pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

Search, Know, Lead

Reading: Psalm 139: 13-18 and 23-24

Verses 23 and 24: Search me, O God, and know my heart… Lead me in the way everlasting.

The opening lines of Psalm 139 establish the deep and intimate relationship that David has with God.  In today’s reading, David goes back to the very beginning of life and then asks for God to continue in their present relationship.  It is a lifetime with God.  Over the course of this journey, David has fallen deeply in love with God.

All of us begin as David began – knit together in the womb.  He acknowledges that as he was woven together, God was there and saw his unformed body.  In understanding the process of how he was created, David in turn offers priase for how he was “fearfully and wonderfully made”.  The miracle of life and birth can only be accomplished by the creator of all life: God.  We too offer our praise as we are also the wonderful works of God’s hands.

The Psalm concludes with David’s invitation to God.  He writes, “Search me, O God, and know my heart”.  David invites the One who created him to continue to be present in a very open and totally transparent way.  He willingly opens his heart and soul to God and asks God to search out all the corners and closets – to know him completely.  This is an honesty and a transparency that we are sometimes a little hesitant to offer.  At times, we like to hold onto a little of the control.  At times, we like to keep that secret sin tucked away in the closet.  And at times, we place a part of ourselves in that dark corner, where it can come our from once in a great while.

David, we know, had some of these things in him as well.  To varying degrees we all do.  We find David in a new place today though – in a place where he is inviting God to search and know all of him.  In a way it is an admission that he needed to make to get to the next level in the relationship.  David had to release whatever was left, whatever was holding back the relationship.  Search me, know me, O God.  May we follow David’s example of surrender, offering all of ourselves to God – the good and the bad – knowing that our loving Father will “lead us in the way everlasting”.


Leave a comment

Deeper

Reading: Psalm 139: 1-12

Verse One: O Lord, you have searched me and know me.

Although the Psalm is centuries old, it still speaks powerfully of the relationship we can have with our God.  When David penned this Psalm, he had matured in his faith and his position in life was pretty secure.  But in his youth he had been through periods of trial and testing, through times of fleeing and rebellion.  Through these experiences he developed a very intimate relationship with God.  The Psalm is a celebration of that relationship.  It also calls out to us to each seek an intimate relationship with God.

Verse one begins with the basis of the relationship: “O Lord, you have searched me and know me”.  It is not a snoopy or creepy knowing – it is a lovely and caring knowing.  God is both all-knowing and ever-present.  But it is a sign of intimacy when we choose to live into these facts – it shows we are all in too.  The idea that God knows the words of our hearts and minds before they come to our tongue reveals that God is all in.  Just as much as we need God, God desires a deeply personal and intimate relationship as well.

Verse seven begins with “where can I go…” and “where can I flee…” questions.  David is not seeking to hide from God or to take a break from the relationship.  He is celebrating that God is everywhere.  David knows that no matter where he goes and no matter where life may bring him, God will be there.  God is in the heavens and in the depths and on the far side of the sea.  Even in the darkness God is fully present.  No matter where he goes, David finds that God is right there for him.

God invites us into an intimate, deeply personal relationship.  God seeks anf offers transparency and honesty and an all in commitment to the relationship.  Even though we may wander from time to time and drift to the edge on occasion, God is always pursuing us, always seeking to deepen our relationship.  May we each pursue this relationship with our God and King.  This day may we move deeper into the depths of God’s love.


Leave a comment

Remember

Reading: Genesis 28: 16-19a

Verse 18: Jacob took the stone… and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it.

During the night, Jacob has an amazing encounter with God.  When he wakes up the next morning, he reflects back on this encounter.  His first thought is of surprise – he did not expect God to be in this place.  It was simply where Jacob stopped because it was getting dark out.  As he lay his head down on his rock, sleep was all he expected.  Jacob’s comment, “I was not aware” reveals his surprise.  On the one hand, we think God is everywhere all the time.  But on the other hand, it surprises us when God shows up in a big and unexpected way at a random place.

