pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Heart for God

Reading: 1 Samuel 16: 1-13

Verse Seven: “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”.

Today’s passage is a good reminder of how different we are from God. When hiring for a new opening, we consider different things than God does, depending on the position. If we are looking for a new nuclear engineer there are certain educational qualifications needed. If we are looking for a new starting point guard, there are certain physical attributes we may look for. If we are hiring a new youth director, there are specific tangibles we would have on that list. For each job, there are specific and unique criteria that must be met.

In our passage today, Samuel goes into the interview process to find a new king with certain thoughts in mind. His ideal king would be tall and strong, great in battle, brave and courageous. He would have good leadership skills. As the oldest son, Eliab, passes before him, Samuel thinks, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord”. Not this big, strong man. One by one they pass by and God rejects all seven. Very soon into the process, Samuel gets this reminder from God: “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”. God is saying we must look deeper than the surface. It is the condition of the heart that matters foremost to God.

When we are hiring for our companies (or for our churches), we do try and look beyond the degrees or the work experience of the individual. We also want to know about their work ethic, if they are honest and reliable, and so on. We too dig a little deeper when something important is on the line. After all, we do not want to hire just any engineer or any point guard or any youth director – we want to hire the best one we can.

When hiring for the next king, God began His search deep within the candidates – looking first at the condition of their heart. That was the top of the list. It is usually a bit farther down our hiring lists. But this makes me wonder – if God were hiring a new leader today and He looked at the condition of my heart, would I be hired or would I be passed by? Am I a follower of Jesus whose whole heart is God’s alone? This is what God really desires of us – a heart that belongs to God. May our walk today be faithful to God, loving God with all that we are. May it be so day by day. Amen.

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Belong

Reading: Mark 3: 31-35

Verse 35: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother”.

Who do you belong to? Where do you get your sense of belonging? These are interesting questions. As I think back over the years of my life, I can think of many times when I felt a sense of belonging, a sense that there was genuine community. During summers, for about twenty years, I worked with a group of guys on a certain staining project. We shared a deep sense of comraderie that would return in an instant if we reunited after six years off. For many years a group of guys gathered on Sunday afternoon to play pick-up basketball. Many men came and went from that group, but there was a core group that was really close. And then was our church. Who do you belong to? Where do you belong?

As human beings we have a great need to belong. We are social creatures. That is how God designed us. In early childhood we begin to feel the need to fit in, to find a group of friends. This feeling stays with us our whole lives. Being alone and feeling alone are two of the greatest challenges facing many people today.

One of our natural places of belonging is our families. There we find a love and acceptance that is unconditional. It is the type of love that led Jesus’ mother and brothers to try and intervene to make sure that He was eating and taking care of Himself.

When they arrive to express this love, Jesus responds in a way that seems odd to us. He looks at the crowd gathered around Him and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers”! Jesus goes on to explain, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother”. We do hope that He goes out to see them. And to give His mom a kiss. But we don’t know. We do understand Jesus’ point here. We have all experienced it in our lives. When we move to a new community, it is one of our biggest concerns – will I find a new church home? Often our strongest connections are within our community of faith. When I think about where I feel the greatest sense of belonging, it is my family and my church. In the church, all walks of life gather together as one body, united in Christ. It is here that we form loving relationships with one another and with our Lord. We belong in God’s family. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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Ever Present

Reading: Isaiah 40: 1-8

Verse Eight: “The grass withers and the flowers fail, but the word of our God stands forever”.

The people Israel strayed from God and His ways, wandering off into idol worship and other sins.  The Babylonians invaded, destroyed the temple, and carried off the best and brightest people into exile.  It was a time of despair; a feeling of abandonment was prevalent.  At times we too stray away from God and find ourselves in sin, lost in the wilderness.  At other times, forces outside of ourselves seem to rise up and life crumbles around us.  In both cases, we feel alone and in a place of despair.  We too know what it can feel like to be out in the wilderness of life.

