pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Intimately Connected

Reading: Psalm 86: 1-10 and 16-17

Verse One: Hear me, O Lord, and answer me.
This Psalm is personal.  It is built upon a relationship that has grown and developed over years.  It is not a shallow relationship or a ‘foxhole prayer’ – a prayer of desperation thrown up by one who regularly lives outside a relationship with God.  David is intimate with God.  Verses two through four bear witness to this.  He is devoted to God, calls out all day long, and lifts his soul to God.  Verse one reads, “Hear me, O Lord, and answer me”.  David is confident in his right to seek God.  Not only that, one can sense the solid belief that God will answer.  We too can have such a relationship with God.  We grow and develop our relationship with God through worship, daily time in the Bible, and by regular conversations with God.

As the Psalm unfolds, we see that David’s intimate connection to God is built upon God’s faithfulness and love.  David describes God as forgiving, good, and abundant in love.  He acknowledges God’s greatness and the miraculous deeds that God has done in caring for His servant David.  David can look back and see how God was active and present over the course of his life.  It reminds him of the covenant promise that God extends to all who trust in the Lord.

We too can choose to walk each day intimately connected to God.  When this is our daily choice, we too will be able to look back and see God’s faithfulness and love at work in our lives.  Each day may we choose to walk intimately with God, so that we too can pray, “Turn to me and have mercy on me, grant your strength to your servant”.

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One

Reading: John 17: 6-11

Verse 11: Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one.

In today’s passage Jesus is praying for those who know Him and for all who will one day know Him.  This prayer parallels Jesus’ work on the cross.  On the cross Jesus took on all sin – all that ever was and all that will ever be – for the salvation of the world.  He went through torture and pain and death for each of us.  His love for each of us is so great that Jesus would have gone to the cross even if we were the only sinner.  But we are all sinners, so Jesus gave His life for all of us.

Today Jesus speaks first of our belonging to God.  Each and every one of us is a child of God.  We are all knit together in the womb and are all therefore born with a spark of the divine within us.  We are all created by and dearly loved by God.  We are all called to God.  Even though some deny or reject God, they too sense His presence in their lives and in the world.  Out of His great love for each of His children, God continues to call out, to reach out to them.  God never gives up on anyone.

Jesus then speaks of the evolving relationship we experience as we get to know Him more and more.  As our relationship with Jesus grows, we come to see the connection between God and Jesus – that they are one.  As we continue on our journey of faith it is to become more and more one with Jesus.  We also come to see our unity with Jesus.  We long to grow in Him and to see the world as Jesus sees the world.  Our eyes become eyes of love.

Jesus ends this section of His prayer by asking for God’s hand to be upon us.  He prays, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one”.  Not only does He ask for God to be with us and to protect us, but Jesus also prays for our unity.  He knows that unity is important for Christians.  We walk the road of faith best when we walk it together.  This was Jesus’ model with the disciples and He prays for this for all who believe and for all who will believe.  Jesus desires for us to have unity not only with God and Himself, but also with each other.  This day and every day may we ever seek to be one with God, one with Jesus, and one with each other.


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Ask

Reading: John 14: 1-14

Verse One: Do not let your heart’s be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.

Faith is a journey.  At times we feel our faith is strong and is mature.  We feel like we are well-connected to Jesus.  Our daily walk includes time in the Word and time in prayer.  Part of our week always includes worship and maybe even a small group time.  We clearly see how Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life”.  We have a quiet assurance that Jesus is leading our lives and we hold onto His promise of “a room prepared for us”.

And then we don’t.  Something happens.  Someone says or does something.  Satan exposes a crack and suddenly there is a chasm between us and our faith, between us and Jesus.  Satan uses lies, doubts, fears, anxiety, and much more to make us question our faith and to question Jesus.  Our mind becomes filled with questions like “Why?” and “How?”.  Soon that faith and assurance seems like a distant memory.  It can happen so fast.  We’ve all been there.

