pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Best of All…

Reading: Jeremiah 31: 11-14

Verse 13: “I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow”.

Verse eleven opens with God’s promise to ransom and redeem his children from “the hand of those stronger than they”. These words remind me of our daily battle with evil and the other lures of the world. Although God is way stronger, in our human weakness sometimes it feels like we are weaker. Paul wrote of this in Romans 7. We too do what we do not want to do and we fail to do what we want to do. We are ever wrestling with sin. The good news for us is that hundreds of years after Jeremiah gave this promise, God did ransom us with Jesus’ life.

Verse twelve turns to the peoples’ response. With shouts of joy the people celebrated the Lord’s bounty. They felt like a “well-watered garden” and they enjoyed the provision of God. Each of us is also blessed. There are so many things that I can count as blessings, but none more important than my relationship with Jesus Christ. As modern day Christians, we are so blessed. We too can join the Israelites in joyfully thanking God for the bounty we receive. In verse thirteen’s opening line dancing follows joy. Go ahead and dance if so inclined!

In the second half of verse thirteen we read, “I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow”. This continues to be God’s promise. In this life we will have our times or even seasons of mourning. God’s promise still remains – to give us comfort and joy. God’s love never fails. It continues to wash over us, even in times of sorrow, when we are willing to receive his love.

As we enter 2020 today, these words of the prophet Jeremiah are great reminders. The general tone reminds me of John Wesley’s dying words: “Best of all, God is with us”. Yes, God is. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Lord God, as I begin 2020, I rejoice that I am yours and that you are mine. In the coming year, use me as you will. Lead and guide me, strengthen and encourage me. Walk with me into a world in need. Amen.


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Love the Word

Reading: Psalm 118: 97-104

Verse 103: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth”!

Today we join the psalmist for “Mem”, the thirteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the successive eight verses in this Psalm accompany the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet, going from alpha to omega, A-Z. Mem stands for “mayim” in Hebrew, which means “water”. To the Israelites, water was vital both to life and to their faith. The rabbinic statement “There is no water but Torah” speaks to the great value the Jewish people place on the laws of God. This idea of essential water is what Isaiah refers to in 55:1, where he writes, “Come, all who are thirsty, come to the waters”. He is inviting them to drink from the scriptures, the word of God that brings life. Turning to the New Testament, Jesus also references himself as “living water”, as the water needed for life. In John 37:7 he says, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink”.

As we read this thirteenth section of Psalm 119, let us do so from all of these perspectives. Read it like living water, like that which is essential to your life. Read it like you would die without it. Feel the passion for and love of God that the psalmist has for the word of God. The section opens with, “Oh, how I love your law”! The writer finds great value in meditating upon, in studying, in obeying the words of scripture. God’s word is what guides his path and keeps him from departing from God. I love verse 103, which reads “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth”! I wish this were always my attitude each and every time I read from the Bible. The love of scripture revealed in these verses is a great example for me to try and emulate.

Just as it was for the psalmist, the Bible remains alive and active. It functions like living water for the soul. Each day may we drink deeply, rejoicing in all that God does in and through the word.

Prayer: Holy God, thank you for the words of life that pour forth from scripture. Make me dance and sing with delight whenever I spend time with you in the holy scriptures. Thank you God. Amen.


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Undignified

Reading: 2 Samuel 6: 12b-19

Verse Fourteen: “David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might”.

Today’s passage gives us two sides of worship. On the one hand we see some rituals being practiced. On the other hand we see unabashed and heart-led worship. Both “styles” or forms still have a vital place in our worship of God.

David uses rituals to worship God in several ways. After six steps are taken, David stops the procession. The priests and Levites sit down the ark and a sacrifice is offered as a thanks to God. The calf and bull are a way of thanking God for blessing them with the ark and its return to Jerusalem. The procession also ends with the proper sacrifices. David’s choice of attire is also ritualistic. The linen ephod is a religious garment. David chose to take off his royal robes and to don a garment worn in service to the Lord. In this choice he is telling all that he too will serve and honor God. The ceremony ends with blessings. David blesses the people in God’s name and also blesses them with gifts of food. Although our rituals might be different, we too have our worship traditions and practices. Our sacraments, liturgies, creeds, and other traditions help us to worship God.

David and the people also spontaneously worship God from the heart. “David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might”. He worships with reckless abandon before God. He worships with all his might. In our churches we might clap during a praise song. We might raise our hands toward heaven. In some churches we still dance before the Lord. As David dances with all his might, the people celebrate and worship with shouts and trumpets and other forms of music. There is joy in their worship. We too use music in our worship and maybe even lift up an unscripted shout or “Amen” once in a while too.

This passage always reminds me of a song. It is called “Undignified” and the verse simply reads, “I will dance, I will sing, to be mad for my King. Nothing Lord is hindering this passion in my soul”. This song is a good reminder that we should not allow anything to inhibit our worship of God. The chorus shouts, “And I will become even more undignified than this. Some may say it’s foolishness, but I’ll become even more undignified than this. Lay my pride by my side, and I’ll become even more undignified than this”. Today, Lord, may we lay aside our pride and unashamedly live out our gospel faith, worshipping you fully in all we do and say today. Amen.


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Worship

Reading: Psalm 150

The Psalm calls upon us to “Praise the Lord” in many ways.  First, we are to praise Him with our voice – to shout or lift up our praises to God.  The psalmist also calls upon us to make music to God using all kinds of instruments: trumpets, lyres, harps, tambourines, flutes, strings, cymbals.  And lastly, the psalmist encourages us to dance before the Lord.  I have the feeling that if the Psalm were written today, the list of instruments would be much longer and the visual arts would also include painting, drawing, images, and so on.  In essence the psalmist is telling us to Praise God every way we can.

In our worship yesterday, many of these elements were present.  But I do not think God only desires or is impressed by how many instruments or presentations we offer.  One lone voice lifted to God can be as pleasing and worshipful to Him as a whole orchestra or huge choir or multi-instrument praise band.  In our worship, the “how” God desires is not how many but simply how.  “How did you worship me today?” is the question God asks.  Did we come before God yesterday with our whole beings, intent on nothing other than offering all we are and all we have to Him?

My off key, changing tempo song can be more pleasing to God than the most polished voice performing a perfect solo.  It is all about our heart.  When we praise our God, He wants our whole heart to be fully engaged.  This day may we find opportunity to praise our God with our whole being.


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Dancing with Might

David knew God needed to be at the heart of Israel’s worship so he gathered up 30,000 men and went to retrieve the ark of the covenant.  David brought the ark “home” to reside with the people and it brought great joy.  David’s heart was so moved that he danced with all his might before the Lord.   The song “Undignified” speaks of this – one lines days, “nothing Lord is hindering this passion in my soul.”

Of if I could just live my life that way!  To be passionately sold out for God and to joyously allow my love for Him to fill all I do… that would be life!  The song also says, “lay my pride by my side.”. This is where I get stuck.  I think others do too.  We let ourselves get in the way of truly worshiping and living for God.  All I need to do is lay my pride aside and allow God’s lead to be my guide.

I worry about the Michals in my life.  Michal is David’s wife and Saul’s daughter.  When she saw David dancing unrestrained before the ark, she despised him.  She was old-school, raised in religion, not in faith.  Her heart was hard towards this open, exuberant show of love for God.  She was dignified and proper.

The song begins, “I will dance, I will sing, to be mad for my King.”. The verse ends with, “and I’ll become even more undignified than this”.  May I be like David – willing to live and dance with all my might for the Lord of my life and the salvation of all mankind.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 6: 1-5 and 12b-19