pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Call Out

Reading: 1 Samuel 17: 1-11

Verses ten and eleven: “This day I defy the ranks of Israel… Saul and all the Israelites we’re dismayed and terrified”.

Today’s passage is the beginning of a familiar story. The Philistines and Israelites, long-time enemies, are drawn up for battle. In our lives, those one or two sins that always seem to pop up are like these two armies – always just about ready to do battle. In this occasion though, the Philistines have a “champion”. In reality, this is someone who you think can whip anyone the other side sends out. In hockey, this would be the enforcer – the big guy you have to deal with if you get a little too rough with the other team’s star. In our childhood days, this was that really big kid you wanted to pick for your team. Unless the other side got to pick first – then he was called a bully or worse.

What is your persistent sin? What are the two or three things that you always wrestle with? Is it pride or ego or the need to be in control? Those are mine. Is it the tendency to judge or to compare yourself with others? Mine too. Is it something else? We all have these sins that bully us, that seem to always be right there on the front line, ready to do battle with our inner compass, the Holy Spirit.

Goliath steps up to the battle line and says, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel… Saul and all the Israelites we’re dismayed and terrified”. The people of God, the atmy of the chosen people, hear this challenge and stare at the ground. Instead of calling on God and going out to face this bully, they cower. We sometimes act the same way with our sins. Instead of turning to scripture or going to God in prayer at first temptation, we look away. We pretend the sin isn’t lurking. But the temptation is still there. It calls out over and over and eventually we give in, we sin.

If there is a giant calling out to you today, may you call on the name of the Lord, trusting in the One who can defeat anything. Call out! When you do, Satan will flee. May it be so today. Amen.


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Us?

Reading: Acts 7: 55-60

Verse 58: …and the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Oddly enough, in the middle of our passage today, the author mentions that Saul is there.  That people laid their clothes at his feet would indicate that maybe Saul is “in charge” of the stoning of Stephen.  He may not cast a stone, but he is there to make sure the job is done right.  Saul is becoming the leading figure in the efforts to persecute and eliminate this fledgling church.  In Stephen we find one absolutely willing to die for his faith.  Saul is just as passionate and dedicated to upholding Mosaic Law as he and many others interpret it.  Just as much as Stephen loves Jesus, Saul hates Him.  It is quite a contrast, but it is a contrast we can relate to.  While we may never “hate” Jesus, at times our lives may look like we certainly don’t love Him.

As Saul’s story unfolds, his reputation for attacking the church and all followers of the Way grows to the point that the mere mention of his name brings shudders to all believers.  It is quite the shock to the young church when Saul suddenly becomes Paul just a couple of chapters later in Acts 9.  Many asked the question people may ask if us: him?  How could this man who killed and arrested so many Christians become one of Jesus’ greatest apostles and champions?  How could this man so filled with hate become so filled with love?  Jesus.

Once Jesus got ahold of Saul and changed him into Paul, he was fully dedicated to the good news.  This leads us to ask, what about me? Maybe we do not need the 180° change that Saul needed, maybe we do.  But let us ask, what about me?  What would Jesus like to change in me?  If Jesus could change Saul into such a way, imagine what He could do with us.  May it be so.


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Presence

Psalm 99 opens with, “The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble.”  This line evokes a powerful God.  goes on to speak of how God is holy and mighty and that we should worship at His footstool.  These words and images indicate a God that is far above mankind in status and place.  The psalmist almost makes God so far above us that we can barely connect to Him.  At times, particularly when I have sinned, it can be easy to see God in this manner.

But beginning in verse six, we are reminded that God connects with mankind in personal ways.  We are reminded of how Moses, Aaron, and Samuel all called on God and of how He answered them as He spoke directly with them.  Our mighty and holy and powerful God desires the same intimacy with us.  He longs for this on a daily, moment-by-moment basis, not just once a week or once in a while.

Often when we gather for worship, we begin by inviting God’s presence to be among us.  The words of the prayers, liturgies, sermon, and songs are all meant to help us connect to God and to feel His presence in our time of worship.  Our praise builds out of this sense of connection and relationship.  Our mighty and holy and powerful God desires a one-on-one connection with each of us.

As in the psalm, God desires to be our defender, our redeemer, and our champion of justice.  This desire is for all of the time, not just on a Sunday morning.  May we begin each day by inviting God to be present in our lives that day.  Throughout the day may we reach out and connect to Him, continually inviting Him into our lives.  And at the end of the day, may we thank God for His constant presence with us throughout that day.  May the Lord God be with you!

Scripture reference: Psalm 99