pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Absolute Love

Reading: Hosea 11: 1-4

Verse 4: “I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love”.

In the opening four verses of Hosea 11 we hear from God as loving father. It is a role that we have all played as a mother or father and that we will continue to play if we have children, no matter how old they are. God begins by remembering the wonderful start of the relationship. When Israel was just a child, oh how God loved them. God, in love, rescued them from Egypt. But how soon Israel turned to Baal worship and to bowing before carved images. It did not take long for Israel to forget God’s love.

As parents we have experienced similar rebellion. We pour all we have into raising our children and suddenly one day they test their independence, they say they do not need us. We too are hurt and we wonder, how could they do this to us? We love them so deeply and we give them all we can. And then we are rejected, thought useless. Yet we still love our children dearly. It is the model we’ve learned from our God.

In verse three God returns to how love was shown, both directly and indirectly. God taught them to walk. Through great leaders and through the prophets, God taught Israel how to walk in covenant relationship with their God. At times, God even healed them without them knowing it. As parents we too make behind-the-scenes sacrifices and efforts for our children. Often they too are not aware of all that is done for them. In verse four we see again the heart of God. We read, “I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love”. Even though their arms were flailing against God, they were gently drawn back in. Even though their rebellion was still fresh, God drew them in with love. God took the yoke away, giving them freedom again. Lastly, God “stooped down and fed them”. When they could not do for themselves, God did. God loved them through their rebellion. God’s love continued to pour out upon the defiant children. All that could be done was done.

God continues in the role of loving parent. Today God loves you and I this same way. In spite of our sin and rebellion and independence, God still loves us absolutely. It is hard to fathom, but it is certainly true. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Lord, I look back and see how very far from you my path has been. Yet as I look back I can see those people and those events that drew me back to you. Thank you for your ever present love that always reaches out and draws me in, over and over. You are an awesome and good God. Amen.


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Holy Spirit Presence

Reading: Acts 19: 1-7

Verses Five and Six: “On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus… and the Holy Spirit came on them”.

Upon arriving in Corinth, Paul meets some disciples who have received John’s baptism.  If we remember back into the Gospels, this was a baptism of repentance and preparation for the Messiah.  If we turn to Matthew or Mark or John, we see a different baptism – Jesus’ baptism.  As Jesus is baptized, the Holy Spirit comes upon Him.  This is the baptism that Paul now offers these disciples.  It is the baptism in Jesus’ name.  “On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus… and the Holy Spirit came on them”.  As the Holy Spirit comes upon them, they begin to speak in tongues and to prophesy.  These disciples have been changed as the Holy Spirit has now moved in and now dwells within each of them.

For the baptized who claim Jesus as the Lord and Savior of their lives, we have the same experience.  The Holy Spirit comes and takes up residence in us.  The Holy Spirit does not just visit now and then but is a permanent resident in our heart.  If we are open to the Holy Spirit and are willing to be obedient to the Spirit’s guidance, correction, reminders, … then the Holy Spirit will permeate every aspect of our lives.  This is a gradual process of giving more and more control to the Holy Spirit.  As we do this, self loses more and more control.  It can be a long battle.

When we are honest and delve down into ourselves, we can identify little things that we still hold onto or struggle with for most of our faith journey.  Sometimes we hold onto our “secret sins” for a while.  Other times we have a ‘thorn’ much like Paul had.  It was or is a constant reminder of our need for God.  Our inability to rid ourselves of that thorn or to surrender that sin keeps us humble, recognizing our absolute need for God.

Today, as we read about a baptism, may we each recall our own baptisms into the family of God.  That occasion opened us up to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Once we accepted Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit moved in and continues to live within us.  The power of the Holy Spirit helps us to pursue God’s will and to accomplish His work in our lives and in our world.  Thanks be to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit!  May we ever dwell in the presence!


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When We Pray

Paul calls on us as believers to rejoice always, to allow our love or gentleness to show to everyone, and to not worry about anything.  Always, everyone, anything are pretty complete and all-encompassing.  When I look at my life, I realize I fail in all three.  I can and do rejoice in the Lord often, but not always.  I try to let me love and gentleness show to all people, but not to everyone all the time.  I tend not to worry very often, but I do at times.

For some, one or more of these areas are struggles as well.  For example, a lot of people worry.  We worry about health, terrorism, finances, family, decisions, jobs, and so on.  Worry can be a consuming emotion.  Paul’s answer to those who worry or don’t rejoice always or fail to show God’s love all the time?  Prayer.

Paul suggests that we “take it all to the Lord in prayer.”  Again, one of those absolutes: all.  Not just some of the things we struggle with, but all that is on our hearts and minds, both the good and the bad.  Time in prayer shifts the focus from us to God.  Time in prayer builds our trust and reliance on God and His activity instead of on our own efforts.  Prayer also reminds us of God’s absolute love for us and His constant presence in our lives.  Lastly prayer acknowledges that we must trust God with our lives.

When we pray and focus on all we have to rejoice over in our lives, somehow our worries seem less.  When we come to realize how much God loves and cares for us, His love seems to flow to of us and into others.  May we learn to take it all to God in prayer.  May we learn to trust in His steadfast love for us.  Draw close to Him and He will draw close to you.

Scripture reference: Philippians 4: 4-7


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Still Seeking Us

God does not expect perfection.  I just don’t think He ever expects us to get there in this lifetime.  Our God is a God of mystery – absolute and unconditional love for creatures who seem bent on sin and who must constantly be reminded of who we are in Him.  God will always love each of us with this amazing love.

Because of this love, God comes to meet us in all the ugliness of life.  He comes to us in our brokenness, in our failures, in our rebellion.  God does not seek out just the holiest of saints, but He seeks out each and every one of us.  That a God who is perfect in every way would seek to be in relationship with you and me is hard to comprehend.

Yet God meets us just right where we are.  His Spirit enters into our hearts and dwells within us.  In the constant battle with our inclination to temptation and sin, the Spirit never gives up, never tires of reminding us of God’s ways.  God sticks with us and continues to offer this divine presence, almost in spite of us.

It does require almost constant effort to keep us on track and on the path that God desires for our lives.  At times we take a great detour.  But it matters not – God is always there, waiting for an audience with us.  His patience must be almost as big as His love.  Each of us is capable of mirroring a glimpse of this great love and, like all good parents, God eagerly awaits those moments when His heart swells with pride and the angels cheer.  Soon enough though, we return to being just ourselves – human in all ways, imperfect in many.  Yet God still loves us.  God is still right there.  It is not about us in any way.  It is simply because of His great love.  For this, thanks be to God.

Scripture reference: 1 Kings 2:10-12 and 3: 3-14