pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Merciful and Just

Reading: Luke 18:1-8

Verse 3: “There was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary'”.

Today Jesus teaches us to pray and not to give up. The scene in the parable begins with the one able to answer the request. The judge has the power but is not concerned with God or with men. He feels that his power has placed him above and out of the reach of anyone or anything. Any courtroom decision comes with a price – justice had very little to do with his courtroom proceedings.

Next we meet a woman who is about the exact opposite of the judge. She is powerless. She has no husband to speak for her and she lives in a society that does not value women. She operates on justice. In verse three they meet. Here we read, “There was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary'”. Right is right. That does not change tomorrow or any day to come. So she keeps coming at the judge day after day. Not right away, but after a while the judge gives in. The widow cannot pay him off yet he grants her justice. Why? So she will not wear him out.

The woman perseveres because she is right. She seeks justice. Even the corrupt judge recognizes this. Instead of barring her from court or refusing to acknowledge someone without means, he does what is right. Here we find our model of God – the one who always does what is right, the one who is on the side of justice and the weak and powerless. When our prayers are right and just and when we bring them to God over and over, our God hears and answers. God is merciful and just and loving. In our times of need, God draws near and is present to us. In our persistence we grow stronger and our faith grows deeper. As we bring holy and just prayers to our God, know that God hears and answers.

Prayer: Lord God, when my prayers align with your will and your way, they are just and right. When I cry out for your mercy and grace with a repentant heart, you are pleased. Thank you for being a God of both justice and mercy, of grace and love. You are an awesome God! Amen.

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Come and See

Reading: Psalm 66: 1-12

Verse 5: “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works on man’s behalf”.

Psalm 66 speaks of God’s love for the faithful. The psalmist encourages us to shout with joy and to sing the glory of his name. When we consider the deeds of God, they are very awesome. Verse five invited us into praise and into these deeds, saying, “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works on man’s behalf”. Rejoice in what the Lord has done!

Yesterday I had the privilege of leading worship at the two assisted living facilities in town. The message I shared was based on 2nd Timothy 4. In this passage, Paul encourages Timothy to preach the good news with patience. As I was working on the message earlier in the week, it occurred to me that the second half of the passage, verses six through eight, spoke not only of how Paul had “fought the good fight” but of how many who would gather in those rooms had done so as well. I shared with them how it brought me great joy and how it encouraged me as I thought of the witness to the faith that they have lived out their 70, 80, and even 90+ years. With slightly teary eyes I thanked them for their examples of faith.

In Psalm 66 the writer first focuses in on when God led the people through the waters on dry land. Whether this refers to the parting of the sea or of the Jordan River or both does not matter. Either way it recalls the story of when God acted on behalf of the people. A little later, in verses ten through twelve, the psalmist recalls another time when God acted. It could refer to the exodus from Egypt or the return from exile in Babylon. Again, in either case, these were seasons of difficulty that ended with God’s action and in the long run increased their faith.

In our faith journeys we have these experiences too. We have all been rescued by God. We have all come through a trial with a stronger faith. We too have “come and see” stories of the awesome things that God has done in our lives. Like the psalmist, may we also share the story of our God who reigns forever.

Prayer: O God of all the earth, how wonderful are the works of your hands. I rejoice in the words of the Bible when I read of your actions. I also rejoice in the ways you have been and are at work in my life. Thank you for your abiding presence and for your constant love. Amen.


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Like Him

Reading: Philippians 2: 5-11

Verses 6-7: “[Jesus] did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant”.

Today’s passage is at once both awesome and humbling, inspiring and challenging. It is awesome and inspiring because the divine chose to become human. Jesus stepped out of heaven and became one of us. This is a deep, awesome display of love. That Jesus would take on flesh and dwell among us is hard to fathom. Then to look at how Jesus lived, that is inspiring. Paul encouraged the Philippians and encourages us to have the same attitude. He writes, “[Jesus] did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant”. Jesus set aside His divinity and lived as a servant. He let go of divine power and grasped the role of a servant instead.

Jesus could have summoned a legion of angels or done a little wham! and bam! and been rid of the Romans, the religious leaders, and the whatever else was inhibiting a fuller understanding of God’s kingdom. He could have placed Himself as the next great king, ruling from Jerusalem like King David used to do. Instead, though, Jesus taught little groups, small crowds, and mostly individuals. He met and ministered to people right where they were at. For some this meant a story or a teaching that called them to a better walk with God. For others Jesus healed them of whatever it was that bound them or kept them from community or relationship with God and others. In all He did and said, Jesus modeled God’s love.

