pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Bold Trust

Reading: Jeremiah 32: 6-15

Shelter is one of our most basic needs.  To have a place to call home provides stability and a sense of well-being.  Your day is different when you know you have a place of refuge and a place to lay your head down at the end of the day.  As the Babylonians assaulted the city, the words of Jeremiah’s prophecy echo in their heads.  They know they will be defeated and carried off into exile in Babylon.  The Israelites future is scary and full of unknowns.

Into this scene steps Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel.  God has told Jeremiah that Hanamel is coming to sell him some family land in his hometown.  Buying land seems an odd choice when they about to be uprooted and carried off to a foreign land.  But God had told Jeremiah about Hanamel’s visit so he goes ahead and buys the land.  Most of us would have said, “Let’s just wait and see how this thing with the Babylonians turns out”.

But Jeremiah is banking on God’s promises.  He knows that the Israelites are God’s chosen people and always will be.  He knows God’s promise that one day “houses, fields, and vineyards will again be bought in the land”.  It may be ten years or four hundred years.  It does not matter because God’s word is good.  One day God will restore Israel.

At times God will ask us to step out into a place where we must trust what we know about God.  Perhaps God is asking you to do so right now in your life.  If not now, know that God will.  This is because trust is an essential element in our relationship with God.  In this place of trust we begin to say “your will” instead of “my will”.  As we sense God’s call to step out in faith may we each do so, boldly trusting in God alobe.


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God’s Promises

Reading: Jeremiah 32: 1-3a and 6-15

Many are the promises of God. “I will never leave you or forsake you”.  “I will be with you until the end of this age”.  “My mercies are new every morning”.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.  “The Holy Spirit will teach you and remind you of everything I told you”.  “Trust in me alone”.  These are but a few.

In our text, Jeremiah is under house arrest in a city besieged by the mighty Babylonians.  He had warned the King about the danger of relying on Egypt and had prophesied about Israel’s impending doom.  The time had come.  In the midst of this scene of doom and destruction, Jeremiah’s cousin visits him to sell him some land.  To all but Jeremiah this seems like a foolish investment.  This would be like a football coach calling a timeout with one second left on the clock when their team is down 50 points.  Yet Jeremiah buys the land.  It makes no sense.  Except to Jeremiah.  He was trusting in God’s promise.  God had told him that one day, even though hard to believe at this point, that one day God would restore and redeem Israel.

At times life will besiege us as well.  The storm may come in the form of a broken relationship, a health crisis, an unexpected loss, or ….  In these moments, we feel lost and alone and like we are about to go under.  Into these moments, God will speak.  If we are open to God’s Spirit, we will be reminded of God’s promises.  God never stops loving us, never stops reaching out to us, never gives up on us.  In life’s trials, may we turn to the promises of God, our rock and redeemer, our Savior and hope.


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Pray for All

Reading: 1 Timothy 2: 1-7

Paul opens this section with a universal appeal for us to pray for everyone.  Paul even says to pray for the King and all in authority.  Today he would tell us to pray for the President and all elected officials.  For some this may be a challenge.  Some dislike the King.  But as a Christian, we cannot argue with Paul’s logic: God wants all people to be saved and to come to know the truth found in Jesus.  So Paul calls us to pray for all people.

There are always reasons or obstacles that can make praying for all people difficult.  First of all is our own self-interest.  We want to know what’s in it for us.  It can also be hard to pray for someone who seems to have little connection to our life.  Second, we do not like all people.  It can be very hard to pray for someone we dislike or disagree with.  Yet we are called to pray for all people.  So that they can be saved.

In addition to bringing others before God, praying for all benefits us as well.  We are being obedient to God’s word and this shows respect and love to God.  Praying for all is what Christ did and still does, so doing this brings us nearer to Christ.  Praying for all opens our eyes and hearts to others.  It makes us more loving and empathetic.  It places neighbor ahead of self.  Praying for all replaced judgment with empathy and love.  It helps us to see all as children of God in need of salvation.  Praying for all also leads us to offer healing and hope to a world so in need.  It changes how we speak to and treat others.

Pray for all.  Not only does it bring them before God, it also changes our attitude, our heart, and our outlook.  Prayer draws us into being more Christ-like.  May we pray often.  May we pray for all.  May our prayers draw us ever closer to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.


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Faithful Trust

Reading: Luke 16: 10-13

Trust is the key word in this passage.  Jesus begins by transitioning from talking about the shrewd manager to talking to the general audience, which now includes us.  In essence, Jesus is saying that if we prove trustworthy with the little things, then eventually we will be trusted with bigger things.  If we are trustworthy with another’s resources, then one day we will be trusted with resources of our own.  Jesus also ties this into our relationship with God.  He reminds us that if we cannot be trusted with earthly resources, then how would God ever trust us with heavenly riches?

