pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

In This Moment

Reading: Joshua 5: 9-12

For the Hebrew people, the time in the desert is over and they have crossed the Jordan River into the promised land.  One can almost hear the audible sigh that comes at the end of a long journey.  The people will no longer eat manna but will eat the produce of Canaan.  But first they acknowledge God and His provision.  As all things are in God’s time, they cross over and are right on time to celebrate the Passover – the feast to remember God’s saving hand in Egypt.  They connect to God in the moment instead of allowing it to pass by.  God has led them to this time and place.  They stop to worship Him.

This example of being in the moment with God is a great one for us.  We know that the glory of Easter morning us coming soon.  We know there will be stops in Holy Week where we acknowledge and live with the events and emotions that led to the cross and grave.  Each day between now and then is a day of preparation and looking within.  Let us not skip right past these days in a rush to arrive on the brink of Easter, but let us be present to each day.

Living in the moment each day of Lent could be either rewarding or trying, either joyful or painful.  Maybe we find ourselves experiencing God’s presence in our lives.  We have the taste of His blessings on our lips and we celebrate His presence and look forward to the next steps on our journey.  If so, may we be sure to stop and celebrate our thanksgivings for His presence.

Maybe we find ourselves in the period of testing or trial.  We feel not quite connected to God.  We cannot sense a first or maybe next step to take.  Maybe the unknown is keeping us from stepping forward.  In this moment may we seek God.  His desire is to connect to us and be on the journey together.  May we reach out in this moment and take hold of His hand.  May we walk this day with our Lord.


Leave a comment

Offering All

Reading: Isaiah 55: 6-9

When we first moved to South Dakota, we lived five miles outside of a town of 150 people.  It was dark at night.  On those nights when the moon was but a sliver, the night sky was simply amazing.  In that remote location, on nights with a definite lack of man-made light and little lunar light, the stars were awesome.  To sit outside and stare at the sky filled me with the wonder of God.  To gaze up at the layers of stars that went on forever gave me a glimpse of the power and majesty of God.  Although His power and presence filled me, it was but a glimpse.  It gave me just a little peak into how high and powerful God’s ways are.

In realizing how big and powerful and majestic God is, I also realize how small I am.  This realization brings awareness of how much I need God and His Light and Love, made known to me in Jesus.  Yet as big as God is, He still knows me by name.  He formed me uniquely in my mother’s womb and He knows every hair on my head.  God hears each and every word of each and every prayer I lift up to Him.

This same God knows each sin and impure thought and … that I have.  This brings me to frequent times of repentance and committing again to strive for becoming more like Christ.  It leads me to examine what I am offering to God and what I am holding back.  Almost always I see that I am less that I could be, less than He calls me to be.  May I lay aside all within me that elevates self over God.  May I offer all of myself to the One who gave His all for me in His life and on the cross.


Leave a comment

Being Fruitful

Reading Luke 13: 1-9

The world is sometimes filled with tragedy and sorrow.  You do not have to watch the news too long to feel the urge to turn off the television.  In today’s passage the people come to Jesus with a story of death and tragedy and are seeking help to make sense of it.  Jesus instead bring sup another story of loss and sorrow.  He warns us that tragedy can strike us all and that we must therefore repent, lest we will perish.  Jesus is implying that death will come to us all; it is up to us how we choose to live our lives between now and then.  Will our lives lead us to perish to hell or to rise to eternal life?

Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the fig tree.  The owner comes for a third year and again finds no fruit on the tree.  He instructs the gardener to cut it down.  The gardener asks for one more year.  He will tend to it and water it and fertilize it in an effort to help the tree bear fruit.  In this parable we are the fig tree.  Year after year Jesus pours into us through the Word, in worship, in small groups, …  He yearns to see us bear fruit.  The Holy Spirit works on us also, pruning and fertilizing and guiding us along so that we are more able to bear fruit.

As we continue to grow in our faith, we will bear fruit as we mature, just as the tree will.  As we touch the lives of others, bearing fruit and shining the light and love of Jesus, we will bring hope and comfort amidst the darkness and tragedies of this world.  It is through our witness and love that others will come to know Jesus, the only source of strength, healing, and understanding in the midst of pain and sorrow.  As we are fruitful and faithful witnesses, we are living for and pointing others toward the one and only way to true, eternal life: Jesus Christ.

 


Leave a comment

He Is Faithful

Reading: 1 Corinthians 10: 1-13

Paul opens chapter ten reviewing the sins of the Israelites out in the desert.  It was a time of God’s constant presence in the cloud and pillar of fire, yet the people must have gotten used to having Him around.  They stumbled in a number of ways, sometimes repeatedly – idolatry, overindulgence in food and drink, sexual immorality, testing or doubting God.  Paul uses this review lesson as a way to mirror the sins of the church in Corinth.  As we read these sins, we realize they are still common to man in 2016 and perhaps some are even common to us.

