pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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The Spring of Living Water

Reading: Jeremiah 2: 4-13

Verse 13: “My people have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns”.

Jeremiah 2 opens with God remembering when Israel was young and was faithful to God. Then, in our verses for today, God questions why the people have strayed so far and asks what was so wrong that led them away. The nation has turned to worthless idols and has become worthless themselves. They have forgotten God’s deeds for them; even the priests and prophets have turned from God. Verse twelve sums up God’s emotions at this point: “Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great terror”.

A quick glance around our world and one would guess that heaven is appalled. There is certainly no lack of people following idols and worshipping false gods. Many today seek to find happiness and contentment in money, possessions, titles, status, popularity… A good deal more seek happiness and contentment in alcohol, drugs, sex, hobbies… Add in the violence, abuse, war, injustices… and heaven must shudder. There seems to be a great distance between our world today and the world that God created long ago.

Our passage closes with verse thirteen. Here we read, “My people have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns”. God is like a spring of living water. Jesus made this claim as well. A spring of living water is active and fresh and moving and full of energy. It never runs dry and is always available to nourish, cleanse, renew. This is a good description of God. But instead of going to the living water, the people have built cisterns. And they are cracked. The stagnant, tepid, lifeless water is leaking out, being wasted. This too is a good analogy for a people who have gone astray from God. Overall, this is a good metaphor for those who walk without God. Without God, what is the point of life? What is the meaning of all this?

It is quite a contrast to think of God as a spring of living water and to think of the ways of the world as a broken cistern. It is spot-on. One is eternal and one is temporal. Which do you choose?

Prayer: Lord of heaven and earth, your life and spirit is everywhere: in the chirp of the crickets, in the sway of the trees, in the beat of my heart. May your spring of living water ever nourish and renew me. Amen.

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We Are Messengers

Reading: Malachi 3: 1-4

Verse 1: “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me”.

Malachi closes out the Old Testament with a reminder and a warning and a call. These three are interconnected. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are reminded that Jesus will suddenly come; therefore, we must be ready to stand when He appears. We are warned – Jesus will refine and cleanse, purifying us. Will we make the grade? We also find a call. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to spread the good news to prepare all people for the coming of the Lord.

The first two are inward. When Jesus comes “like a thief in the night”, will we be ready or will our faith be asleep? Jesus calls for us to be ready. He expects to find it well with our souls. If so, we will survive the refining process. It will only purify us. It will not destroy us. It will be the final cleansing before we enter eternity. If, day by day, we seek to be in a right relationship with Jesus, repenting as need be, then we have no worries.

The last message we hear in our passage is outward. We cannot practice the first two just to live in our own ivory tower, in “holy solitary” as John Wesley put it. That is not God’s purpose for us. Verse 1 again reminds us: “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me”. In Malachi we can read this as John the Baptist. Yes, it does speak of John. But it also speaks of you and me. We too are messengers of the good news. We are phase 2, so to speak. We await the return of Christ. As we wait, we use our voice to prepare the way for the Lord bless in the lives of those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This should lead us to the question: who are they?

In verse 5, Malachi identifies a few and Jesus certainly does as well throughout His ministry. We are called to the widows and the fatherless, to the aliens, to the lost, to the broken, to the poor. If we just look around a bit, we will find them. They are in all communities and in most neighborhoods. We will not likely find them in our ivory towers or at our Sunday morning country clubs. They are across the street or alley; they are on the other side of town.

Messengers are sent to proclaim the news. You and I, we are sent to those who do not know the good news of Jesus Christ. May we engage those who do not know Jesus. May we be the gospel and may we share the gospel with those on the margins, with those on the fringes. In doing so, we prepare the way before Jesus, so that He may enter in.

Prayer: Lord, make me a messenger, as hands and feet of Christ, as well as love lived out loud, drawing all to the Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.


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This Cycle

Reading: Hebrews 9: 11-14

Verse 14: “The blood of Christ… cleanse our conscience from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God”.

The writer of Hebrews references “the blood of goats and calves” that were used to be made right again with God. The Israelites had the same understanding of sin that we do as Christians – sin is wrong, it leads to death, it must be atoned for. To restore our relationship with God we must confess our sins and repent of that behavior or attitude. The offering of a sacrifice would represent a “cost” for the sin. Who or what “pays” the cost is where our understanding splits from the Jewish understanding of atonement.

In our modern culture we continue to do the same thing as we seek to deal with our sins and the guilt that comes along with them. If I say or do something to hurt my wife, for example, I might bring her flowers or chocolate. If I say or do something to injure a relationship at work, I would feel like I should do something to make up for my “sin”. We still feel a need to atone for our sins.

Jesus was the atonement for the sins of the world. It is through His own blood that He attained “eternal redemption”. It is through the same blood that Jesus can “cleanse our conscience from acts that lead to death”. Instead of being stuck and dead in our sin, His blood washes it away. Instead of remaining separated from God because of our sin, Jesus removed our sin and the guilt and shame, allowing us to re-enter our relationship with God “so that we may serve the living God”. Through our earthly redemption we can again live out our faith daily, loving God and loving others.

Praise be to God – our redemption is not just earthly. Just as Jesus entered heaven, His eternal redemption, we too may one day join Jesus in eternity. Our earthly journey draws us ever closer to the image in which we are created – God’s image. As we mature in the faith, we become more and more like our Creator. Through the continuing cycle of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and redemption we are being sanctified. We are being made more and more like Christ. As this cycle continues, it works in us to grow our love of God and neighbor. Thanks be to God.

