pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Near to God

In times of trial or distress, it is common to ask God “Why?” or to wonder where God is in the midst of it all that is happening.  In general we hold to the belief that God is supposed to fix things or at least make them better.  And when He doesn’t, we begin to question and wonder.

During these “dark nights of the soul” it can be so difficult to find God.  It’s not that God is absent from us, it is just that we are having a hard time connecting to or feeling God is near.  It is truly like we are wandering around in the dark.

And at just the right moment, after all has been stripped away and we are desperate, God is right there.  He comes alongside, arms around us, and He walks us through.  When we get to the point of crying out to God, we find He is right there.  Then the gloom begins to lift and we begin to see the light ahead.  James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  This is an important verse to remember when we are in the midst of struggle and we feel alone.  May we keep it ever in our hearts.


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An Unknown God

Hainidni knnuj womqnf.  Plnye!  How about transubstantiation or prevenient?  No?  Then how about lol, bff, dk?  Now are we speaking the same language?  Maybe, maybe not.

Just as Paul chose to learn the thoughts and ways of the Athenians, we too must learn and know the ways of non-believers if we want to be able to reach them for Christ.  Now I am not saying we need to become like them or to do the things the do, but we have to be able to relate and to “speak their language”.

Paul realize when he saw their altar to “an unknown god” that they were a spiritual people.  Paul knew they were searching for something.  A high percentage of people today recognize or believe that there is a god, they just don’t know God.  Many non-believers can sense that ‘hole’ in their life that they just can’t seem to fill with stuff or human relationships or…  Take courage today in Paul’s words and chose to put them into action: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”


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Paul’s Secret

Just how “Christian” is our society?  How you answer that depends on your definition of the word ‘Christian’.  However you define the word though, I think it is true that the US is much less ‘one nation under God’ than we used to be.

As Paul stood to address the people of Athens in Acts 17, he faced a tough crowd.  There were very few followers of Christ there and the people followed a variety of beliefs and lifestyles.  But Paul had done his homework.  He had gotten to know their ways and ideas.  Paul could take them from where they were to where he wanted them to be because he could relate to them and their ways of thinking.  We too can do this with our friends, neighbors, coworkers…  Paul was then able to begin to share his faith with them.

Paul’s secret is our secret too.  The one true God is our God.  The creator of the earth and all on the earth is our God.  He is Lord of all life.  And He loves us.  Some people don’t know the secret yet.  Maybe you know some of them.  It is our call to share the good news with all the peoples.

Paul goes on to later write: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him”.  It is our call to share the secret.  After all, isn’t it great to share?!


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God Needs Time

In John 14, Thomas’ concern is so often our concern too – “how can we know the way?”  Jesus’ words of reply show us.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.In my head I know this to be true.  Yet at times I struggle to live this out in my life.  I doubt and question.  I wrestle with God for control of my life.  I want to follow John’s way.  But then I realize that I am insufficient.  God is necessary.

In both weakness and conceit, I need God.  In one to give me strength and in one to humble me.  At all times, God is good.  At all times He gives me just what I need.  It is our task to take in the things God offers at all times.

To be able to do so, we must really know Him.  To know Him requires frequent trips back to the basics – time in the scriptures, bowing in prayer, lifting our voice in praise, serving others.  The list goes on.  All are paths to come to know the way, the truth, and the life.  Faith is a pretty simple thing.  We must give of ourselves – mostly in time – to come to really know the way, the truth, and the life.


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Peaceful Trust

What is the largest crowd you have ever actually been a part of?  Was it at a big arena concert or maybe at a game?  For me it was several years ago in Washington, DC, when I went to be a part of Promise Keeper’s ‘Million Man March’.  I was just one of about a million people gathered there that day.  It was incredible to look out at the sea of humanity and to realize that I was just one part of it.  When I think about that huge group, it pales in comparison to how many people inhabit the earth.  There are now 7,000 people for every one of those million men gathered that day in DC.

Yet God knows, cares for, and loves each of those 7 billion people on the earth.  Do they all love Him back?  No, but that doesn’t matter to God.  He loves them all equally because  they are all His creation.  He loves them all.

It is hard to fathom that despite the fact that we are each just one of seven billion, God loves each and every one of us.  Yes He does!  What a mighty God we serve.