Once Jacob realized that God was very present, he shifts for a moment to fear.  The text reads “he was afraid” so it is not a healthy fear or a reverence for God.  If God were to speak to me in an audible, direct way, true fear would also be part of my reaction.  When our omnipresent God becomes direct and personal, one reaction would be fear.  God is talking to me?  Gulp.

Jacob quickly moves past fear and into celebration.  He says aloud, “How awesome is this place”!  Here God has chosen Jacob as being worthy of direct conversation.  Jacob is excited that God spoke to him here.  It is a place he always wants to remember, so “Jacob took the stone… and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it”.  It will always be a place of remembrance for Jacob.  It is where God spoke to him.  He builds an altar, using the rock that was his pillow, and he consecrates it with oil.  The altar will also help others to know and remember.

When we have significant personal encounters with God, how do we remember them?  At a meaningful and powerful remembrance of baptism service, I was given a small stone.  I carry it daily in my pocket as a reminder of when God drew especially close to me.  In your next powerful encounter with God, seek a physical way to remember the experience.  It will be a tangible reminder that will lead you to rejoice and give thanks for God’s hand at work in your life.


Leave a comment

Bethel Moments

Reading: Genesis 28: 10-19

Verse 15: I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.

Jacob has had a long day of travel.  As darkness sets is, he grabs a rock for a pillow and lays down on the ground.  He is happy for his spartan bed.  Perhaps you too have been there.  You have driven a long ways that day and are happy to finally have a place to lay your head for the night.  You’ve gone on a little further just to get a little closer to your destination.  Jacob is just the opposite: he has gone on a lot further to get away from Esau.  He had just stolen his father Isaac’s blessing from Esau and he is fleeing to Haran for protection.

In our passage today, we soon find that God is blessing this whole adventure.  In the middle of the night, Jacob awakens to angels ascending and descending a set of stairs, coming and going from the earth.  Then God speaks to Jacob from the top of the stairs to heaven.  God gives Jacob this great promise: “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go”.  What reassurance!  God also adds that He will give Jacob and his descendants this land to live in.  God closes this exchange with another promise: “I will not leave you until I have done what I promised”.  In the morning Jacob awakens and builds a pillar and names this place ‘Bethel’ – house of God.

Like Jacob, we too have our Bethel moments.  We too have come to the place of weariness and have laid down our heads, happy for the day to draw to a close.  We have carried our burdens or worries or anxieties with us and are content to just find a little rest.  And then God has shown up.  Sometimes we have prayed and sought God out and other times He has just shown up.  Sometimes it is God and sometimes it is one sent by God.  God may not remove all of our burdens… but He (or His agent) shoulders some of the load and holds our hand as we begin to move forward.  There is no question that God has been present and we have been blessed by His care and love.  This day may we take the opportunity to thank God for our Bethel moments and to rejoice in His presence in our lives.


Leave a comment

Choice

Reading: Romans 8: 1-11

Verse Six: The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

Why do people choose to follow Jesus?  Why do some folks choose to worship God and live their lives by what is written in the Bible?  Why do some folks choose a path in life that is hard and narrow instead of walking a road that is wide and easy to meander down?  Why do some people make these choices in deciding to be a Christian?  Why do you?

Choosing to follow Jesus and to live according to His example is a choice.  In many ways, it is a choice that runs against the norm.  By nature we are wired to seek pleasure and to desire to feel good.  Our society ingrains in us the drive to succeed and accomplish and excel – all good things in and of themselves.  Our culture champions messages like ‘just do it’ and ‘of’ it makes you feel good…’  Put all together, the world says to live for self and to just enjoy life to the max.  For some, this is their choice and this is how they live their lives.  Paul writes of these folks: “The mind of the sinful man is death”.