Holy One, thank you for being the atonement for all of my sins. Thank you for being my way, my truth, and my life. Amen.


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Cleanse Us, O God

Reading: Psalm 51: 1-9

Verse Two: “Wash away all my iniquities and cleanse me from my sin”.

Sin is all that we do or say or think that separates us from God. Despite our best efforts to follow Jesus and to bring honor and glory to God in all aspects of our lives, at times we fail. We were, in fact, created by God as imperfect creatures to live in a broken and sinful world. Being perfect or being without sin is not possible on our own. We were created this way so that we would come to rely on God.

King David learned the hard way about the sin in his life. While David is known as a man who was after God’s own heart, he, like us, was prone to sin. David even acknowledges, “surely I was sinful at birth”. David also recognizes another key element about sin: we sin against God. Yes, our sin can affect others, but our sin is really between us and God. Even though David dealt with sin in his life, he always sought God’s mercy and forgiveness as he repented of his sin.

Sometimes the sin in our lives is quite obvious and we quickly turn to God to restore our relationship. But sometimes we hold onto our sin, pretending that God cannot really see into that corner of our heart. At other times we are weak and our sin’s pull is stronger than we are at that moment. There are other sins that we always seem to battle. For me these are the sins of self, pride, ego, and gluttony. At times my faith does help me to live victoriously, but these sins are ever at the door of my heart.

In David’s words in Psalm 51 we find some great prayers to lift to God and some great reminders if who God is. We are reminded of God’s mercy and unfailing love. We are reminded of God’s desire to teach us truth. In those moments when we stumble, may we remember David’s plea: “Wash away all my iniquities and cleanse me from my sin”. In those moments, may we claim this prayer as our own. God desires to make us “whiter than snow”. We simply must humble ourselves and come before God with a contrite heart. May we search deeply within and confess our sins today, opening the way for God to heal our heart. May it be so today.


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Through Prayer

Jesus went to God in prayer.  Sometime He went in “reverent submission”, seeking to align the will of His human mind and body with the will of God.  In the garden, as He faced torture and death on the cross, Jesus came before God with His human concerns but ultimately said, “Not my will but Yours.”  At other times Jesus prayed to reconnect to His Father.  In times up on the mountain or out in the wilderness, He drew near to God to be renewed and refreshed.  And some of the time Jesus prayed for others.  Even on the cross, Jesus interceded for those who were crucifying Him.

Our great high priest invites us to live a life of prayer that is obedient to the will of the Father, that connects to God, and that lifts up one another – even those who persecute us. For Jesus, prayer was always the first step.  It was never the last result.  At times we have this backwards.

Through prayer Jesus stayed connected to God and remained unblemished.  In this perfectly obedient state, Jesus went to the cross, bore our sins, and became the source of our eternal salvation.  We too connect to our God through prayer.  although we too come in all the ways Jesus came to the Father, we are no perfect.  We are blemished; we are sinners.  But because of Jesus, we also can come before God seeking to be washed clean, to be made new.  In those moments we are made new, unblemished and pure.  Jesus prayed often and set for us the example.  May we too take all to the Lord in prayer.

Scripture reference: Hebrews 5: 7-10


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Just Ask

God desires to teach us wisdom and for us to know His truths.  He longs to cleanse us and wash away our sins.  A daily relationship with each of us is what He longs for.  But God will not force any of this upon us.  It must be our choice.

At times we may feel God is distant or is hard to connect to.  But He is always near and the Spirit is always present.  When we turn and seek God, He is instantly there.  And it is not because He is really fast.  I picture this kind of like and elementary school ‘dating’ relationship.  Boy follows along behind girl everywhere she goes and she acts like he is invisible.  Until that moment when she wants something and she turns around and he is right there.

God is concerned with our ‘inner being.’  He is always examining us and the Spirit is always trying to nudge us in the right direction.  But action and response only comes on our own accord.  We can be good at ignoring.  We can be good at putting off.  Yet when we are ready, God is right there.

When we say God to ‘cleanse me’, God instantly strips away the bad.  When we say ‘wash me’ our sins are suddenly gone.  When we say ‘yes’ to the Spirit our joy is restored and we are filled with a ‘clean heart’ and a ‘steadfast spirit.’  When we ask Him in and open the door of our hearts, life is good.  We walk with the Lord.  We just need to ask.

Scripture reference: Psalm 51: 6-12


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Sprit Fall Upon Us

Ever been so thirsty your throat was dry?  In those cases a sip of water is so refreshing.  Water may be clear and tasteless yet it is better than anything when you are parched.

Have you ever watched water pouring along the curb or gutter or even a gully after a quick downpour?  It picks up debris and carries it away.  The water may even cut away at what it is washing over.  Water can be pretty powerful.

Remember the last time you stepped outside just after a good rain – can you smell the freshness?  The water cleanses away the dust and dirt and also refreshes the life of all it falls upon.

The living water that come when we enter into relationship with Jesus does all these things too.  If we allow the Holy Spirit to be the promised well of living water welling up in us, it will refresh and replenish our soul when we are feeling dry.  This living water will also work its way through the cracks and crevices to carry away the baggage and things that can weigh us down.  This living water will also flow from us, into the lives of others.

It is both a gift and a gift to be offered to others.  Join me in praying, “Come Holy Spirit!  Come!”