pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Ask, Search, Knock 

Reading: Luke 11: 1-13

Today’s passage begins with the very familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer.  It is the model Jesus offered the disciples for daily use.  Jesus then goes on to describe the relationship we should seek with God through our prayers.

The first uses a story about asking a friend for bread in the middle of the night to teach us to be persistent in prayer.  He says the man did not get up and give his friend bread because he was his friend, but because the friend kept asking.  In our prayer life we too are called to be persistent, not because we can nag God into whatever we ask for but because through prayer He transforms us and aligns us with His will.

Jesus then goes on to illustrate that as human parents we know how to give good things to our children.  We do not give evil or bad things to our children but instead give them the ‘fish’ and the ‘egg’ they need for their daily sustenance.  Jesus then says that if we do this for our children out of our human love for them, then imagine how much more God will give us, His children, from His great love.

Sandwiched between these two stories that encourage us to come to God often in prayer is the ask, search, knock passage.  This is not an invitation to ask God for all the desires of our heart.  It is an invitation to a deeper relationship with God.  Jesus is encouraging us to ask, search, and knock so that we will experience the spiritual desires of our heart.  God’s loving response is the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is through persistent and consistent asking, searching, and knocking that we come to a deeper and more intimate relationship with God.

God so desires an intimate personal relationship with us.  For our part, may we ever ask, search, and knock so that day by day we come to grow closer and closer to God.


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The Lord’s Prayer

Reading: Luke 11: 1-4

Today’s passage is oh so familiar.  In most every church, in all times of worship, this prayer is prayed.  The words are in the hymnal or bulletin or on the screen, but most really do not need the words.  The Lord’s Prayer is such a familiar prayer.  One must be careful to not simply go through the motions or to recite the prayer.  It must be prayed.

As the prayer begins with “Our father” it establishes our relationship with God.  We are God’s children.  In the role of parent, God seeks to provide for us, to protect us, to help us mature in our faith, to keep us on the path to life.  But most of all, God seeks to love us in a close personal relationship.

“Who art in heaven” reminds us of God’s authority and position.  God is above all and over all.  God dwells in that place of perfection with the saints and angels.  Yet God is not limited to just heaven.  God’s presence is everywhere all of the time.  We sense it in close personal ways at times and in large, powerful ways at other times.  Through the presence of the Holy Spirit we have a deep personal connection to the presence of God in our lives.  The Spirit dwells in each believer and the presence of God is active and alive in the world.

The prayer fittingly ends with requests.  Reflecting on what is established with the opening lines of the prayer, it does seem fitting that the prayer ends with requests of God.  After all, isn’t that what children do with their parent?  It concludes with requests for our daily bread, for forgiveness of our sins, for help forgiving others, and to be kept away from temptation.  The first request acknowledges our dependence on God for all of our daily needs.  Then it turns to relationship.  Forgive us when we mess up.  In this it admits that we will mess up.  It also deals with our need to offer forgiveness.  In these two requests we are asking to be kept in right relationship with God and with our neighbors.  The Lord’s Prayer concludes with our request to be kept from temptation.  This is one of the roles the Holy Spirit plays in our lives.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, may it be slowly and with attention to detail.  Sit with each phrase, allow it to resonate deep within.  Allow it to bless you this day.


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Giving Self to God

Reading: Colossians 2: 6-19

We often try to fill our lives with so many things and activities that we think will bring us joy, happiness, contentment, peace.  We chase after things that appear to be just what we need to get us to that ‘place’ where we think all will be ‘good’.  As we pursue these things of the world we come to realize soon enough that they do not really satisfy.

In other seasons of life we fill our lives with so many things and activities that we do not seem to have time for Christ.  So many things simply consume our time and leave us exhausted and with little energy to pour into our relationship with Christ.  What little we have left that we do offer to Christ is a pittance of what it should be.  As we get completely run down we realize our need for Christ and our need to re-prioritize our lives.

In each day we have a finite amount of time and energy.  Christ needs to be the center of our lives if we are truly to find content and satisfied lives.  He is the big item that must first be given time and energy each day.  When Christ is our core and foundation, all else will fall into line, all else will be taken care of.  Our gift of our presence must be the first thing we give to Christ each day.  In this way we demonstrate our love for Him by giving Him our best and we also show our trust in Christ that all else will be cared for throughout the day.  Each day may be begin by dedicated ourselves to God, by giving Him the best moments of our day, and we will find the joy, happiness, contentment, peace we desire.


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In Christ Alone

Reading: Colossians 2: 6-19

In order to both stay strong and to grow in our faith, we must be well connected to Christ.  We accomplish this by being in a close personal relationship with Him.  As God incarnate, Christ came to earth and lived among us so that we could better relate to Him and could better connect to His example and teachings.

Today’s reading gives us three ways to see our connection to Christ.  The first is that of a tree.  Christ is the soil that nourishes our faith and allows us to grow in Him.  We, like a tree, need to sink down deep roots.  The winds of life will try and blow us this way and that.  If we are not deeply rooted in Christ, we can be easily swayed and perhaps could even topple over.  When we are deeply rooted, we can pull from deep within ourselves to withstand what life brings.

The second metaphor is that of a house.  In this example, Christ is our strong foundation.  Christ and His teachings are the solid rock upon which we build our lives.  The solid foundation of our faith keeps us anchored when the storms of life come.  The trials and struggles will surely come.  But when we are rock solid in our faith and our foundation is built on Christ alone, then we can handle the things that happen that will test our faith.