When one chooses to walk the wide and easy way that leads to death, life is fun and exciting and entertaining most of the time.  But soon one realizes there is something missing.  One senses that there is more to life than what they are living.  There is a void.  Philosopher Blaise Pascal described this as the “God-shaped hole in all of us”.  We are created by God in His image.  Therefore, God has a place to fill in our lives.  When we make the choice to fill the hole with God, we are choosing to be whole and complete.  We are making the choice to be a Christian.  Paul also writes of this choice: “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace”.

We make the choice to follow Christ.  It is through this choice that we find life eternal and peace beyond all human understanding.  Here we find that Jesus is our all in all, our everything.  Thank you Jesus.


Leave a comment

Soil, Seed, or Sower?

Reading: Matthew 13: 18-23

Verse 23: Good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it.

In our passage, Jesus explains the parable of the sower.  He is providing ‘ears’ so we can ‘hear the word and understand it’.  It is not really just an agricultural lesson!  Application comes in seeing how or where we fit in the story.  So… soil, seed, or sower?

We most easily see ourselves as the soil and hopefully as the good soil.  As followers of Jesus Christ we all want to be receptive to and to understand His Word.  Most of the time we are good soil.  But not always.  Don’t tell me your mind hasn’t wandered during the message or during your quiet time!  The concerns of life and the distractions of the world make us all thorny soil sometimes.  At other times we can be rocky soil – where we receive the Word but allow something else to quickly crowd it out.  Sometimes we are hard as the path – allowing our anger or heartache to be a wall between us and God.

Next we see ourselves, at times, as the sower.  I think we all want to be seen as Christians in our day to day lives.  We want to be the light and love of Jesus out there in the world.  We want to be “the only Bible some people will ever read”.  At times our actions also require words.  We stop and share a prayer and some words of encouragement with a co-worker or friend we know is struggling or hurting.  We offer words of hope and trust with the meal w bring to our neighbor in a time of crisis.  We are prepared to tell of the good news of Jesus Christ when someone asks about the peace and joy that we have in our life.

We are seeds in this sense too – our witness is what plants the seeds of faith in others.  Living as a Christian, we should constantly be dropping off seeds in people’s lives, seeds that the Holy Spirit can bring to life.  By action, word, and deed our faith is seeds being planted in other people’s hearts and minds.

Soil, seed, or sower?  All three!  May we ever be willing servants of our Lord and Savior – hearing, sharing, and planting each day.


1 Comment

Ears to Hear

Reading: Matthew 13: 1-9

Verses 3 and 9: A farmer went out to sow his seed… He who has ears, let him hear.

The parable of the sower is very familiar.  Most folks who have been Christians very long have read it as they’ve read their Bibles or have heard it discussed in a sermon or small group study.  But what about those who heard it sitting by the lake, directly from Jesus?  For many of them there, the answer is the same as it would be for someone encountering the parable for the first time today.  It is about what Jesus began with: “A farmer went out to sow his seed”.  On this level it kinda makes sense.  Poor soil yields a poor crop and good soil yields a good crop.  But the middle soils and the widely varying yields?

Jesus concludes with, “He who has ears, let him hear”.  The people who are really listening and searching for meaning in the words of Jesus will be able to hear what He is trying to tell them.  Others will only hear His words and walk away shrugging their shoulders.  I think this is one reason Jesus spoke in parables.  It applies today as well.  For those seeking meaning for their faith and application for their lives, there is much to learn from the parables.  But we too must have ears to hear.  A second reason I think Jesus spoke in parables is because they connect earthly things that all people can understand and relate to with heavenly things that require a little more time and effort on our part to fully grasp and then live into.

Sometimes when we read or hear a parable, we too may scratch our heads a bit.  But let us not leave it there.  Go to a commentary or some other resource.  Discuss it with a friend or your pastor or with your small group.  Pray for discernment and guidance.  Every word that Jesus spoke has relevance and meaning for our walk of faith.  Let the one who has ears hear Jesus’ message today.