To temper and reframe all this talk about wealth, Jesus shifts gears in verse thirteen.  He ties what we are trusted with into who we serve.  Jesus plainly states that we cannot serve two masters.  There is still the implication that the people of the world pursue only wealth, that wealth is their god.  At the end of the verse, Jesus clearly draws the line: “You cannot serve both God and money”.  Put another way, in a way that ties back into verses 10-12, you cannot trust both God and money.  But oh how we try!

Our trust must rest fully in God.  Too often we say we trust in God, but we act like we trust our money and other resources.  We allow our trust to waver and we rationalize our choices and priorities in life.  We cannot trust God in some areas and we can in others.  We compartmentalize.

Our trust must be fully and completely in God.  This means continually saying, “Your way” instead of “my way”.  It means giving without limit to the things God has placed upon our hearts.  It means allowing God to be in control.  It is terribly difficult to give up one’s will fully to God’s will.  Yet this day, may we begin.  As it is written, “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much”.


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Generous Living

Reading: Luke 16: 1-9

In today’s passage a manager is fired for poor job performance.  He has mismanaged the owner’s resources.  We do not know if he is incompetent or lazy as well, but we do know he is somehow being dishonest and is wasting the owner’s resources.  The shrewd manner in which he then acts would maybe rule out incompetent.  In a handful of quick transactions, he not only shores up his future, he also gains commendation from the owner.

If we are honest, there are times we too waste the company’s resources.  There are times when we check our Facebook or when we text back and forth solidifying our weekend plans or update our fantasy football lineup at work.  And there are other times when our mind simply drifts for a few minutes.  Some days we would really like to just lay our heads down on our desk and take a little nap.  If the boss notices these types of things a few times, we too could find ourselves unemployed.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to offer our best effort in all we do.  We are called to work joyously in all of our labors – to work as if we were working for the Lord.  Always putting in a good days effort is a witness to our faith.  It is about respect for others and being personally responsible.

Personal responsibility forms us another way as well.  In the parable Jesus offers advice on the use of our resources.  He says to be generous with our money – it will gain us friends.  This idea also extends to our time and talents.  We should be generous with these as well.  When we share what God has blessed us with to help others, we are building up a treasure in heaven as well.  Generous living is a blessing all around.


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Respect and Reliance

Reading: Psalm 4

In our Psalm for today we see what trust in God looks like.  David places God first and relies on God for relief from distress, for mercy for sins, for an ear in times of need, for joy in God’s presence, and for peace in his heart.  Looking at this list, who would not want these things?  All of us want joy, peace, and contentment in life.  When we allow God to be our guide, our defender, our redeemer, and our Savior then our life will be blessed.

Sometimes we get the relationship backwards though.  We set out on our own adengas and we try to be the one in control.  Our focus is on ourselves, we hunker down and move ahead with the plans we have laid.  We have a goal or a desired outcome and we try to work through or around any obstacles that come our way.  Culture reinforces our tendency towards individualism and self-centeredness.  If things get a little hard we may ask God to bless our plans or to make things work out for us.  We set ourselves up in the role of God and then ask the one true God to step in only when we need it.

But this is the reverse of how our relationship with God should be.  It is funny that at times we think we are smarter, more capable, more able … than the God who created the whole universe.  In David’s words we see the proper respect and reliance that God alone deserves.  David reminds us to pray because God hears us.  He reminds us to trust in God alone and to allow God’s light to shine upon our faces.  In verse seven, we begin to see the fruit of doing these things: “You have filled my heart with joy”.  At the end of each day, David lies down in peace.  When God is in control, David experiences blessing.  When we begin each day by submitting our will to God and by asking God to lead, we too will know joy, peace, and contentment.  May we choose each day to place all of our life in God’s hands.


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Relationship

Reading: Psalm 4

King David is one of the giants of our faith.  Not only was he brave and strong and wise, he was above all faithful and honest with God.  The deep personal relationship he enjoyed with God is really what allowed him to be brave and strong and wise.  David knew God intimately and fully trusted God with his life.  He knew each day he lived was lived under God’s care.

Psalm 4 is a great example of the level of trust David had in God.  It opens with David’s expectation to hear back from God and it ends with complete confidence in God’s protection.  There is a respect built upon experience and intimacy with God.  All is on the table; nothing is held back.  God is David’s priority.  His day begins and ends with God.  And God is present everywhere in between.