But because God is faithful, the time in the wilderness does not last forever.  Although it is sometimes necessary, God does not abandon us and leave us in the wilderness forever.  Because of His love and mercy, God seeks us out and calls us back.  Our passage today speaks of this: “Comfort, O comfort my people”.  God is saying that it is okay, that He is right there.  The prophet Isaiah goes on to remind them that a time is coming when a voice will call out in the desert and the paths will be made straight and level for the Lord.  The “glory of the Lord will be revealed”.  There is promise and hope even in our times in the wilderness.  Our God is faithful and true.

The voice of God encourages Isaiah to cry out on behalf of the people.  The Lord always wants to hear from His children.  Our passage goes on to remind us that the glory of man is like the grass of the fields or like the flowers – it flourishes or blooms today but then is gone.  It withers and fails.  But just as there is a temporal nature to our successes, so too is there a temporary nature to our failures.  Through the highs and the lows, God remains our loving and faithful God.  Isaiah reminds us of this, writing, “the word of our God stands forever”.  His words are love, hope, mercy, grace, forgiveness, peace, joy.

If we find ourselves in the wilderness today, may we cling to God’s words of hope, love, promise.  If we find ourselves in a good place today, may we rejoice in God’s words of mercy, peace, grace, forgiveness, and love.  God is our all in all.  He is our ever present help in the trial and our constant light in the joy.  Thanks be to God.


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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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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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Might and Power

Reading: Psalm 77: 1-2 and 11-20

As our reading opens, the psalmist feels stress and worry and fear.  The writer feels all alone – isolated from people and from God.  It is a hard place to be.  At points in life our problems can seem to mount up like a wall around us.  We cannot see over the top and it seems as if others and God cannot see in.  In these moments we cry out to God and seem to get no response.  We want God or people to come to our aid or to at least bring comfort and it turns out as if all were oblivious to us.

As the song progresses, there is a shift.  The psalmist is perhaps in worship or maybe just the power of the raging storm reawakens his sense of God’s presence.  In either case, the psalmist realizes that God has always been present.  He recalls God’s mighty acts on behalf of the community of faith.  He remembers God’s good news and this lifts his spirit.  In the vastness and power of God the writer comes to see that he is not alone and that there is much more to God than just the personal relationship.

In our lives we too will feel all alone from time to time.  As our problems mount, may we look to the skies, to nature, to history to remind ourselves of God’s presence.  May we recall the story of Jesus and all that God incarnate offers to us.  May we find presence and comfort and strength in His power and majesty.


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In or Out?

People look like to be a part of things.  Even when we didn’t really want to go to something, we like to be invited.  Even when we are not a lead part of a conversation we still like to feel that our presence and input is welcomed.  When we go somewhere new we like to be greeted and made to feel at home.  We are social beings.

For some, simply being by oneself is hard.  At times, when we find ourselves alone, we feel compelled to turn on the TV or radio or to pick up a book or a device with a social media connection.  Instead of enjoying a little quiet, relaxed time or some extra time with God, we try to fill the space.

Often in these times we feel we must be missing some event or some “thing”.  And if we come to realize we are missing “it” for some reason, we become agitated, upset, moody, hurt.

Such is the case with Thomas today.  For whatever reason he was not there when Jesus first visited the disciples.  And Thomas is not happy about it.  I can see him with hands on hips, stomping his foot as he says, “Unless I see…”. We too can react this way.  When we miss out we can become defensive, angry, hurt.

But Jesus visits a second time, and Thomas is there.  After Jesus says, “Peace be with you” I can imagine a soft smile on His face as He warmly, lovingly looks upon Thomas.  Thomas is invited to come see, to touch.  In a sense they are the only ones in the room, alone in a crowd.  Thomas connects to Jesus and declares, “My Lord and my God”.  Today may we too connect whether in prayer, reading, or word.  Connect often today.

Scripture reference: John 20: 24-31