pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Steps

Reading: Psalm 23: 1-2

Verse 2: He makes me like down in green pastures… He restores my soul.

David opens the Psalm by declaring God to be his shepherd.  Because of this, David knows he shall not be in want.  Above all else, he has learned that God provides for him.  Whether dealing with a bear while tending sheep or facing a giant on the battle field or avoiding the insane king, God has provided for way more than David’s basic needs.  But God has provided for them as well, so David has a deep and abiding trust in God.  It is a trust that had grown with experience and practice.  It is one we can enjoy too if we are willing to “let go and let God”.  But it is sort of a two-edged sword you see.  If we never trust God enough to face our giants, then we never truly understand just how great our God can be.  Deep and abiding trust requires us to take another step.

David goes on in verse two to another way that God cares for him and us: rest.  God knew since the beginning how important it was for us to rest.  God himself rested on the seventh day and made Sabbath rest one of the ten commandments.  It is a practice that is deeply ingrained in the lives of Orthodox Jews to this day.  David writes, “He makes me like down in green pastures… He restores my soul”.  David is so in tune with God that he feels God leads him to a place of rest.  David’s place is out in nature, the place of his youth.  The green pastures and quiet waters are calling and David finds restoration for his soul in this place.  It is a place that God invites us to as well.  It is a space that requires deep and abiding trust as well.  It requires that we trust God enough to rest.  This means that we trust God can and will take care of tomorrow – with all of it’s requisite work and worries.  This is also a “let go and let God” practice.  It is also a means of trusting all that we have and all that we are into God’s hands.  To trust in this way also requires another step – another step towards God and away from the world.

This day may we step a little further in our trust in God, entering deeper into His love.


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Beneath the Surface

Reading: 1 Samuel 16: 6-7

Verse 7: Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

Today’s passage fits our world to a tee.  Modern society gloms onto trends and rising numbers and shiny images like never before.  Relationships across real life and social media platforms are a hundred thousand friends wide and as shallow as the teardrop that never falls.  As a whole, we prefer to stay up on the surface level because it is less commitment and there is less risk of being hurt or having to get involved.

Samuel illustrates this today.  He sees the oldest son, Eliab, and is impressed.  Must have been tall and handsome and well-built.  Must have looked pretty kingly.  Samuel thinks Eliab is the one.  But then God delivers the famous line: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”.  Son after son passed by.  There is the definite implication made that we too should look past appearances, past the surface level, and get down into what really is important, to the core of the person: to their heart.

Of course, this is difficult.  I think this is so because it costs us our most precious commodity: time.  It is so much easier to just take a glance, to make a quick judgment or decision, and to move on to the next choice, the next option, the next person, the next sound bite.

But if we look at our story today and if we look at all of Jesus’ interactions in the Gospels, nothing is quick and easy. God did not settle for Eliab or even any of the other six sons who were present.  Jesus did not settle for a quick yes or no answer so that He could move on to the next need or so that He could give the next parable.  God invested time and waited for David to arrive – the one who had a heart for God.  Jesus took the time to see each person for who they were, to really understand the need they brought, and to patiently offer them all that He could offer.

In our busy lives it is a challenge to slow down, to look beneath the surface, to invest in each other.  In our faith, we are called to live in community, to love one another deeply (warts and all), and to walk alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ through the good and the bad. To do so, we must live beneath the surface.  May we delve deep this day.


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Relationship

Reading: Psalm 139: 1-6

The Psalm opens with a wonderful truth: “O Lord, you have searched me and know me”.  The God who wove us together in the womb continues to know us inside and out.  There is nothing we can hide from God although we often act as if we can.  Like a trusted friend, the psalmist recognizes that God knows our next words even before they are formed on our tongues.  It is an intimate and deep knowledge of each of us that God possesses.

There can be such comfort and ease in this type of relationship.  As the depth of knowledge between two people grows, the level of trust and confidence rises to new heights.  Think of that best friend that you can tell anything to without fear of judgment or embarrassment or condemnation.  This is the type of relationship that God desires to have with us.

While God may know us inside out, our knowledge of God is often limited.  We often feel there are things and words we cannot bring to God.  We do not treat God like a best friend.  This is mainly due to a shortage of time with God.  Although God is always present, if we do not engage God, then God is like a wallflower, silent in the corner.

To develop and to continue a deep personal relationship with God requires us to get to know God well.  We do so in worship, in prayer, in reading and meditating on God’s Word.  We do so by being open and taking everything to God.  The more we put into our relationship with God, the deeper it becomes.  The deeper our relationship with God becomes, the more we learn about ourselves as well.  God teaches us as we grow and this process reveals and shapes us.  It is a wonderful process.  May we seek to always grow in our relationship with God, being ever blessed.


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His Great Love

God desires our openness and willingness of heart so that the Holy Spirit may dwell within each of us.  When we welcome in the Holy Spirit, we welcome in Christ.  When we are willing to live with Jesus Christ in our hearts, we begin to understand just how wide, long, deep, and high God’s love is for each of us.  With the understanding we begin to be rooted in that love; it becomes the core of who we are.

As communities of faith or congregations, this deep abiding love is what unites us.  The love of God draws us to one another in loving, caring relationships.  This love and sense of Christ dwelling in and among us begins to drive what we do as a people of faith.  This vast love of God takes the lead on how we love one another and how we love our neighbors.

God by nature and Jesus in example were all about being full of love.  When our cup is full of this love we are best able to extend and share His love with those in need of that love.  As our cup is filled by God, we begin to experience a life lived in His presence.

This love leads us to serve others, to care for others, and to minister to others.  We no longer seek to be in control or to hold onto power.  Instead we seek to empower others to live lives of faith and to claim this wide, long, deep, high love that God offers for themselves.  This love becomes contagious.  May we be contagious today.

Scripture reference: Ephesians 3: 14-19