If Jesus were a powerful political king up on a big throne, you and I and most people would think we could never do that. And we would be right. So here is where it gets humbling and challenging. Jesus became one of us. Yes, a perfect and far superior one of us. But in many, many ways Jesus was a common person – a basic human being. This means that we can be like Jesus. We can’t be Jesus, but we can be like Jesus. The divine took on human flesh. This human flesh that we are can take on the divine. We can be Christ-like servants living out God’s love. To understand this is both humbling and challenging.

Jesus became like us so that we could become like Him. May it be so.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for giving me an example that I can try and live into. I fail often and I don’t always have a servant’s heart. You are divine with a little flesh. I am a lot of flesh reaching for the divine. Please make me more and more like you, Lord Jesus. Amen.


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Offering All

Reading: Isaiah 55: 6-9

When we first moved to South Dakota, we lived five miles outside of a town of 150 people.  It was dark at night.  On those nights when the moon was but a sliver, the night sky was simply amazing.  In that remote location, on nights with a definite lack of man-made light and little lunar light, the stars were awesome.  To sit outside and stare at the sky filled me with the wonder of God.  To gaze up at the layers of stars that went on forever gave me a glimpse of the power and majesty of God.  Although His power and presence filled me, it was but a glimpse.  It gave me just a little peak into how high and powerful God’s ways are.

In realizing how big and powerful and majestic God is, I also realize how small I am.  This realization brings awareness of how much I need God and His Light and Love, made known to me in Jesus.  Yet as big as God is, He still knows me by name.  He formed me uniquely in my mother’s womb and He knows every hair on my head.  God hears each and every word of each and every prayer I lift up to Him.

This same God knows each sin and impure thought and … that I have.  This brings me to frequent times of repentance and committing again to strive for becoming more like Christ.  It leads me to examine what I am offering to God and what I am holding back.  Almost always I see that I am less that I could be, less than He calls me to be.  May I lay aside all within me that elevates self over God.  May I offer all of myself to the One who gave His all for me in His life and on the cross.


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An Awesome God

Think for a moment about the awesome and amazing things God has done in your life.  Think of all the miracles and ways you have seen God at work in the world.  Think of all the times you have felt His presence or have been guided by the Holy Spirit.  God is alive and well.  Our God is an awesome God!

Goliath, the Philistine champion, came out and challenged the Israelite army to send forth a man to do one-on-one combat.  He was over nine feet tall and wore heavy armor.  For sure he was an intimidating presence.  It’s not a wonder no one stepped forward.

Think for a moment of those times when you faced a crisis or struggle and your friends and family surrounded you with prayers and presence.  Think of a time when together your church has overcome a challenge.  Think of a time when you have come alongside another in need.

Goliath instilled fear and trembling in all of the Israelite army.  Day after day after day he came and called them out.  Day after day after day the army of God cowered in fear.  So many time God had brought Israel victory, often against the odds.  So often God had been right there with them.

Today we have a few Goliaths.  We have them in our own lives – priorities askew, addictions calling, busyness…  We have them in our churches – declining numbers, the question of relevance…  Today we have the same God that allowed David to face Goliath and win.  We have the same God who will help us win, even against the odds.  He is still an awesome God.  Call on Him and see.

Scripture reference: 1 Samuel 17: 4-11


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Answering As Mary Did

Advent has an “almost there” quality to it.  On the top level we are almost to the day we celebrate the birth of our king.  The day of Christ’s birth is the day that so much promise is fulfilled.  It is the beginning of the era in which we now live.

We are also “almost there” – almost to the end of the story.  On this deeper level, the day of Christ’s return has never been closer.  As we go through our daily life, it should reflect our hope and vision of His return, of a restoration of all things.  The call to be prepared should echo in how we choose to live daily.

On the deepest, most personal level, are we “almost there” in answering how Mary did?  We all hear God’s calling to us.  In His call upon our lives, are we ready to answer as Mary did: “Here I am, let it be according to your word”?  If so we must be prepared for amazing and awesome, because that is the kind of God we serve.  May we all live each day into the power and will of God, answering the call as Mary did, with hands and feet willing and a heart wide open.

Scripture reference: Luke 1: 26-38