pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Ever Abiding Presence

Reading: Romans 8: 15-17

Verse Sixteen: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God”.

One thing that life surely brings is change. Some if it is welcomed and looked forward to and some change is unwanted and brings feelings of anxiety or fear. Some change we bring upon ourselves and other change happens outside of our control. Change can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances or our place in life. For example, a job change can be from a promotion or because a great new opportunity presented itself. Or it can be because of a layoff or termination or because the company was forced to go out of business.

Amidst the change that is sure to come in life, we need a foundation that is solid and unchanging. That foundation is our faith. Our relationship with our Savior gives us a peace in this life and a hope and promise for the life to come. Faith brings contentment in the day to day life and strength in the storms of life and a blessed assurance in the trials. All of this comes through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Paul reminds us that through Jesus we do “not receive a spirit that makes us a slave to fear”. Instead we are made God’s children. Verse sixteen reads, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God”. Not only does the Spirit testify but we do too – in our core we sense that we belong to God’s family too.

Since we belong we are “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ”. Yes, we will share in His sufferings. That is a good thing. We are blessed when we are willing to sacrifice for others, when we are willing to play others and their needs ahead of our own. Because we are heirs we also have a future promise. One day we will share in His glory. One day we will see Him face to face and we will walk forever in His light and love. It will be glorious indeed.

Amidst the change that life brings and amidst the trials and sufferings that also come with life we have the ever abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. Thank you God for this blessed gift.


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Sing Out Loud

Reading: Psalm 98

Verse Nine: “He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity”.

Psalm 98 is a song of celebration. The Lord has made salvation known to the nations. The Psalm calls us to sing a new song and to shout for joy to the world. The psalmist even invites the sea and rivers and mountains to join in the celebration. The Psalm closes with this line: “He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity”.

It all sounds wonderful. There will be much joy and songs of praise when the Lord returns. If one is walking with the Lord. If. When one walks with the Lord, they will be singing and shouting for joy when He returns to make all things new. There is no fear of judgment because our faith brings us an assurance and a peace concerning the things to come. Those who live in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ may even look forward to what is unfolding in this Psalm. But we are the minority.

Most of the world will simply dismiss the Psalm at first reading. For the non-believer it is easier to not even think about it. Yet at times they do. Death is one of those things that no one can avoid so it comes to all of our minds now and then. Because most all non-believers sense that there must be “something more” after this life draws to a close, all people have at least a little willingness and some even have a desire to know more about this God who one day will judge.

So how do we help others to know the Lord? By sharing the story of how we know the Lord. Our Psalm opens with this line: “Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things”. Sing out loud so that others can hear your good news today. Sing out loud so that your voice plants seeds that God can water and the Spirit can nurture. Sing out loud today!


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Present to Us

Readings: Psalm 31: 9-16 and Philippians 2: 9-11

Verse Sixteen: “Let your face shine on your servant and save me in your unfailing love”.

The readings today begin in the Psalm. Verses nine through thirteen speak of sufferings and trials. There is weakness and anguish and contempt and brokenness and slander and conspiring. For David, the author, it seems as if he has hit a pretty rough stretch. At times we can relate to what David is expressing. Life is not always easy and we sure can find ourselves tossed about.

In verse fourteen the Psalm takes a turn as David writes, “I trust in you, O Lord”. There is an assurance that God is near. The psalmist then writes, “my times are in your hands”, illustrating a deep trust in God. The section of the Psalm that we read today concludes with, “Let your face shine on your servant and save me in your unfailing love”. In the these words is a quiet confidence that God will always be present.

As we shift forward several hundred years, we find Paul writing about Jesus in Philippians. In the verses proceeding verse nine Paul has acknowledged Jesus’ humility and obedience as well as His servant’s attitude. In these characteristics we also see the trust and confidence in God’s presence that came out in Psalm 31.

For both David and Jesus, although great men, they suffered at times in this life. It was through these experiences that they came to truly look to God. By doing so, they came to have this deep and abiding trust that God would be present and that God would carry them through, that He would save them. As we journey through life we too can trust that God will always be present and that He will always carry us through. As we do this more and more we will come to that place of living with God ever-present to us. May we trust and lean into God this day and every day. Amen.


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Daily to Eternal

Reading: Psalm 90: 1-6 and 13-17

Verse Two: From everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Today’s Psalm begins by establishing God as the dwelling place of humanity.  Ever since God walked with Adam and Eve at the beginning, God has been present to His people.  The psalmist then turns to the eternal nature of God.  Before creation, God already was.  He writes, “From everlasting to everlasting you are God”.  These opening verses paint a picture of God’s eternal nature, inspiring awe and praise from us, His creations.

In the next verses, the psalmist turns to our reality – the shortness of life.  It is an interesting comparison when set next to God’s everlasting nature.  We are reminded that man quickly turns back to dust.  This quickness applies equally to a newborn as well as to one passing at 100.  To God, a thousand years in our counting is “like a day that has just gone by” for God.  For an unimaginable amount of time, God has been.  Then we are each born and then quickly gone, almost as if in a flash.  And then, if one has been faithful, we join God in the continuing walk into eternity.  We will then dwell with God forever.
The psalmist then returns to the present.  He calls on God for compassion and to experience God’s unfailing love.  Our time may indeed be relatively short, but the psalmist wants it to be filled with God’s presence.  He seeks a balance of glad days with the afflicted days, acknowledging that life brings its ups and downs.  The Psalm closes with a request for God’s favor and for God to bless the works of our hands.  As Moses writes these words, looking back over a life that was certainly filled with both times of trial and times of God’s presence and blessings, he surely has the confidence that God has been with him and has been active in his life.  It is because of this confidence that Moses rests secure in his eternal destination.

