pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

Look to the Lord

Reading: Psalm 105: 1-6 and 16-22 and 45

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

Psalm 105 is a summary of Israel’s early history.  The opening lines are a call to give thanks and praise to God for all He has done for the people.  The story told in Psalm 105 is not necessarily pretty all the time.  There were times of slavery and abuse and hardship.  There was famine and hunger.  Normally we do like stories with some conflict in them because they keep our attention.  But why would the psalmist tell a story that had abuse and slavery and hunger in it?

Yes, it is the truth and, yes, it helps the Israelite people remember their history. But even more importantly, it reminds them of God’s presence.  For the Israelites, the chosen people, these stories represent the times God stepped forward and acted on their behalf – ending the famine, parting the sea, performing the miracles.  These stories remind the people of God’s love and care for them and they provide hope and promise for the future.

We have similar experiences with God in our lives.  We have events and situations where there was conflict or hardship or trial.  In these times we also have experienced God’s presence as He provided a way or brought us that peace beyond understanding or gave us the strength and courage to slay our giant.  Sometimes, though, we are hesitant to tell these stories because they show our imperfections or our struggles or our failures.  We do not always like to share these aspects of who we are.  Yet we need to share our stories of what God has done in our lives.  Just as the Exodus stories gave the Israelites hope and reminded them of God’s presence and promises, so too can our stories of when God came near give hope and promise to those we meet.  It is through the sharing of these stories and the impact they had on our faith and lives that we can help others to understand and practice the words of the psalmist: “Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always”.


Leave a comment

Reason to Praise

Reading: Psalm 105: 1-11 and 45b

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

The Psalm begins with encouragement to give our thanks to God and to sing our praises to Him.  In singing our praises, the psalmist instructs us to “tell of all His wonderful acts”.  For the Israelites, God had acted in mighty and dramatic ways.  As a people, they have many touchstone moments when God has actively intervened.  In most cases, these are positive experiences that are remembered and celebrated.  Sometimes these are national events like the Exodus story and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  Sometimes they are personal stories – like the story of David and Goliath.  These moments all recall God’s love for His chosen people and their response is to praise and worship God.

On occasion they are stories of correction and sometimes of consequences for poor choices or ungodly living.  Noah and the flood and the periods of occupation and exile are key reminders of what happens when the people stray from God and His love.  Yet each of these stories had a silver lining because in the end the people return to a God who continues to love them anyway.  This realization also leads to the praise and worship of God.

As we fast forward to 2017, we are also the people of God.  As we look back over the last 10, 20, or more years of our own faith journeys we too can see the God we love at work in our story of faith.  We too can “tell of all His wonderful acts”.  There are moments when God has moved and we have been led to our own promised land or when we have slayed our own Goliaths.  Our faith has grown in these times.  And there are our times of wandering in the dessert and times when Satan’s temptations did lead to sin.  In these times, God never gave up or abandoned us. We too remained loved and cherished by God.  We found redemption and came back into the great love of God.  God’s love always remains constant.  What a reason to praise!  All of these experiences, both the good and the bad, remind us to always “Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always”.


Leave a comment

Deeper

Reading: Psalm 139: 1-12

Verse One: O Lord, you have searched me and know me.

Although the Psalm is centuries old, it still speaks powerfully of the relationship we can have with our God.  When David penned this Psalm, he had matured in his faith and his position in life was pretty secure.  But in his youth he had been through periods of trial and testing, through times of fleeing and rebellion.  Through these experiences he developed a very intimate relationship with God.  The Psalm is a celebration of that relationship.  It also calls out to us to each seek an intimate relationship with God.

Verse one begins with the basis of the relationship: “O Lord, you have searched me and know me”.  It is not a snoopy or creepy knowing – it is a lovely and caring knowing.  God is both all-knowing and ever-present.  But it is a sign of intimacy when we choose to live into these facts – it shows we are all in too.  The idea that God knows the words of our hearts and minds before they come to our tongue reveals that God is all in.  Just as much as we need God, God desires a deeply personal and intimate relationship as well.

Verse seven begins with “where can I go…” and “where can I flee…” questions.  David is not seeking to hide from God or to take a break from the relationship.  He is celebrating that God is everywhere.  David knows that no matter where he goes and no matter where life may bring him, God will be there.  God is in the heavens and in the depths and on the far side of the sea.  Even in the darkness God is fully present.  No matter where he goes, David finds that God is right there for him.

God invites us into an intimate, deeply personal relationship.  God seeks anf offers transparency and honesty and an all in commitment to the relationship.  Even though we may wander from time to time and drift to the edge on occasion, God is always pursuing us, always seeking to deepen our relationship.  May we each pursue this relationship with our God and King.  This day may we move deeper into the depths of God’s love.


Leave a comment

Bethel Moments

Reading: Genesis 28: 10-19

Verse 15: I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.

Jacob has had a long day of travel.  As darkness sets is, he grabs a rock for a pillow and lays down on the ground.  He is happy for his spartan bed.  Perhaps you too have been there.  You have driven a long ways that day and are happy to finally have a place to lay your head for the night.  You’ve gone on a little further just to get a little closer to your destination.  Jacob is just the opposite: he has gone on a lot further to get away from Esau.  He had just stolen his father Isaac’s blessing from Esau and he is fleeing to Haran for protection.

In our passage today, we soon find that God is blessing this whole adventure.  In the middle of the night, Jacob awakens to angels ascending and descending a set of stairs, coming and going from the earth.  Then God speaks to Jacob from the top of the stairs to heaven.  God gives Jacob this great promise: “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go”.  What reassurance!  God also adds that He will give Jacob and his descendants this land to live in.  God closes this exchange with another promise: “I will not leave you until I have done what I promised”.  In the morning Jacob awakens and builds a pillar and names this place ‘Bethel’ – house of God.

