pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Spend Yourselves

Reading: Isaiah 58: 6-12

Verse 8: “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear”.

In today’s passage, God begins to help the Israelites and us to understand what kind of fast is pleasing to the Lord. It is not the type of fast that matters. What matters is how the fast affects the condition of the heart. The fast God chooses is one that draws the participant closer to God. This closeness leads to loosening the chains of injustice, to breaking the yokes of oppression, to feeding the hungry, to sheltering the wanderer, to clothing the naked. A heart aligned with God’s heart also deters us from “turning away from your own flesh and blood”. A heart attuned to God is a heart attuned to the needs of our neighbor and of the world.

Great things happen when this is how we love God. In verse eight we read, “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear”. Our faith will become a light that shines out into the world, lighting the path to Jesus. The light will shine into the darkness, revealing sin and injustice and oppression and need. Not only will our own hearts be healed, but God’s healing power will move out into the world through us. Isaiah proclaims that our “righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard”. This makes it sound like we can do about anything in the name of the Lord. In fact, this is what Jesus also promises in John 14:12.

Again, speaking to the Israelites and to us, God promises to hear the faithful when they call and to answer when they cry out. When his people pray, God draws near. The passage closes with the same call – to “spend yourselves” on those in need of food, shelter, justice, peace… It is in caring for and loving one another that redemption and renewal occur. When we do so, God will strengthen our foundation and will repair our brokenness. Isaiah is casting a vision for a future filled with love and mercy and compassion. God invites us to be a part of that reality. May it be so as we work to build God’s kingdom here on earth.

Prayer: Loving God, as I read these words of Isaiah the life and teachings of Jesus jump out of the words. His love and obedience led to a ministry of healing and hope and restoration. Lead me to give my all, spending myself, as I seek to walk in his footsteps today. Amen.


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Living Faith?

Reading: Isaiah 1:1 and 10-15

Verse 11: “The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to me”?

Our passage today has some pretty tough words for Israel. In verse ten Isaiah compares them to Sodom and Gomorrah – two towns that were so evil that God wiped them from the face of the earth. If that were not enough, God goes on to say, “The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to me”? It is just empty offering after empty offering after empty offering. God has had enough and finds no pleasure in such actions. The stream of offerings is compared to “trampling” in the temple. For a people and religion built upon the sacrificial system, it is quite a thing to hear God say, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings”.

To what would God compare this in today’s church? What motion or actions are we going through that feel to God as if it were meaningless? Where is our worship far away from our actual living?

A big part of what was driving God to make such a declaration was how the people were living out their faith. They were failing miserably. Yes, they were going through the motions of worship and sacrifices. Their hearts were far from God. It showed most in those easiest to neglect and abuse. The poor were being oppressed and the widows and orphans were being neglected. Those without power and those without voice were not being taken care of. These are the ones nearest to the heart of God. They are far from the hearts of God’s people. They were showing up on the Sabbath and they were checking the sacrifice boxes. And then they were leaving the temple and returning to the world where they took advantage of their workers, used unfair scales in the market, and ignored the cries of the needy. Today this would equate to those who leave church on Sunday to eat, drink, and be merry while swearing at the TV as their team loses or to those who use dishonest business practices to earn a little more profit. Do such as these show up on Sunday morning and then go out and neglect the poor and needy around them?

Verse fifteen ends with a tough indictment: “Your hands are full of blood”. If said today, what would God be referring to in our lives? What must change so that our worship leads us out the door and into acts of mercy and kindness and love?

Prayer: God, it can be easy to focus on self or to rush through devotions or worship to get on with life. Slow me down, soften my heart, attune my ears to their cries, and open my eyes to see their realities. Lead me to action, living out my faith in ways that are pleasing to you. Amen.


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Attuned to God

Reading: 2 Kings 5: 9-14

We are often like Naaman.  He comes before Elisha and expects some amazing action on Elisha’s or God’s part.  When we bring a significant prayer or need fervently before God, we too hope for something big in response.  We, like Naaman, expect God to act in a mighty way.  We would like our all-powerful God to be just that and deliver a show-stopping answer to our need.

When the response we desire does not immediately come, we too can react like Naaman.  When our desired outcome is not immediately there, we stomp off in a huff.  We are disappointed, angry, and more.  We question and doubt our faith and God.  We may even play the ‘I have been so faithful and this is what I get’ card.  And in our overreacting response we often miss God’s response.

Recently an acquaintance was really getting under my skin.  It got to the point that I brought them before God.  I needed God to fix this person.  My prayers concerning this situation focused all on this person and the traits that so bothered me.  After a short time my prayers were answered!  But it was me who had been ‘fixed’ by God.  I appreciated what had before irritated.  I welcomed the very things that were annoyances as characteristics that our team needed to complete the task.

We too can be like Naaman and miss the simple yet very sufficient answer from God.  May we attune our hearts and souls to all of God’s ways.  This day may we see all of God’s activity in our lives so that we may experience all of His blessings.


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The Voice of God

The psalmist speaks of the power and strength found in the voice of the Lord.  He sees and feels it in the thunder and lightning and wind of a powerful storm that shakes the ground and twists the oaks.  We are also reminded that out of this same might God gives His people strength.  Yet God is not always just in the powerful and amazing.  We too must remember that He whispered to Samuel in the still of the night and was the still, small voice that called to Elijah on the mountain.

At times we too can see God in the natural world.  One can sense His power in a storm and one can also see His presence in a sunset.  Our God is all around us when we take the time to seek Him out and when we are attuned to His presence.

But sometimes, in the midst of our own personal storm, it can be hard to find God.  Sometimes God is not even the first place we turn.  Some may turn to drugs or alcohol and some turn to self-help books.  Some turn to a friend and some choose to withdraw.  Ultimately though, God is the solution.  Yet even though He is all around us, at times He can be hard to connect to.  In these times we must simply spend time with Him.  Read the Bible.  Even though one feels alone, pray.  Experience His love by going out and serving someone in need.

Or maybe you are the friend or even just an observer of someone struggling.  Pray for the one in need.  Ask God’s presence and power and strength to come into their life.  Be with them.  You will not be the solution but your presence and prayers and listening ear are helpful.  But above all, pray.

Scripture reference: Psalm 29