Whether our days are numbered in the single digits or in scores of years, we too yearn for the assurance that we will spend forever with God.  We gain this assurance just as Moses did – keeping a steady faith in God through it all, turning to God over and over, and trusting in God’s constant presence with us.  It is our daily walk that leads into our eternal walk.  May both be fully with God.


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Comfort and Assurance

Reading: Isaiah 50: 4-9a

Verse 7: Because the sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced.

Israel has been in exile for almost seventy years.  They have been away from the Promised Land and the place they knew and loved lies in ruins.  There does not appear to be any hopes of returning as their time in exile does not have a foreseeable end.  They live in a foreign land among people who worship other gods.  It is easy to see why they might find comfort and assurance in these words from Isaiah.

In this section of Isaiah 50, we read of the presence of God in the servant’s life.  This servant endures suffering, yes, but remains steadfast to God.  This is a good reminder to the people in their situation.  The passage opens with God giving words of hope to the servant.  The word of God spoken to the people throughout their long history also offers hope and reminds the people of God’s love and care for them.  This is a good and timely reminder.  Just as the servant claims it for himself, so too can the people living in exile.  The servant also declares that he has not been rebellious, yet is beaten.  The generation that suffers in exile could relate well to this concept.  It was their ancestors who rebelled and it is now they who suffer.  To be reminded that they are not alone in their suffering brings them some comfort and peace.

The writing ends with a resolution to “set my face like flint”.  The servant knows God is near and he trusts God to vindicate him.  He knows that if God is on his side, in the end, he will not be put to shame.  There is great confidence in God’s power.  He knows that God is in control.  These words would bring hope to the exiles.  Even though they cannot see light or even the end of the tunnel, they are reminded that God has them too.

The people in exile were in need of this reminder of God’s love and care.  After these long years they must have questioned God a bit.  In the servant they are reminded by his example to remain faithful and obedient in spite of undeserved suffering.  Ultimately, they are also reminded of God’s power too.

As Christians reading this passage, one can see Jesus in the words of Isaiah.  Jesus embodied God’s love in human form.  He spoke words from the Father that brought healing to those who were broken and weary.  He was obedient and faithful, even to the point of death on the cross.  Just as the Jews in exile found comfort and assurance in the suffering servant, so too do we find comfort and assurance in Christ.  For His faithful witness that strengthens and encourages us each day, we say thanks be to God.


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The Flock

Reading: Luke 12: 32-40

In a world where fear is so prevalent, Jesus’ words of “Do not be afraid little flock” bring us great comfort and reassurance.  In our lives the fear of violence, illness, and death join together with our worries about money, popularity, and appearance.  But in Jesus’ simple words we hear His desire to take us in, to keep us from harm, to protect and guide us.  Metaphorically, we are the sheep and Jesus is the shepherd.

At times in our lives we will feel fear or experience anxiety over money…  We may even begin to feel overwhelmed.  In these moments we must call upon our faith to calm our fears and worries.  God has us.  We are the flock that lives in God’s ever present love and care.  Jesus goes on to remind us of God’s desire to give us the kingdom.  It is a place of love and peace and comfort and rest. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God is constantly st work building up the kingdom here on earth.

As followers of Jesus Christ we are invited both into the kingdom and into the work of building it.  We are invited to live in this place of peace, comfort, rest, and love and away from the things of this world such as fear.  But many do not know of this place.  Many do not have a relationship with Christ.  One of our roles is to help in spreading and building the kingdom here on earth by inviting others in by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.  God desires that all the people of the earth are in the kingdom.  The kingdom is for all people.

With Christ in our lives, we are no longer slaves to fear, to worry, to the things of this world.  We know these things exist and they do creep in from time to time. Because we rest assured in Jesus’ love and care, we can cast all of these things upon Jesus.  This is a wonderful part of being in the ‘little flock’.  It is also a wonderful thing to share.  This day may we work alongside God, striving to add more sheep to the flock.


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Assurance 

Reading: Hebrews 11: 1-3

Anselm, a Benedictine monk, once said, “I believe in order that I may understand”.  This seems so backwards in the world of logic.  But in the world of faith it makes perfect sense.  God acts and is present in so many amazing ways.  We cannot deny this because of our own personal experience.  Yet we cannot always understand how or why.  A part of faith is always mystery.  Our faith is something we cannot prove scientifically, but one cannot deny that God exists.  We live with a conviction that God is all around us.

At times we have personal experiences with God’s presence.  These moments of divine presence in our own lives brings assurance to our belief.  In the Bible we find many accounts of God’s interaction with humanity.  In our lives we continue to hear and read testimonies of people who experienced God in their lives.  All of this builds our assurance and then our belief.

Our faith rests upon who God is.  Throughout the pages of scripture, in the lives and witness of all the saints who have gone before, and in our own lives we see a God who is always present, is always faithful, and is always just.  God does not slumber or sleep.  God does not go on vacation.  No matter when we call or where we are at, when we seek God or call on God’s presence, God is right there.  The promises God made to Adam, Abraham, Moses, … remain true to this day.  Because of who God is, we rest assured in our faith.  For this we say thanks be to God.