It is because of this great love that we can trust Him with our lives.  His plan for us is so much better than any plan we could muster.  Because God’s steadfast love endures forever, we can trust Him to always have the best in mind for us.  Because His love never fails, we can trust that He will see us through the valleys and will bring us up the other side.  We can trust into God and into Jesus’ words: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)


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Kinda Exciting Out Here

I kinda like being comfortable.  I like it when things are ordered and moving along as planned.  It is nice when things move along smoothly.  Do you like it when things are comfortable and ordered and all seems good?
Yet it is dangerous to live on cruise control.  When we are just cruising down the rut it is sometimes hard to see what is going on outside of our little trench.  And isn’t a little excitement OK sometimes?  Isn’t it invigorating to feel the tension of the unknown or the “what if”?
In John 14 Jesus states that He is the way, the truth, and the life.  To know Jesus is to know God.  It raises the question in my mind: how well do I know Jesus?  Do I really know enough of Him?  Or am I on cruise in my relationship with Jesus?  Or do I read the Word with questions?  How will I know Him better today?  How will this word cause me to grow?  To trust Him more?
No one is ” there” yet.  All of us have room to grow, to know Him better, to trust Him more.  To seek these things brings us to the edge of the unknown.  Step out – it’s kinda exciting out here.


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Sharing the News

Stephen was the first of many to die for his faith in Jesus Christ.  Many more have died in the name of Jesus over the centuries.  Some will die today, some will die tomorrow, and so on.  It even happens on a rare occasion here in America. There are Christians out there willing to die for their faith today.

Relatively speaking, we live in a country where it is pretty safe to share our faith.  Certainly in the public arena the worst things we face are rejection, scorn, and maybe a helping of ridicule.  In some work environments the subject of faith is ‘taboo’ and to talk about our faith may risk our job.  In some settings we may find ourselves ostracized or unwelcome anymore because we chose to speak about our faith.

Yet despite the relative safety we generally don’t like sharing our faith.  Maybe we will share our faith in just the right setting with just the right person at just the right moment.  There are definitely these times and it is joyful to God when we take these opportunities.  But most of us are not an “anytime, anyplace, anyone” type of person when it comes to sharing our faith.  It is my prayer that my mighty God and amazing Savior fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit and empower me to share my faith with any and all that I meet to the end of my days.  Will you make this your prayer too?


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A Heavenly Gasp

Does your family have any unique practices or traditions – a special dish at the holiday season, a quirky birthday celebration, something you do every Easter…?  Maybe you don’t understand it or even understand where it came from, but you go along because that is what is expected.  Then at some point, someone says something like, “Hey, this year instead…” and you gasp!  Or sometimes the tradition or practice fades because you moved away and one Easter morning you realize you don’t ‘x’ anymore and you feel like something is suddenly missing. As a Christian family we get our traditions and practices from Christ.  He is our firm foundation, our Cornerstone.  We are called to be His “living stones” – to live our lives in a way that brings Christ to the world.  Like our family traditions, we find our identity in Christ. Sadly, like some of our own family traditions, sometimes we don’t always fully understand or even like some of the Christian traditions and practices that we are called to.  Sometimes we fail to live them out.  For example, do we always embrace tolerance and practice respect?  Do we always love our neighbors as ourselves?  Sadly, not always.  At these points the gasp does not come from us. But the good news is that we are precious to Jesus.  Despite our human limitations, He continues to build us into His holy nation, a people called to God.  We belong to Him.  Our journey is simply growing more and more like Jesus every day.  And despite ourselves, we do.  It is through Jesus.  Thank you Lord!!


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Strong Arms

Psalm 31:2 reads: “Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.”  What words of trust in God – these statements represent sure things.  We know He will come to us.  We know He is our rock.  We know He will save us.  In times of crisis, pain, and despair, we turn to our God.  His strong arms will embrace us.

In Him we find strength every morning.  In Him we find His arm around us helping us in every step we take.  In Him we find comfort and peace as the sorrow and pain begin to well up again.

Verse 3 goes on, “Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.”  Not if, not when.  God IS our rock and fortress.  In our times of struggle, may we lean into those strong arms.


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The Reality of Eternity

Jesus told His disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  He also told them that no one comes to God except through the Son.  Just as these words are meant to encourage and strengthen the disciples, He meant the same for us.  Jesus wanted all to know that the path to eternity led through him.  For the disciples, soon Jesus would die and He wanted them to trust in His continuing presence.  He was going on ahead of them to prepare a place for them – a heavenly home.  As they continued the work that He had begun, He wanted them to work in the peace and comfort of the reality of eternity.

Jesus knew, as He spoke these words, that His disciples – both the 12 and us today – would face trials and would be asked to go into uncomfortable situations and places.  He asks us to trust into His “everlasting fellowship”.  The earthly Jesus is now the eternal Jesus, calling us to know Him more and more through how we engage Him in study and Word and prayer and in how we participate in His mission in the world.  His call is today and every day, in the here and now.  To know is to love,  To love is to serve.  To serve is to know.

As we continue to grow in this cycle that Jesus calls us to, we step closer to that reality of eternity.  For some of us, we are a part of bringing the new creation to this place where we dwell.  Some may see the new creation come right before their earthly eyes.  For others, while we share in the building of the kingdom here on earth, we are bringing ourselves closer to our eternal glory.  We will be a part of the coming of the new creation.  It matters not.  We are all part of the same plan.  Thank you Jesus!