Passages like today’s speak into moments like these.  When we still our hearts and minds and really read Jesus’ words, our feet return to the path of our faith journey.  We hear Jesus’ voice saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me”.  Jesus has us.  He is there for us in the midst of our trial or suffering and He will be there again and again and again.  In His voice, we hear again that the room is prepared for us.  No one can cancel our reservation.

In the passage we also see that we are not alone in our meandering and lack of understanding.  Even the disciples don’t always remain steadfast and they don’t always get it.  Thomas and Philip voice the questions we have at times.  They ask Jesus to show them the way and to show them the Father.  Jesus is patient and loving in doing so.  We too seek Jesus’ guidance and direction often to know the way to go or to discern even the next step.  At other times we seek to encounter Jesus, to feel His power in our lives.  All of these things are things Jesus wants to do.  It is His promise: “I will do whatever you ask in my name”.  What do you need Jesus to do today?


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Daily Walk

Reading: 1 Peter 2: 19-25

Verse 21: Christ himself suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.

In 1st Peter, suffering is a common theme.  Perhaps this is because the faithful of Peter’s day did suffer for their faith.  Just as Jesus had suffered at the hands of the Jews and Romans, many of His followers also faced trial and persecution and even death.  Many of the more prominent witnesses gladly suffered for their faith and found joy in being like Jesus in their suffering.  Oddly, most of us Christians today avoid suffering of all kinds.

Peter’s response to suffering and his call to the early church and to us today is this: call upon the power of Christ to transcend our times of suffering.  Today, at times our faith will have a ‘cost’ be it time or money or some other resource.  To give up something or to sacrifice in one of these areas may hurt a little, but it is a far cry from Peter’s day.  Our suffering tends to be temporary and non-life-threatening.  Yet even in the midst of small trials we are to call upon the only one who can walk with us through the storms of life.  Even if it was just a bad day at work, Jesus still desires to be present and to bring us peace or comfort or contentment or whatever we need.

When we call on Jesus regularly in the small, day to day, events of life, then we get to know Him.  Jesus becomes a regular companion to us in all times of life.  It is through a consistent and daily walk with Christ that we come to truly know and trust His presence, strength, and love in all of our life.  This is the model Jesus set for us to follow.  His relationship with God the Father was a daily, consistent connection.  God was Jesus’ strength in the trial.  Always.  Peter wrote, “Christ himself suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.”  When Jesus is our foundation rock in this sense, nothing life can bring will shake our faith.  His love will transcend all of our fears, doubts, and anxieties – no matter how big or small.  This becomes how we journey through life.  In the this way we bear witness to the power of Jesus Christ in our lives and in the world.  It is through our witness and example that we too bring God all the glory and praise.


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Extravagant

Reading: John 12: 1-11

Verse 3: She poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair.

Today’s story is one of extravagant love.  Mary is a good friend of Jesus.  Jesus had a special connection to this family from Bethany, to Mary and Martha and Lazarus.  This family appears several times in the Gospels.  In our passage today, Jesus is on His way to celebrate the Passover.  It will be His last stop at Bethany.  Perhaps Mary has a sense of this.  She seems to be aware of much concerning Jesus.  She was the one who sat at Jesus’ feet and she was the one who brought Jesus to tears outside Lazarus’ tomb.

As they are reclining after dinner, Mary shows extravagant care and love for Jesus.  She pours some very expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet.  On the surface, this is perplexing.  Why would someone pour perfume worth a years’ wages on someone’s feet?  These feet will soon be covered in dust and dirt as Jesus makes His way to Jerusalem.  And then she kneels down and dries His feet with her hair.  This is extraordinary.  Jesus gladly accepts her gesture and even defends her for showing such great love.

Mary’s action may seem extreme, but it is just the kind of love the Jesus demonstrates over and over and over.  A son takes his share of his father’s wealth and squanders it away on wild living.  Instead of tossing aside this foolish son, Jesus paints a picture of a father that waits longingly for the son to return and that throws a big party when the prodigal son does come home.  A disciple struggles to forgive another again and Jesus says not to just forgive a few times but to offer forgiveness over and over and over.  One out of a hundred is lost and instead of rejoicing over the 99, Jesus shares the story of the good shepherd searching until he finds the one.  And instead of scolding the one for being lost, he gathers it up in his arms and joyfully carries it home.  Story after story of extreme, radical, extravagant, extraordinary love.  Mary was just following Jesus’ example.  It is how we are called to live out our faith as well.