Even though God physically was present to the Israelites, they wandered.  As we fast forward to today, we now have the living presence of God present to us in the Holy Spirit.  At times we too can pretend to not hear that little voice in our head or we can shrug off that little nudge that we felt.  Paul issues a warning that applies to us as well: if we feel we are standing firm, be careful that we do not fall.

In this season of Lent, a time of introspection and repentance, let us look hard at our lives.  We may not make golden calves to worship, but are we freely generous with our resources and time?  We may stay away from overindulgence, but do we treat our bodies as temples?  We may not engage in affairs, but does our eye occasionally wander?  And then there is gossip, envy, judging, laziness, …

All is not lost or hopeless.  Paul also reminds us that God is faithful.  God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.  He will provide a way out.  As we consider the state of our soul this day, may we be willing to use the strength God offers and may we follow the way He provides, lest we too fall.


Leave a comment

All in All

Readings: Isaiah 55: 1-5 and 1 Corinthians 10: 1-5

Even though the Israelites wandered around the desert for 40 years, they were well cared for. God had led them out of 400 years of slavery and had rescued them from Pharaoh’s army. He had provided manna, quail, and water when needed. He was constantly leading them from the cloud and pillar of fire. If not for their times of disobedience, it would have been a nice, relatively short journey. In their disobedience is a lack of trust in God.

Even though we too wander off from time to time and become lost in the wilderness of our sin, we too are well cared for by God. Through Jesus Christ we have been redeemed from slavery to our sin. In the time we spend in worship and personal study we are fed by the Word. As we go through our daily life we are guided and led by the presence of the Holy Spirit. We too are blessed richly by God. We too are a chosen people.

In my life it can be very easy to take for granted all of the ways God blesses and cares for me. I think that can be true for many of us living in a modern and free country. So we too must heed Paul’s warning. We too must not get complacent and take God and His blessings for granted. We too must not accept where we are but ever seek to be continuing on our journey of faith.

In order to not fall into complacency let us stay in regular contact with God. In our times together may we daily offer our sincere thanksgiving for His many blessings and also delve into the Word so that we are always growing to be more and more Christ-like. If we pursue God with all of our hearts, He will become our all in all.


Leave a comment

In Desert Seasons

Reading: Psalm 63:1-8

King David finds himself in a desert season.  During our lives, we will find ourselves in just such a place as well.  These times of trial and struggle will come and go; perhaps now is just such a season.  David’s beautiful words give us encouragement and advice for when we find ourselves in a desert season.

David begins by expressing the thirst he feels in the desert.  In the times we find ourselves in a trial, we too must admit our need for God and then we must seek His guidance and presence in our lives.  To reinforce this, David recalls how he saw God’s power and glory in the sanctuary.  To remember how God has always been there in our times of need reassures us that He will be there again.

Next, David does something that may seem odd when one is in a desert place – he praises God.  In verse three he writes, “Because your love is better than life”.  It is such a powerful and moving statement.  We come to God in praise because of His gift and promise of eternal life.  We know that no matter what this life brings, our ticket to eternal life in glory has already been bought.  There is no better reason to praise!

Lastly, David ends with “my soul clings to You”.  Although it can sometimes be hard to sense God’s presence in the midst of a trial, we must nonetheless cling to God.  We are promised that His love never fails and that He has only good plans for us.  In the midst of it all, may we cling to Him knowing that it is Hi slight at the end of the tunnel and that it is really His arms alone that will carry us through.


Leave a comment

Things That Satisfy

Reading: Isaiah 55: 1-5

Today we hear an invitation to come to God to be satisfied.  Isaiah calls us to the waters that will satisfy our thirst.  He calls us to come and eat without cost.  Isaiah is calling us to come and find salvation and blessing, to enter the reign of Christ.

The passage is full of actions we must take.  “Come” is not the only one.  Isaiah also urges us to listen to what fills out soul, to spend what we have on things that truly satisfy, and to eat of the good that God offers.  When God invites us to partake of all this, Isaiah asks, why do we still seek what does not ultimately satisfy?  It is a good question to ponder.  It is one we wrestle with.

The things of this world can be alluring and enticing.  Satan is excellent at dangling that which draws each of us in before our eyes in a number of ways.  He works at those insecurities and doubts, deftly trying to pry them open just a bit wider all the time.  He nudges us into thinking more of ourselves and less of others as we play the blame and judgment games.

