brother walked away from the family.  Once he returns we see that the older brother has not been serving happily all these years.  He reminds me of that coworker who has been on the job five years too long.

Generally the younger brother is seen as the rebel, as the selfish one.  In that day he was essentially saying, “Dad – you are as good as dead to me – can I have my money now”?  After going off and spending his third of the estate in “wild living”, he comes to a place of brokenness, repents, and heads for home to live as one of his father’s hired hands.  But the apology script he has practiced over and over isn’t really needed.  I’d guess the father never even heard the words his youngest son was trying to offer.

For the father and in our relationship with God, the words do not matter.  What matters is the condition of our heart.  God does not need to hear our confessions.  He does desire for us to come to Him with a broken and contrite heart, a heart that knows our deep and great need for Him.  This day may we come to admit our brokenness and may we seek Him in a real and deep way, connecting to God as we express our absolute need for Him.


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Guard the Tongue!

As human beings we are created with quick and gifted minds.  We can create and solve and figure out all sorts of imaginative inventions and complex designs and perplexing problems.  We can learn to do many different tasks and hone specific skills.  We can even learn to speak multiple languages.  Our minds are amazing creations.

“No one can tame the tongue” states James.  There are many, many instances each day where we can prove him right.  Sometimes it is us that does so, sometimes we observe others doing so.  The list of words uttered that I wish I had not said is quite a long list.  We all have similar lists.  But if one were to look at the list chronologically, hopefully one would see a pattern emerging.  As one grows in the maturity of one’s faith, you would hope to see increasing gaps between the items on the list.  A growing and developing faith should exhibit itself in how we speak to and treat one another.

James indeed does pose the question of how can we praise God with the same tongue we curse our fellow man.  It is a good question.  The simple and correct answer is that we cannot do this.  But the reality is that we do struggle with controlling our tongue.  Sometimes our amazing brains are too quick and out of our mouths comes something that should not.

At the point of hurting or harming another with our tongue, first we must offer a sincere and humble apology to all offended.  Second, we must look within and go to work at taming the tongue better.  Third, we too must be merciful and gracious when we are stung or hurt.  We are all on the same journey to draw closer and closer to God, to become more and more like His Son, Jesus.  Each day may we guard our tongues so that our light can shine brightest into the world all around us.

Scripture reference: James 3: 5b-12