Christ as the head is the third way we need to connect to Him.  In our own bodies the brain controls everything.  The brain controls all function and thought.  The brain is the complete control center.  We do not do anything without impulses, thoughts, and decisions passing through our brains.  In our lives, Christ needs to function in the same way.  All we do and say and think needs to come through Christ dwelling in us.  All must be filtered through the ‘what would Jesus do’ question.

Each day we need to be in the Word, to spend time in prayer, and to reflect on God’s will and direction for our lives.  Each day we need to take His teachings and go forth to be the light and love our world so needs.  Each day may we be firmly rooted in Christ, standing strong upon the foundation He provides, so that we may humbly and faithfully be His hands and feet in the world.


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Restoring a Sinner

Reading: Psalm 85

The psalmist expresses a cycle that is common to us all.  The people of Israel sinned and found God’s forgiveness.  Time passed and they sinned again.  The writer expresses the need for God to forgive the people once again.  The psalmist calls for God’s unfailing love to once again yield mercy and grace.  The writer reminds themselves and God that God promises peace to His people.  The the writer again requests salvation from God.

It is a cycle we often repeat as well.  Earlier in one’s Christian walk, the cycle is repeated more often but throughout life we cycle through the sin-repentance-forgiveness pattern over and over.  Being human, frail and weak as we are, we will fall into sin.  Yet God, being unfailing love and unending grace, responds over and over again with forgiveness and an invitation back into right relationship with Him.

As we look back over our journey of faith we can identify times when we came to realize that we had been sinning.  It was not obvious to us before we reached a certain maturity level in our faith.  As we continue to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ we come to junctures where we realize that what we were doing was really gossip or being jealous or lust or …  What was before simply part of who we are is one day seen as sin.  So we repent and think ‘not again’ as we are now aware that a certain behavior was sinful.  But like most sins, this one will return again.  Satan knows our weak spots and will continue to hammer away at them for a while.

As we mature in our faith and our relationship with Christ grows stronger, the time between recurrences of a sin will lengthen out.  And being fully human, we know that we may fall back into that sin once in a while.  But as we do mature, we recognize it sooner and come to a place where we stop at the temptation to gossip or whatever.  And then we begin to wrestle with other sins in our lives!

Into our constant battle with sin, into our human weakness, steps God’s love and grace.  God’s love and grace are far greater than our sin will ever be.  It is so great that nothing in all of creation is able to separate us from the love of God.  May we ever be thankful for God’s unfailing love and unending grace that always restores a sinner like me back to the true and loving relationship that is life itself.


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Calling, Waiting, Redeeming

Reading: Hosea 1:10

The Israelites of Hosea’s day have broken the covenant relationship they once had with God.  Their choices have led them far from God.  Like any parent, He is surely disappointed and maybe even a little mad, but the love for them is as strong as ever.  As parents we too have been in this situation with our own children, loving them in spite of their actions, words, or behaviors.  And like our heavenly Father, we long for them to repent of their poor choices and to return to the ways they were taught.  We so long for this because this is where our relationship is at its best, both for us and for our children.  God is no different.

With the Israelites and with us today, God continues to ever call us back into a right relationship with Him.  His promise to them is to make them a mighty nation – as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore.  His promise to us is somehow more personal.  God’s promises to love us, to care for us, to watch over us, to bless us all still remain.  As His children, we are still God’s covenant people.  Yet through Jesus the relationship became more personal and intimate.  We can relate to Jesus’ human nature as a friend yet His divine nature is also present, revealing His power and majesty.  Through His resurrection Jesus imparts the Holy Spirit, a living presence of Jesus that comes to dwell in us once we accept Him as Lord and Savior.

It is through the voice and movement of the Holy Spirit that God continues to call us, His children, back to Him over and over again.  No matter what our choices, God still seeks to keep us in a righteous relationship with Him.  When we stumble, He calls out.  When we sin, He redeems.  When we wander away, He waits patiently, continuing to seek us out.  For God’s amazing and wonderful far-reaching, never-ending, life-changing love, we are ever grateful.  For all of His love, mercy, and grace we say thanks be to God.


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Continues to Call

Reading: Hosea 1: 2-10

The story revealed in Hosea is our story too.  Israel has fallen away from God and has begun to turn to Baal worships and other things not of God.  Yet God does not give up and continues to call them back.  Because of His great love and unending forgiveness, God seeks to renew Israel to an intimate relationship as children of God.

In our Christian walk we too cycle through periods similar to where Israel is in our story today.  Our focus and attention is drawn to things other than God.  Maybe for a season it is our future spouse or our job or our new friends.  The desire for recognition or a promotion or a new car seems to supplant God as our priority.  A new idol has taken God’s place.  Yet God is still there, waiting for us to return to Him, nudging us with the Holy Spirit, whispering our name.  He does not give up.

Even after naming all of Hosea’s children with names that remind the people of their broken relationship with God and even after review how the people have failed to be faithful to God, He ends the passage by saying, “they will be called sons of the living God”.  In this we see that in spite of all they have done and in spite of His anger with them, deep inside God knows that they will always be His people.  Always.

We too may stumble.  We too may wander.  We too may sin.  But God continues and continues and continues to call to us.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we too have been marked as children of God.  He continues to call our name.  We give thanks that in His great love and mercy, God continues to call us home and into His arms of redemption and grace.  Thank you God.