In the season of Lent, may we be increasingly aware of all that has appeal but that does not satisfy.  May we heed the voice of the Holy Spirit ad it warns, convicts, and corrects.  May we draw close to our Lord and Savior to drink and eat of the living water and the bread of life that He alone offers.


Leave a comment

Step into the Desert

Reading: Psalm 63: 1-8

The desert or wilderness is a common location in the Bible.  A sinful Adam and Eve were sent out into the wilderness.  The Israelites wander in the desert for forty years, constantly testing God and then repenting.  It was in the wilderness that John baptized and that Jesus was tempted.  At times in our lives we too find ourselves in the desert.

In the psalmist today, David experiences the desert as a dry and weary land.  It is tough to survive in the desert; we are tested in that struggle to survive.  In those dry seasons in the desert or out in the harsh wilderness, we feel tested and we often long for relief.  For David, the physical thirst in the desert reminded him of his spiritual thirst for God.  Our times in the desert reminded us too of our need for God.  In verses 2-8 we read over and over of David’s singing to and glorifying God for His power, love, provision, and strength.  In our dry seasons we too can experience these blessings of God.  He longs to pour them out upon us as well.

Lent is a time when we remember Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness.  Lent invites us to join Jesus there as well. In the desert we can more clearly see the temptations we are facing.  In the desert we can come to rely more on God in those battles.

The desert can be a beautiful place as well.  In the stillness of the desert we can more easily hear His voice.  In the vast, wide open expanse we can more easily experience His majesty.  In the dark night sky we can see the splendor and might of His creation.

Maybe we find ourselves in the desert for an unpleasant reason.  If so, allow that deep need for God to be honestly felt and then joyously welcome Him in.  If our time in the desert is by choice, revel in God’s power, might, and presence.  Step into the desert, embrace it.  In a space with just you and God, draw close to Him.  Be blessed.


Leave a comment

The Mission

Reading: Luke 13: 31-35

In today’s passage the Pharisees make an appearance.  In almost all of their many encounters with Jesus, their interactions are usually negative.  But today they are not.  This group of Pharisees is trying to warn Jesus of Herod’s plan to kill Him.  There is concern for Jesus’ well-being.  Jesus’ response is interesting.  He tells them that He simply must keep going because there is a plan.  Like the disciples, the Pharisees do not understand Jesus’ reference to Palm Sunday and the events that will follow.

Jesus knows that the plans God has will succeed every time.  No matter what Herod or any other ruler does, in the end God’s plan will succeed.  Jesus also knows the plan.  In the conclusion of His story, the cross is essential.  In spite of how powerful he is, Herod will be used by God just as God intended all along.

At times in our lives we are like the Pharisees in today’s passage.  We get lost in the day to day and in the things of this world.  We lose sight of the big picture.  We lose our God-sized vision.  When we allow this to happen, we fail to follow our mission.  Jesus calls us into loving service of all mankind.  Our long term destination is the same as Jesus’: heaven.  Our daily task is also the same as well: to take as many along with us as we can.  We call this making new disciples.

Jesus never lost sight of His mission and the plan.  He knew seeing it through was the only way for you and I to find God’s goal for us: salvation.  May we also keep focused on our mission and the plan.  May we too always share the good news of Jesus Christ with all we meet.  May we serve as He served.


Leave a comment

Daily Word

Reading: Philippians 3: 18-19

To live in our society and culture, it takes a great deal of self-discipline to stay on the path Jesus calls us to.  In order to live as the person God calls us to be, we must live in a way that is faithful to our role as follower of Christ.  In order to do this, we must practice the things that draw us to following Him.

Paul refers to those who are living self-indulgent lives as “enemies of the cross”.  This is a bold term.  But it is an accurate statement as well.  In Matthew 12 Jesus states that if we are not for Him, then we are against Him.  From Jesus’ point of view there is no middle ground.  Yet in reality, this is most often where we try to live.

The practice of spiritual disciplines is where we begin to prepare ourselves to live as citizens of heaven.  For us to live as God desires, we have to know what that means.  First of all, it means being in the Word.  It means cracking open our Bibles every day and reflecting on His Word.  This needs to be a systematic approach.  Whether it means using a devotional or a reading plan or simply starting on page 1 and reading through to the end does not matter.  But we must read our Bibles daily and study and digest the Word.  To do so daily with intentionality requires discipline and commitment.

We cannot live as “enemies of the cross” and be in the Word daily.  When self-indulgence rears up, we must say “Away from me Satan”!  One more hour of TV, games, or online…?  Hit the snooze button again…?  Just catch up tomorrow…?  I’ll just read it later…?  No, no, no, and NO!  May each of our days be centered in the Word.  May we allow Jesus Christ to grow to be the Lord of our life!