pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Faithful Prayer

Reading: Ephesians 1: 15-23

Verse 18: I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.

Today’s passage is about how Paul prays for others.  He is praying for a group of believers that he has heard of.  I think we all pray for a group of people.  While I most regularly pray for family and friends, I do add people to my daily prayers that I hear about at church.  At times, events in the community or in our wider world will draw my heart to be in prayer for those people or that situation.  So, like Paul, we too pray for people we do not know.  It is part of our role in the fellowship of all believers to pray for one another.  This all leads me to think about prayer.

The core of our daily prayer life focuses on the people and events that are close to our hearts.  Early each morning I pray for my extended family by name, for those I know battling cancer and illness, for those I know who have experienced recent loss, and for our church.  It is a pretty standard list.  It changes from time to time but remains pretty constant.  As I go for a walk, I also pray.  I pray for each pastor and their churches in our area.  I pray for our leaders – national, state, and local.  I pray for our police, highway patrol, EMTs, and firefighters and those who lead them.  I pray for the jail, both the inmates and the workers, as well as for the judicial staff across the street.  It is good to have a pattern of prayer to follow.  It is good to have a time set aside to pray.  It is good to have a regular list of folks to pray for.  It is good to be in prayer.  What and whom do you pray for each and every day?

Two other important areas of prayer that we need to consider are thanksgiving and confession.  It is important to take time each day to reflect on our blessings and to name them before God.  It acknowledges God as our provider and it reminds us of our need for His provision.  It helps us to be humble.  Another important area of prayer is our confession of sin.  We are sinful creatures so we are not usually in short supply of confessional material.  It is so important to daily bow before our Maker, to confess our sins, to seek His forgiveness, and to pledge repentance.  This act of prayer helps us stay in a right relationship with God.  How well do you offer thanks and practice confession?

Lord, may we ever bring our praise, our petitions, our thanksgiving, and our confessions to you.  You are faithful.  May we be as well.  Amen.

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Faithful Servant

Reading: Deuteronomy 34: 1-12

Verse Four: I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.

In today’s passage, we come to the end of Moses’ life.  It is a quiet end to the life of a faithful servant.  The time in the basket, floating in the river, is 120 years ago.  It seems almost like another lifetime.  But as we find Moses at 120, he is still strong and is still of good mind.  As Moses heads up the mountain, he must sense it is for the last time.  Knowing this, the experience must have been bittersweet for him.  Yet this humble servant of God continues to walk by faith, right to the end.  It is one more testament to Moses’ close personal relationship with God.

Moses has spent the last 40+ years of his life first leading the chosen people to freedom and then through their desert wanderings.  It has been a hard life at times.  It has also been wonderful at times.  First Moses had to deal with Pharaoh’s hard heart and then he spent forty years with a stiff-necked, complaining bunch.  There seemed to always be a crisis or an issue to deal with.  Moses had made frequent trips up the mountain to meet with God.  On occasion Moses even had to deal with God, standing on behalf of this people.  Moses has given much of himself to these people and all of himself to God.

Once up the mountain, God once again blesses Moses.  The divine judgment stands, yet this day love and grace rule.  God says to Moses, “I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it”.  In a vision, God allows Moses to see the whole Promised Land.  Although he will not enter into it, God gives Moses a great virtual tour.  Yes, the judgment stands, but God offers one last blessing to His faithful servant.  Moses sees the fruit of his many years of service – the Promised Land.

A lesser man would have come down the mountain disappointed.  But Moses has no regrets.  He has lived a life of service to the God and people he loves.  Moses returns to his people one last time and quietly passes on to eternal life with God.  May we too strive to live such a life.  May it be so.


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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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Presence

Reading: Psalm 105: 1-6, 23-26, & 45

Verse Four: Look to the Lord and His strength, seek His face always.

Our Psalm today opens as a song of praise, recalling the works and wonders that God has done for His people.  The psalmist encourages the people to remember in song and to retell of God’s activity among the people through music.  It is through music that we best rejoice and give glory to God.  In verse four we read these words: “Look to the Lord and His strength, seek His face always”.  In looking to God and in remembering God’s mighty acts in song, we are reminded over and over of God’s strength and we are drawn back again.

Giving thanks and singing praises to God is not limited to the times when life is good.  It is also not limited to singing about just the times of blessing either.  The entire Psalm recalls both times of abundance and power as well as times of want and oppression.  In fact, it is often in and through trying times that we see God’s hand at work.  When God enters into our pain or when He relieves our burdens are experiences where we feel especially close to God and His strength.  They are moments that really remind us to look to God and to seek His face always.

Just as in Israel’s past and at points in our lives when life was hard, in some communities and neighborhoods life is hard.  Poverty and lack of decent employment opportunities couples with violence and substance abuse to create difficult environments to live in.  Poor schools and inadequate housing add to the hardships that exist in many inner cities and on some reservations.  All of these factors lead to higher levels of crime and gang activity and to higher rates of incarceration.  These places can be difficult places to seek His face.  Yet there God is, working in and through people’s lives, being worshipped in vibrant faith communities that joyfully sing of God’s goodness and love.  God’s presence is there in full force, allowing faithful disciples to both trust in God in the midst of hardship and also to go forth to be used by God to bring healing and hope and love.  May we all be encouraged and uplifted by God’s presence so that we can share His love and hope and peace today.


