pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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On Solid Ground

The psalmist cried out for vindication from his enemies.  He asks God to test him and to try him as a means of proving he is worthy of God’s rescuing hand.  In the midst of a trial or unpleasant experience we often have similar thoughts – I have followed your ways God, I have been faithful in worship, I have given my gifts –  so why is this happening to me?

The psalmist also uses the company he keeps as leverage point.  He makes his case that he does not hang out with the evil doers, with the wicked.  He reminds God that he loves God’s home, that he loves to spend time in the sanctuary.  Our arguments fall along the same lines.

In the psalm we also find our true strength in the midst of the storms.  He proclaims praise for God and tells of God’s wonderful deeds.  In doing so he remembers a God who loves and cares for His people.  He reminds himself and God that he leads a blameless life.  Our God too is a loving God, a God who cares for us in the midst of our trials.

The psalm ends with “my feet stand on solid ground.”  When we are in a relationship with God we too stand on solid ground.  Even when life is storming all around us, we stand firm on the solid rock of Jesus.  Despite all that life throws at us, we can stand assured that in the end whether the trial or life itself, we will be triumphant because we stand upon our faith.

Scripture reference: Psalm 26

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God Is Present

Satan took all from Job except his wife and his life.  In spite of all the loss in Job’s life, he remained resolute in his faith.  So Satan gains permission to afflict Job’s health.  God draws the line at taking is life.  Satan covers Job’s body from head to toe with painful sores.  Satan assures God that this will break Job as a person is willing to give anything to save one’s own life.

Have you ever been in a stretch of a few bad breaks?  You are down but holding on, and then one more thing happens.  It is easy to feel like giving up at this point.  It’s tempting to scream out, “Why God?!”  In these moments, words of encouragement from our spouse and close friends are essential to maintaining our faith and to keep our spirits up.

As Job’s wife sees him covered in cores, sitting in ashes, she offers these words: “Curse God and die.”  Can you imagine those being the first words from your spouse after being afflicted with one more thing?  She may have meant well, seeking to end his pain.  Job did not take it that way though.  I would not have either.  Job’s response reveals his wisdom and the depth of his faith.  Job understands that life brings both the good and the bad.  He asks her, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”  He understands that both are a part of life.

Job’s answer also reminds us that God is present with us in both the good and in the times of trial.  It is important in times of trial to acknowledge that it is difficult.  But it is even more important to remember that God is always a present source of strength in the midst of our troubles.

Scripture reference: Job 2: 4-10


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Job’s Great Example

The story of Job fascinates me.  A devout and faithful man suffers unjust persecution.  He loses all of his family and all of his possessions and is afflicted with illness.  His wife and friends badger him and go so far as to advise him to just curse God and die.  But Job does not turn from God.  He questions why he is suffering but he remains faithful.

Almost daily we see examples of unjust suffering in our world.  It can come from a natural disaster or from one’s fellow man.  It can affect one person or dozens or the masses.  In all people’s lives there are times of unjust suffering.  For many, our response is not like Job’s.  We wonder why God is punishing us or we get angry at God or we walk away from our faith.

The story of Job reveals to us in great detail that unjust suffering does occur in our world.  It also reveals that God does not cause it and that God remains present to us in the midst of our suffering.  It is up to us if we continue to draw upon God in the midst of our suffering or if we get angry or if we walk away or …

Job sets us a great example.  He was blameless yet suffered.  He was put to a severe test and he came through it.  He relied on God, listened to God’s voice, and drew upon His strength.  We too will suffer at times.  May we also realize that we are not alone and may we draw upon God’s strength, love, and presence as we journey through our hardship.

Scripture reference: Job 1:1 and 2:1-3


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Pray

‘The prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective.’  Elijah prayed and held the rain off for three and a half years. Then he prayed and it rained right then.  Mordecai and Esther prayed for the deliverance of the Jews from Haman’s plot and they were saved.  The people cried out to God in the desert and manna fell from heaven.  Since these example of prayer were lifted up and answered, people have continued to pray and God has continued to answer.

For each of us, part of our divine appointment is to pray for one another.  We are to confess our sins and struggles to one another and then to lift each other up in prayer.  We are to share our burdens with one another so that we can share the load and also pray for one another.  We are to share our joys and good news as well so that we can lift up prayers of praise and thanksgiving to the giver of all good things.