God offers us this same intimate relationship.  God desires to know and be known by each of us just as David knew God and was know by God.  We do not need to slay giants or lead nations to have a deep personal relationship with God.  We just need to spend time with God.  We just need to go to God with our big things and our smallest of things.  Whether life is great for the struggle mighty, we need to daily be in conversation with God.  This day may we deepen our relationship with God through open, honest, and frequent prayer.


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I’m Right Here

Reading: Jeremiah 8:18 to 9:1

Jeremiah cries out and mourns for the people.  God’s response is basically, “I’m right here”.  Jeremiah knows this.  He has been the prophet to Israel for about 35 years and knows full well why the people are crying out to God.  In response to their disobedience, God has allowed Judah’s protection and prosperity to come to an end.  Jeremiah mourns for the crushed people and weeps for the slain.  Even though he knows full well why the nation has come to this place, Jeremiah still asks God for balm, still asks for healing.

Today there is also much disrespect of God.  Today many ignore God, living as if God did not exist.  So in our day and age Jeremiah would feel right at home.  Many are the false idols that people worship today.  The list is long.  The choices that many make would leave Jeremiah mourning and weeping now as well.

As Christians today we are not immune either.  Often the cries of the needy go unanswered.  Often we choose to do or say something that is not pleasing to God.  At least as often we fail to do or say something that would serve God or offer love and hope to another.  And we know God and profess a relationship with Jesus Christ.  At times, Jeremiah would weep over us as well.

Yet for the believer and non-believer alike, God’s response is still the same: “I’m right here”.  God has not gone anywhere.  The prophets of today still echo Jeremiah’s call: “Come back to God”.  For those who do not know God, he would introduce them.  This too is our call today.  We must introduce the list to God, the only one who can bring true healing and everlasting life.  Praise be to God that God is always right here.


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Come as You Are

Reading: Jeremiah 8: 18-22

Jeremiah cries out to God on behalf of the people.  He is acutely aware of their sins, yet he prays for them and their relationship with God.  Since being called to be the prophet to Israel, Jeremiah has spoken to the people about their sins and the coming danger that their sins are drawing in.  He has made the consequences of living life outside of the covenant relationship with God crystal clear.  Yet the people do not repent.  They do not turn from false idols and foreign gods.  They instead rely on tradition and appearances.

The people think their status as God’s ‘chosen people’ will save them.  But even the most special child in all the world can be disobedient and experience the consequences.  The people of Israel also think their ritualistic trips to the temple will be enough for God to relent.  But the trips are hollow and there is no relationship with God.  It is all appearance.  It is all on the surface.  It is simply going through the motions.  If their relationship was real it would lead to a personal relationship with God.  The relationship would affect how they were living outside their one hour in the temple.

Does God expect any less of us?  Isn’t a personal and intimate relationship with us what God desires most?  God wants to be fully known by us and for us to experience being fully known by God.  When we are limited in our commitment and when we keep the relationship at a shallow, surface level, we are not being honest with God and we are only fooling ourselves.  God knows all and sees all.  There is nothing we can hide from God.  When we hold back and try to live a second life, we are being disrespectful to the omnipotent and omnipresent God.  Instead, may we willingly strip away all the gloss and glitter and come honestly and humbly before our God.  God does not expect perfection but takes us as we are.  God simply says to us, “Come as you are”.


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Much Rejoicing

Reading: Luke 15: 3-10

Today’s passage paints a fun image of heaven in my mind.  From the Bible we do not gain a crystal clear picture of what heaven will be like.  We do gain  an idea about some aspects of heaven, but much is a mystery.  But we can imagine!

In the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin there is much rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents.  This image for me wondering.  If the heavens rejoice when one lost soul is found, do the heavens also rejoice over each occurrence of love in Christ’s name?

We are called to grow in our fsith, to love others as Jesus Christ first loved us, and to spread the good news to all people.  Do each of these activities draw the interest of heaven as well?  In my mind I picture groups of angels watching over our daily lives.  As an opportunity to be Jesus’ hands and feet approaches us, do the angels slide up to the edge of their seats, quietly saying something like “Come on now”?  Is there a collective groan when we miss the opportunity or choose to let it slide by?  Is there a raucous cheer raised when we stop and love the one in need?

Does the same scene unfold each time we choose to sit down with our Bible instead of turning on the TV or hitting the snooze button?  Does the same scenario unfold each time we make the choice to do the right thing instead of the easy thing?  There must be much rejoicing in heaven each time the light of Christ is shined forth into the world.  Today may we give the angels in heaven many opportunities to raise a holy cheer!