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Hold Tightly

Reading: Genesis 32: 22-31

Verse 24: Jacob was left alone and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.

God directs Jacob to return home.  He is being led to return to the family that he tricked and stole from.  This worries Jacob.  As he nears home, he sends all his family and all he owns across the stream and he remains alone on the far side.  The scene is set for some alone time with God.

At times we find ourselves in a similar situation.  We are returning to or going someplace that causes us some fear or worry or anxiety.  We may be the cause of it or it could be from things outside of us that are causing the uneasiness.  Yet we know we must go.  Here we too seek some guidance or direction or encouragement from God.  We want to know that we do not go alone.

“Jacob was left alone and a man wrestled with him till daybreak”.  As turmoil stirs around inside Jacob, a man comes and wrestles with him.  It could be an angel.  It could be a man sent by God.  It could be God.  Whatever the case, Jacob realizes that this is a powerful foe and this leads him to demand a blessing.  He has already sent quite a blessing across the stream – his wives and children, his large herds and flocks, and his many possessions.  Yet he demanded more.  God has blessed him and now he asks for more.
In our times of trial and stress, we who have also been blessed often go to God asking for more.  Sometimes God will allow us to do a bit of wrestling too.  God will allow us to sit in our feelings of uncertainty and fear because it leads us back to Him.  He wants to know if we too will hold on tightly.  Jacob does not give up in the wrestling match and he is rewarded.  He receives a new name – Israel – the one who struggled with God.  Jacob departs the scene knowing that God is with him.  It is now a hopeful future for Jacob.

At times we too will wrestle with God.  We too will struggle and ask the “why” questions.  In this story we see that God is faithful to those who hold tightly to Him, to those who remain steadfast.  May we ever hold tightly to our God, trusting in His blessings.


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A Cup of Water

Reading: Matthew 10: 40-42

Verse 42: And if anyone gives even a cup of water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple…

After reading today’s passage, I think about how we sometimes wrestle with who we serve.  In Jesus’ words we hear that if we receive Him, we receive God – the one who sent Jesus.  But if we only see Him as a prophet or teacher or just some good guy, then that is all we receive too.  Then the last line shifts as Jesus speaks of offering a cup of cold water to another.  When we extend the love of Christ to others, we are told that we will not lose our reward – eternal life will remain ours.

The closing verse today reads, “And if anyone gives even a cup of water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple…”. Today I am on a bus headed home from southern Texas.  Our six teams of high school youth and the adults with them served six families in need.  Each family was a victim of a natural disaster and did not receive government assistance for a variety of reasons.  All were immigrant families so language was a barrier.  All are barely getting by.  Three teams put new roofs that these families could not afford in a thousand years.  One team hung, finished, and painted new drywall.  One team ran new wire then hung and mudded new drywall.  The sixth team did a myriad of projects.  It was offering a cup of cold water to these families in southern Texas.  The materials and labor were certainly a huge blessing to each family.

But the deeper blessing comes to the ones who extended the cup of cold water.  Being exposed to and becoming aware of the needs of others opens us up to so much more than we know in our sheltered worlds.  We learn to love others more and to value what we have less.  A simple question about what to do with a dollar we found in the parking lot on day one blossomed into $150 gift cards for five families and a new stove for the sixth.  It is indeed a deep blessing that we were changed ourselves as we chose to extend the love of Christ to others.  As Jesus said, now go and do likewise.


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Through the and In the

Reading: Psalm 23: 4-6

Verse 4: I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” is a very familiar line in a very familiar Psalm.  This line contains several truths for all of us.  First, we will all, at points in our lives, walk through a time of loss.  The death may be of a friend or loved one, it may be of a marriage or a friendship, it may be of a job.  In the times of loss, we all feel a shadow hanging over us.  The grief, the pain, the unwanted change all feels like a shadow or dark cloud hanging over us.

Second, we do not walk alone as we pass through the valley.  Our God walks with us.  Because of His great love for us, God does not let us walk alone.  His presence and the people He leads into our lives during these valley experiences are what makes it possible to “walk through”.  Yes, we do spend time in the valley and, yes, we will return there from time to time, but we do not remain in the valley.  God fosters new life to spring up or to form in us as we walk through the valley and continue on our journey of faith.  This is the third truth.  God leads us up and out of the valley, back into new life.  When we look back, we can see how God was with us in our deepest need and how God led us through the valley.  Because of these reminders of God’s love and because of the experience with His closeness, we can join the psalmist in declaring, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me”.

The Psalm ends where it began – with God’s blessings and joy in our lives.  God prepares a table for us, God anoints us with the oil of His blessing, and through this our cup overflows.  Outside of the valleys we also live daily with the sense of God’s goodness and love surrounding us each moment of each day.  It is the same sense of comfort and presence, but it is experienced in the joy of life as well.  The Psalm ends with the hope we all profess: “… and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.  May it be so.  May it be so!