Like Jacob, we too have our Bethel moments.  We too have come to the place of weariness and have laid down our heads, happy for the day to draw to a close.  We have carried our burdens or worries or anxieties with us and are content to just find a little rest.  And then God has shown up.  Sometimes we have prayed and sought God out and other times He has just shown up.  Sometimes it is God and sometimes it is one sent by God.  God may not remove all of our burdens… but He (or His agent) shoulders some of the load and holds our hand as we begin to move forward.  There is no question that God has been present and we have been blessed by His care and love.  This day may we take the opportunity to thank God for our Bethel moments and to rejoice in His presence in our lives.


Leave a comment

Hope and Compassion

Reading: Genesis 24: 58-67

Verse 67: So she became his wife and he loved her and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

Abraham’s act of fatherly love culminates in a successful wedding.  He has managed to do what all good parents try to do – bring joy to their children in times of sadness.  Isaac is in mourning over the loss of his mother Sarah.  Their relationship was especially close and her passing has created a large void in his life.  Abraham was simply trying to remove this pain from Isaac’s life.

When we find ourselves in a time of suffering and sadness, we too want to be surrounded by those we love.  We find comfort and compassion and, through our loved ones, our sorrows are alleviated.  We seek out those who will love on us and turn our thoughts to brighter and happier things.  This is the role Abraham plays for Isaac.  The last line in today’s passage reads, “So she became his wife and he loved her and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death”.

As Rebekah responds to the call to go, her family sends her with a blessing.  These words – “may you increase to thousands and thousands” – remind us of God’s covenant with Abraham to have descendants as numerous as the sands on the seashore.  It is just one more showing of God’s hand orchestrating and blessing this whole situation.  It is evidence of God’s love for and concern for His people and their future.

God has the same love and concern for you and I and for our future.  Just as God compassionately cares for Abraham and Isaac and Rebekah, so too does He care for us.  All we need to do is enter into a relationship with God to know His love and care and compassion.  All we need to do to experience a future of promise is to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  God’s love and compassion work to draw us in.  They call out to us.  May we, like Rebekah, step into God’s love and live into the hope and promise that God offers to all who call on His name.


Leave a comment

Honor Creation

Reading: Psalm 8

Verse Six: You made him ruler over the world of your hands, You put everything under his feet.

Psalm 8 opens with praise for God.  It then shifts to acknowledge the glory and wonder found in the works of His hands.  Mankind enters the picture in verse four.  “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” reminds us that relative to the heavens, moon, and stars, mankind is a little less.  Yet we are still deeply loved by God.

Verses six through eight establishes the hierarchy here on earth.  Verse six reads, “You made him ruler over the world of your hands, You put everything under his feet”.  This verse clearly establishes mankind as the ruler of the earthly world.  The word “everything” is pretty inclusive.  The list that comes next covers it: flocks, herds, beasts, birds, fish.  Psalm 8 closes with its opening line of praise, but perhaps this time it has a slightly different tone.

Over the years, mankind has indeed ruled the earth.  How well the collective “we” had ruled is debatable.  At times we have practiced things that were bad for the earth.  While at times “we” have harmed the earth, the general trend has been to care for it.  I do not think anyone could argue that we have we cared for it as well as we could have.  Certainly we could have been more diligent in our forethought.  There are things we should have avoided doing but failed to.  This is revealed in our long history of harming the earth and then trying to fix or at least mediate what we did.  Too often progress and the profit margin have led the way and we have done great harms to our waters, land, sky, and the populations of many plants and animals.  The extinction list, for example, has way too many names on it.

If we do indeed praise God and bring honor to the creation of His hands, how do we reflect that in our choices and decisions?  As Christians, we can make choices and decisions that help the earth or do it less harm.  As followers of Christ, we can stand up to protect the earth when we should.  As those in charge of the creation, we can love it as God loves us – caring well for the earth.  It is a monumental task to care for the earth, but it is well within our abilities.  May we love and care for this amazing creation well as we honor God’s work.


Leave a comment

Work

Reading: John 17: 1-5

Verse Four: I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You have Me to do.

It was quite a night for Jesus and His disciples.  They gathered together one last time.  It has been a full night: the Passover meal with the institution of communion added in; the washing of the disciples’ feet; the predictions of denial and betrayal; and, the promise of the Holy Spirit.  Three chapters in John are dedicated to Jesus’ farewell discourse.  And then Jesus prays.  These are His last words in John before He is arrested in the garden.  This prayer us our reading today.

In verse four, Jesus says, “I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You have Me to do”.  He has completed the work God gave Him to do.  The work encompasses teaching us what to do as disciples of Jesus Christ.  As a good teacher, Jesus taught by example.  His work included teaching how to live as a child of God in a fallen world.  This certainly helps us see the world and those in it as God sees them, not as the world sees them.  Jesus’ task also included showing us how to be at work in the world.  This meant feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the orphans and widows, caring for the sick, welcoming the stranger and the outcast.  It is being the very hands and feet of Jesus in our world.  The work also included healing.  This too is part of our work.  We pray for other’s physical healing.  We offer words of comfort and encouragement and lift up prayers for emotional and spiritual healing.  We also work to bring healing and restoration by fighting to end injustice and oppression and prejudice when and where we can.  All of this is the work Jesus completed when here on earth.  It is the work He commands us to continue.

Verse three reads, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent”.  Eternal life comes only through knowing God and Jesus Christ.  We come to know Him n the Word.  We come to know Him through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  We also come to know Him through those we encounter in the world as we work as His hands and feet.  May we know Him well today in our study, in our prayer time, in our encounters with the Spirit, and in those we meet.