pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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The Gift of Music

Have you ever heard a song and continued with the words or the tune long after it stopped playing?  Ever had a song come to mind as you were praying over a concern or trouble?  Music has a way of soothing and also a way of encouraging.

Psalm 124 is believed to be a call and response song often sung as people made their way up to the temple for worship.  The content of the song recalls how God has intervened in the past to save Israel from its enemies.  It was a concrete reminder of how God is always present to protect the people, always there to preserve at lead a remnant.  As Psalm 124 was sung, it also reminded the people of their dependence on God.

We too are often blessed by God’s hand and are often living under His protection.  The words of songs or hymns that we know can remind us of these gifts.  Their words can also encourage and lift us up in times of need.  Music can be powerful.

Psalm 124 prepared the people for worship as they made their way to the temple.  It put them in the right frame of mind.  I imagine at times people would sing or hum the song as they went through the ups and downs of their daily lives.  Music serves to connect us to God as well, reminding us of who God is and of how we are in relationship with God.  May we too find encouragement and strength when needed and may we offer up our praise and thanksgiving as well through the gift of music each day.

Scripture reference: Psalm 124


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Mirrors

Celebrations are fun.  Whether a birthday or an anniversary it is a joyous occasion to celebrate all that has been and to look forward to the future with excitement.  Holidays are often the same although they can also have a somber side to them.  Such is the case with the Jewish holiday Purim.  After being saved from sure death and annihilation by Esther and Mordecai, Mordecai sends out a letter to all Jews in the region instructing them to celebrate God’s saving act with feasting and the giving of gift to the poor.  The act of giving mirrored God’s amazing gift of saved the Jews when all seemed lost.  The captives in the foreign land experienced God’s extravagant love in a way that should be celebrated.

As Christians we too have reason to celebrate each day.  Left on our own we would be dead in our sins.  Without the saving grace of God and without the gift that Christ bought with His life, we would be slaves to sin and death.  Although we are in a constant battle with the desires of the flesh, once we have called on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we know we are saved.  What a reason to celebrate!

Just as during Purim the Jews give gifts to the poor, each day we too are called to share this amazing gift we have received with those who have not.  We are called to lead others into a relationship with Jesus Christ as that they too can be freed from their captivity to the desires of the flesh.  May our lives this day mirror God’s love as we seek to share the light and love of Christ with a world in need.

Scripture reference: Esther 9: 20-22


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For Such a Time

Esther became queen essentially by winning a beauty contest.  The old queen fell into disfavor with the king and was deposed.  The King of Persia was a powerful man – his words could make or break any and all.  While Queen Esther was obviously beautiful, she was also Jewish.  This was her little secret in the royal court.  The Jewish people had been living in captivity in Babylon for years and many lived in the capital city of Susa.

Esther and her uncle Mordecai were just two of thousands living there.  He had raised her and was like a father to her.  Haman was a higher-up in the court.  All were supposed to bow down and to honor Haman but Mordecai refused.  This greatly angered the proud Haman and he convinced the king to issue a decree to be rid of these disobedient Jews.  The decree went out and the date of execution was set.

Mordecai convinced Esther that she alone could save her people.  After praying and fasting for three days, Esther did go to the king.  It was risky – it was punishable by death to approach the king uninvited.  Mordecai’s words must have been echoing in Esther’s head as she approached the king: “And who knows but that you came to royal position for such a time as this?”

Esther stepped up and saved her people from an evil man’s plot.  Because of her faith in God she was willing to take a risk.  She stepped out in faith after praying and fasting, after entering into God’s presence.  Esther was just an ordinary person that God had placed there for “such a time as this.”  In each of our worlds there are things that are not right, things that are unjust and unfair. Maybe the wrong does not affect you or your kin, but you see it.  Perhaps, just perhaps, God has placed each and every one of us right where we are so that we too may step out like Esther to bring God’s justice and righteousness and love to those around us.

Scripture reference: Esther 7: 1-6 and 9-10


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How Deep and Wide

As Christians, we have this idea in our minds that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked.  God blesses those who love Him.  He brings consequences to those who fail to walk in His ways.  We like to feel that we are on the righteous end of this continuum, but the reality is that we do at times sin and can tend towards the wrong end of the scale.

When our faith is strong and we are walking close to God in our daily lives, we sense His presence, we feel we are being fruitful in the world, and we feel His protection.  We feel centered and confident that we can handle what life brings our way.  God feels like a good friend.  Then we drift.  Or maybe we fall hard into sin in what feels like an instant.  We look up and feel like God is nowhere to be found.  The source of life feels like a distant memory.  Then we are like chaff, blown easily this way and then that way.  Yet there is hope.  There is always hope.