Our prayers must also extend to those outside of our small group or church community.  We are to pray for victims of violence and social injustice both near and far.  When we read or hear of these things, pray for them.  We are to pray for the family who lost their home in a fire, for the parents who suddenly and unexpectantly lost a child, for the person struggling to feed their family, and for all others in need.  Our prayer for the ‘stranger’ can be just as effective and powerful as the prayer for our own family.

We ar called to pray.  And to pray and to pray and to pray.  Pray without ceasing.  Take everything to God in prayer.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  Pray.

Scripture reference: James 5: 13-20


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The Hospital We Call Church

John Wesley once noted that sometimes a Christian’s behavior is the greatest obstacle to a non-believer being saved.  Today some churches are refered to as a social club for the holy and righteous.  In some houses of worship we say guests are great but we do not treat them that way – especially if they are not just like us.

In today’s passage from Mark, Jesus addresses our behavior as a follower.  In figurative but somewhat harsh language, we are advised to cut off a hand if it causes us to sin or to gouge out an eye if it causes us to sin.  Jesus tells us it would be better to live maimed or partially blind than to keep sinning and to eventually enter hell.  His point is that our behavior is critical, not only for our faith journey but also for the non-believer who sees us living out our faith.

Jesus concludes this teaching with the call to be salt to the people we encounter.  Through our gracious and loving words and actions we are to ‘season’ the world with God’s grace and love.  As we live out our call to build up His kingdom here on earth, our positive witness will draw the non-believer to seek this same grace and love.

Our behaviors must attract people to God, not make them question having a relationship with Him.  We must offer love and grace when others need it and offer honest and repentant words when our behavior necessitates this.  We must live in the knowledge that we are all sinners saved by grace alone.  May we offer Christ to the world this day, inviting others to join us in our hospital for sinners that we call church.  For it is there we are healed too.

Scripture reference: Mark 9: 42-50


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When Necessary…

Have you ever had a “God moment” when you did not expect it?  In a place you did not expect it?  Both?  In your own Christian witness, have you shared your faith with another in an unusual circumstance?

A few weeks ago at Praise Team practice I was touched and moved by a fellow members care, concern, and power of observation.  It had been a busier couple of weeks than normal.  She noted in a deeply loving way that I seemed tired, that I did not have my usual ‘bounce’ as she put it.  In that moment it was as if God was sending me a message.  The divine was brought in by a simple observation by a good friend.

At times, we too can share God.  Although simple, one of my favorites is the idea of offering to pray for the stranger.  If the checker at the store seems a bit frazzled, offer to pray for him or her.  If a homeless man asks for some money, give and then ask if you can pray for him.  This simple act of prayer says I love you, God loves you.

The disciples were bothered by an outsider healing people of their demon possession.  Jesus said, in essence, ‘Silly men, whoever is not against us is for us.’  He went on to explain that all done in His name merits reward, even something as simple as giving another a cup of water in His name.

We are all asked by God to make a positive difference in the world.  He desires to use unlikely people in unusual circumstances to accomplish His will.  We are each unlikely.  The question is: do we see and hear well enough to catch the opportunities that God places before us?  Holy Spirit, whisper to me and nudge me to be used by God.  When necessary, shout and shove.

Scripture reference: Mark 9: 38-41


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Willing, Trusting, Obedient

When danger or death is on the horizon it brings up feelings of fear and doubt and sorrow in many.  It can be almost paralyzing.  In a few it stirs up courage and determination and focus.  No matter what your first reaction to the realization that life hangs in the balance, the second must be to connect to God in prayer.

When Haman secured the decree to blot out the Jews, Mordecai put on sackcloth and went to the city gate to fast and pray.  He invited other Jews to join him.  Esther got word of this and sent him clothes.  He rejected them because he know this was a time of great need.  He also realized that God had called upon him to stir up Esther so that she may see her role as well.  He knew that the time of her divine appointment was upon her.

When Esther came to terms with the fact that this was indeed the moment for which God placed her in the palace, she accepted her role.  She set her mind on fasting and praying for three days and invited all the Jews in the city to join her.  Esther did not want prayers for someone else to step up or for God himself to intervene.  She wanted prayers that her role in this would be blessed by God.  In Esther there was no fear because her hope lay in God alone.

From time to time we are each faced with something that puts us to the test.  It may be concerning health or employment or family relationships.  There will also be times when we are not directly affected but do have a hand in the situation and its solution.  In today’s text we see an example of willing servants who trusted their very lives into God’s hands.  Because of their relationship with God they did not fear any outcome.  Each walked into their divine appointment fully trusting God.  Lord, instill in me such a willing heart, such a trusting soul, and such an obedient mind.

Scripture reference: Esther 9: 20-22