pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Things of Heaven

Reading: Luke 12: 32-34

Verse 32: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your father has been pleased to give you the kingdom”.

Jesus says to the crowd, to his followers, and to us today: do not be afraid. Fear drives a lot of what people think and do and say. Stress, anxiety, and worry are close cousins to fear. They too rest in the unknown and in the realm of doubt. The antidote: trust.

Jesus goes on to remind us why we should not fear, saying, “for your father has been pleased to give you the kingdom”. God wants to give us what we need and more. Jesus has just finished talking about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. In these verses Jesus emphasizes how much God cares for us, his children. Jesus transitions from assuring us that God will clothe and feed us to the assurance that God will give us the kingdom. It is a kingdom in the here and now and also in eternity. The first leads to the second. But that is tomorrow’s reading!

Today Jesus focuses on the kingdom here. To live in God’s kingdom here and now, we are called to focus our priorities on the ways of God. When we choose to live a servant’s life we are walking in Jesus’ footsteps. When our focus is first on loving God and then on loving neighbor then we are nearing the kingdom that Jesus is talking about. When we are generous and gracious and kind and compassionate then we find much joy and peace and contentment in our relationships, not in our stuff. In walking this way, we come to trust in our loving father. Fear is not a part of our lives. When the most important things in our lives are our relationship with God and our relationships with each other, then our heart is being filled with the treasures of heaven. May it be so.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for helping me to value my relationships above my stuff, my time, myself. Keep me focused on you and upon those around me. May I love and serve as Jesus did. Amen.

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Do Not Be Afraid

Reading: Genesis 15: 1-12 & 17-18

Verse 12: “Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him”.

Abram has just gotten back from rescuing Lot. The Lord appears to him and says, “Do not be afraid”. God tells Abram that He is Abram’s shield and his reward. Abram’s mind immediately goes to children. Children, often many children, were the sign of being blessed by God. If a couple did not have children, then they had displeased God or had sinned against God. Abram and Sarai were older and without children. What reward could possibly come for Abram? He was already resigned to giving his inheritance to a relative. Abram pointedly asks God, “What can you do for me since I am childless”? This is both a very honest and a practical question. It is also a question of faith.

In response God gives clarity to the promise He made in Genesis 12:2 to make Abram the father of many nations. God tells Abram, “a son coming from your own body will be your heir”. God then shows him the stars in the heavens and tells Abram that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars. Abram believes God and he is called “righteous”. God then goes on to promise Abram the land that he is now living in as a foreigner. One day all this land will belong to his descendants. Because God is God, one day all this will come to fruition. But in the moment, Abram still questions. He says to God, “How can I know…”? The emphasis is on “know”. I am old and tired and weary and living in a foreign land. How can I know that all of this will come true? Here is where it becomes a question of faith.

We find ourselves at this point too. We come to places or times in life when we feel tired and weary, maybe old too. We’ve heard and often have experienced the promises and presence of God in the trials and sufferings. As we enter that place or time again our mind asks Abram’s question: how can I know that you, God, will be with me and will get me through this?

God instructs Abram to prepare a sacrifice. He does so and then a strange thing happens. We read, “Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him”. God removes all distractions, even light, and focuses Abram in on God alone. In the intervening verses that we did not read, God foretells the time in slavery in Egypt and the return to the land. Then the sacrifice is burned and God makes a covenant with Abram, giving his descendants this land that will become the Promised Land.

As our passage opened God began with these words: “Do not be afraid”. God speaks these words to us today. The promises that follow are also ours: God is our shield and our reward. In moments and in times of weariness and doubt, when our minds question, may our hearts turn to God. Through faith may we, like Abram, turn to God and call upon God to be our shield and defender, our reward and redeemer. God is faithful. May we trust in Him alone.

Prayer: Lord, in my moments of fear and doubt and questioning, may I turn to you alone. Remind me of the time after time after time when you have kept your promises so that I may trust in you once more. Amen.


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Do Not Fear

Reading: Isaiah 43: 1-7

Verse 5: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you”.

Isaiah 43 begins with a reminder of our existence – God created us, God formed us. Without God we would not be. Still in the first verse, we are also reminded, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you”. In the end, we know that God will be victorious. Through faith, we know that salvation is available for all who profess Jesus as Lord. And because of the covenant God made long ago with Abraham, God continues to say, “You are mine”.

Because we are God’s, we will pass through the waters, rivers, and fires. God will be present and will protect us. Isaiah goes on to remind us that we are precious and honored in God’s sight. Therefore God will give up people for us. Others will serve us and make sacrifices for us as we grow in our faith. We too will come to do the same, emulating the great servant, Jesus. Verse 5 again gives us assurance: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you”. God is with us!

The trials and sufferings in Isaiah 43 refer to events in Israel’s past. They are examples for us as well, reminders of how God remains present to His people. As we go through life we also gain experiences where God is there for us – present in the emergency room or delivery room, there in the sanctuary, carrying us through that painful loss, surrounding us with love during that season of heartbreak. As we journey through life, we find that God says over and over to us too: Fear not, you are mine. As we walk through the tests and trials and sufferings, over and over God says, “Don’t fear, I am with you”.

With everyone who God calls by name, we rejoice because our God is with us. God calls us by name, loves us dearly, is with us. Do not fear – God is with us!

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your constant presence, your unfailing love. In the good and in the bad, you are with me. Thank you God! Amen.


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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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Our Promises Too

The story of Jeremiah’s call is the call story many of us receive as well.  Like Jeremiah, God knew each of us before He formed us in the womb.  Like Jeremiah, God has a plan and a role for each of us to play in building His kingdom.  Like Jeremiah, God gives us the gifts, talents, and skills needed for the task.  And like Jeremiah, for most of us, our first response is, “Who, me?”

Who could blame God if He got angry when we respond this way?  It is kind of insulting that we question the omnipotent and omnipresent Creator of the universe and all that is in it.  But God is patient.  The only things that exceed His patience, in my opinion, are His grace and His love.  But He is patient.  When we ignore or deny the call or when we refuse to recognize or acknowledge the gifts and talents He had blessed us with, God just continues to nudge and prod and whisper and to bring before us people and opportunities until we choose to begin walking the path He has laid out for our lives.

We are not the first to question, deny, or run from our call.  Before Jeremiah there were people like Noah, Sarah and Abraham, and Moses – just to name a few.  There have been people like Esther, David, and a slew of others just like us who have taken their turn asking, “Who, me?”. Just as He was with all who have come before and required more than one ask, God was patient and used each one according to His plan.

If you are hesitant to answer God’s call, remember the promises He gave Jeremiah.  They are our promises too.  The first is: do not be afraid.  The second is: I am with you.  The third is: I will rescue you.  His promises are true.  As we live into God’s call upon our lives and as we boldly step out in faith, may we remember and hold onto these promises.  They are our promises too.  As we do so, He will bless us on our faith journey.

Scripture reference: Jeremiah 1: 4-10