Jesus Christ is the living water, the way, the truth, and the life.  When we are lost, He gives direction.  When we are empty, He fills us up.  When we are confused, He pours wisdom into us.  When we sin, He offers grace and forgiveness.  As inconsistent and changing as we are, Christ is as rock-solid and unchanging.  As often as we stumble and fall, Jesus is there over and over and over again, extending us that grace and love that never ends.  How deep and wide is His love!  He calls us to walk in His ways, to be His disciples, and to love as He loves.  May we reflect His love today.

Scripture reference: Psalm 1


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His Kingdom

The first must be last.  To be first you must become a servant.  These words of Jesus run so counter to the view of the world.  In the world, power is seen as the one on top with the most money or the loftiest title or the best looks.  Jesus says that when we welcome those at the bottom of society and get to know them, then we also come to know Him better.  In the world’s view, those beneath are just stepping stones.

For Jesus, welcoming in and getting to know those who are struggling breaks down the barriers that often separate us.  In forming relationships we remove our misconceptions.  In loving other we help them to see their worth and identity as a child of God.  But it is not all one-sided.  In doing these things, our love for God and our love for neighbor grows as well.  We too are changed.

It is in these moments and through these experiences with the discounted, marginalized, and invisible that we ourselves come to catch a glimpse of God’s kingdom.  It is here we begin to see and know what Jesus meant when He said the first must be last.  In this kingdom we place other’s needs ahead of our own.  It is here that we see being a servant to those in need as a blessing to us as well as to them.  In this kingdom we learn that all are servants.

This life-transforming love of God is powerful.  It can forever change lives.  This day, this week, this life – may we be moved to be builders of His kingdom.  May we bring His light and love to all who are lost and in need.  May we be forever changed.

Scripture reference: Mark 9: 33-37


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He Continues to Call

The disciples struggled to understand Jesus a lot of the time.  He often had to explain His parables and teachings to them.  They often said and did things that must have puzzled or maybe angered Jesus.  When Jesus instructed them to feed the crowd or to heal people they didn’t think they could really do that.  The disciples are a lot like us.

Today we in the church struggle with similar things.  Many will not take on some responsibility.  We just want to come on Sunday and worship and go home.  Many fear others who are different.  We just want to sit in our same pew and talk to the same people.  Many think of ministry to engage in but they are stuck in fear.  We don’t like risk and maybe we think we are not up to the task after all.  Many just want things to be nice and the same and comfortable.  We don’t ask the hard questions and we do not desire to pursue a deeper faith.

As we read the Bible or hear the stories at church we often wonder how the disciples did not ‘get it’.  We think it is so plain to see what Jesus meant and what He expected of them and knew they could do.  Yet in spite of their many failures, their lack of trust, and their petty arguing, Jesus never gave up on them.  He faithfully continued to pour into them, to teach them, to mold them.  In the end, the disciples accomplished some amazing things.  They built a church.

The good news is that He does not give up on us either.  Through what we read in the word, through the messages we hear, through the voice of the Holy Spirit – He continues to call us to live out our faith and to grow into the person God created us to be.  Like the disciples, sometimes we doubt.  We think maybe Jesus is looking for someone else or when we hear the testimony of someone for whom God has made a difference, we think Jesus wouldn’t do something like that in our life.  At times we are just like the disciples.  We question, we doubt, we fear.  Yet Jesus never gives up.  He wants us to have abundant life, free from fear and worry.  He continues to call.  In faith, may we follow Him.

Scripture reference: Mark 9: 30-34


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Draw Near

There are two primary factors that define who we are: what we surround ourselves with and what we take into ourselves.  Some of the things we surround ourselves with are the people we spend time with, the places and events we go to, and the activities we engage in.  What we take into ourselves includes the things we read and listen to, the things we look at and watch and surf to, and the conversations we choose to be a part of.  These are all things that influence our decisions and things that become our thoughts, ideas, and opinions.

Our two primary options in what we surround ourselves with and what we take in are God’s wisdom and the world’s wisdom.  If we surround ourselves with immoral people, we tend to do immoral things.  On the other hand, if we choose to surround ourselves with Christian people, we tend to engage in godly activities.  If we spend time in the Word, we are built up and grow in our wisdom of God.  If we instead surf for illicit pictures online, we fill ourselves with lust and evil thoughts.

We face these decisions all the time.  Although God is always pursuing us, so is the world.  Even though the Holy Spirit is right there speaking into our heart and mind, the deceiver is right there whispering in our ear.  We make decisions each day that either draw us closer to God or further from God.  Sometimes the choices to fill ourselves with the things of God and to surround ourselves with others making the same choices are difficult.  God promises to draw near to those who draw near to Him.  Draw near to me today, O Lord.  Draw near.

Scripture reference: James 4: 1-8