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Good and Bad

Reading: Psalm 29

Our Psalm today begins by reminding us to give God the glory and to worship the Lord “in the splendor of His holiness”.  The Psalm continues and shares how God’s voice is powerful and majestic.  God’s voice thunders, flashes, and shakes and breaks the earth.  There is indeed much power in the voice of God – much like a huge thunderstorm that rolls in.  In the rolls of thunder that shake the house and in the flashes of lightning that illuminates everything, I gain a sense of God’s power.  It is unavoidable.  Even in the rains that fall, one sees God’s blessing and provision.

For me, it is easy to see God in the powerful thunderstorm.  But when the storms of life settle in, I can find it difficult to sense God is near.  I find this to be particularly true when the storm seems to rage for a period of time.  I feel a sense of being alone and I struggle to hear the powerful and majestic voice of God.  I allow the worries of the world to wash over my faith and to obscure the voice and presence of God.  And then I near the point of breaking, of drowning in the storm, and I cry out and reach out to the Lord our God.  And God is right there.  Has been all along.  I wonder why I didn’t seek God sooner.  God is always present – it was I who was absent.

After such storms, I am more aware of my constant need for God.  But as life returns to normal, I can drift again.  For me, prayer is the key to staying connected.  God desires a relationship that is 24-7-365.  God desires to be my God in the good and in the bad.  There is a song from the O.C. Supertones that reminds me of this.  The song is called Jury Duty.  The pre-chorus sings, “You know I haven’t had the best of days, but I want to stop and thank you anyway”.  Even on a bad day, God blesses us.  The chorus goes on to sing, “Cuz every single moment, whether sleeping or awake, is your creation, and what you’ve made is good.  I don’t always thank you for the rough days and the hard times in my life, even though I should”.  Even on those ‘jury duty’ days, we need to be in connection to God.  On those days especially!

O Lord, when I am tempted to just get on with the busyness of the day, slow me down and center me in prayer.  On those stormy days, help me to remember to bow to you and to worship in the splendor of your holiness.  And at the end of each day, whether good or bad, always draw me back to you, offering you my thanksgiving and praise.  May it be so each day.  Amen.


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Community, Personal

Reading: Romans 15: 4-13

Community and personal connection to God flow through this section of Romans 15.  Paul reminds us that the coming of Jesus that we await is also the one spoken of by the prophets of old.  The Root of Jesse will save the world from its sins.  He is the one who offers endurance and encouragement and a spirit of unity among all believers.  Through this unity we glorify God.  There is a deep sense that unity pleases God.  Paul goes on to quote several Old Testament passages that include the Gentiles in God’s family, again seeking to build unity amongst all believers.

The vision that God sent Jesus for all people is a great one to lift up during Advent and particularly around Christmas.  As we draw nearer to the day, it is upon each of us to invite all to the celebration.  Paul clearly spells out that Christ came for all people.  Thus is a message we all need to share.  It is an open invitation that we need to proclaim.  May we fling wide the doors of our churches to welcome all into the gift of Jesus Christ!

We invite to allow others to begin to know and develop what we have – a personal relationship with Jesus.  It is this personal connection that underlies and undergirds our overall sense of Christian community.  The joy and hope and love and peace that we celebrate in Christmas is the same joy and hope and love and peace that we live with all year long because we know Jesus as Lord of our life.  While we are called to share this with others and to invite them to the birthday celebration, this season is also a time when we ourselves again invite Jesus into our hearts.  We prepare our hearts to once again welcome the Christ child.  It is a deeply personal time of connecting to Jesus Christ.  May our own hearts be filled with the gift of Jesus Christ as we fling open the doors of our hearts to welcome in the joy and hope and love and peace of our Savior.