pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Provider and Defender

Reading: Psalm 81: 15-16

Verse 16: “You would be fed with the finest wheat; with honey from the rock”.

Most of Psalm 81 laments Israel’s most recent choice to worship idols instead of the God who did so much for them. In today’s passage, the last two verses of the Psalm, we hear the “if only” of the writing. The enemies of Israel would cringe and receive punishment and the Israelites “would be fed with the finest wheat; with honey from the rock” if only the people would turn again to the Lord their God.

The Promised Land has always been that special place set aside for God’s people. Ever since Abraham received the promise, it has been seen as the “land flowing with milk and honey”. As the Israelites finally entered it at the end of the exodus, there was an abundance of crops and resources that simply became theirs to reap and harvest. The land could not have been any better for a people who had been roaming the desert for forty years.

The bounty of the land is just one symbolic way that shows God’s love for the Israelites. God’s offer to protect them from their enemies is one more example of God’s love and care. Many years later, when Jesus taught the disciples to pray, these two ideas were included. Jesus taught to ask God to “give us this day our daily bread”. This reminds us that God is our provider. Later on in the prayer we pray, “and keep us from temptation”. Keep Satan, our biggest enemy, from us, O God. This reminds us that God is our defender.

We, like the Israelites, have our times when we wander off from God. Although it could be for forty years, let’s hope not. No matter how long it is or how quickly we seek to return to God, God is always there, always quick to grant mercy and to extend forgiveness. Some things never change – God still desires a personal relationship with each of us. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord God, for being my provider and my defender. In all that life and the evil one brings, you are my only hope. Thank you for walking every day with me. You’re an awesome God! Amen.


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Do Not Be Afraid

Reading: Genesis 15: 1-12 & 17-18

Verse 12: “Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him”.

Abram has just gotten back from rescuing Lot. The Lord appears to him and says, “Do not be afraid”. God tells Abram that He is Abram’s shield and his reward. Abram’s mind immediately goes to children. Children, often many children, were the sign of being blessed by God. If a couple did not have children, then they had displeased God or had sinned against God. Abram and Sarai were older and without children. What reward could possibly come for Abram? He was already resigned to giving his inheritance to a relative. Abram pointedly asks God, “What can you do for me since I am childless”? This is both a very honest and a practical question. It is also a question of faith.

In response God gives clarity to the promise He made in Genesis 12:2 to make Abram the father of many nations. God tells Abram, “a son coming from your own body will be your heir”. God then shows him the stars in the heavens and tells Abram that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars. Abram believes God and he is called “righteous”. God then goes on to promise Abram the land that he is now living in as a foreigner. One day all this land will belong to his descendants. Because God is God, one day all this will come to fruition. But in the moment, Abram still questions. He says to God, “How can I know…”? The emphasis is on “know”. I am old and tired and weary and living in a foreign land. How can I know that all of this will come true? Here is where it becomes a question of faith.

We find ourselves at this point too. We come to places or times in life when we feel tired and weary, maybe old too. We’ve heard and often have experienced the promises and presence of God in the trials and sufferings. As we enter that place or time again our mind asks Abram’s question: how can I know that you, God, will be with me and will get me through this?

God instructs Abram to prepare a sacrifice. He does so and then a strange thing happens. We read, “Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him”. God removes all distractions, even light, and focuses Abram in on God alone. In the intervening verses that we did not read, God foretells the time in slavery in Egypt and the return to the land. Then the sacrifice is burned and God makes a covenant with Abram, giving his descendants this land that will become the Promised Land.

As our passage opened God began with these words: “Do not be afraid”. God speaks these words to us today. The promises that follow are also ours: God is our shield and our reward. In moments and in times of weariness and doubt, when our minds question, may our hearts turn to God. Through faith may we, like Abram, turn to God and call upon God to be our shield and defender, our reward and redeemer. God is faithful. May we trust in Him alone.

Prayer: Lord, in my moments of fear and doubt and questioning, may I turn to you alone. Remind me of the time after time after time when you have kept your promises so that I may trust in you once more. Amen.


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Strong in the Lord

Reading: Ephesians 6: 10-20

Verse 12: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood… but against the powers of this dark world”.

In our passage, Paul is clearly stating that we are in a battle. As Christians, we must be aware of this. We do have hope and we can stand against the enemy because we do not fight alone. We begin the battle with verse ten: “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power”. God is on our side. Next, Paul encourages us to “put on the full armor of God”. Paul is using militaristic terms to reinforce the fact that we are in a battle for our souls.

Verse twelve indentifies the enemy. Paul writes, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood… but against the powers of this dark world”. We do not fight for our souls against earthly enemies but against Satan and his spiritual forces. Satan’s ways are clever and his attacks come from many angles, so the full armor protects us so that we can “stand our ground” and so that we can “stand firm”. Standing our ground and standing firm entails holding onto our beliefs and faith in God – standing solidly on our firm foundation.

The armor Paul lists is both offensive and defensive. He calls for us to use truth and righteousness and faith and salvation and the Spirit and the gospel to defend ourselves and to remind us of the power we do have when we are strong in the Lord. He encourages us to be offensive at times, taking the gospel to others and to use the Word of God as a sword, defeating the enemy’s attacks just as Jesus did when tempted by Satan in the wilderness.

Paul closes with perhaps our greatest weapon: prayer. He reminds us to connect to God “on all occasions” and by using “all kinds of prayers”. When we are connected to God, Satan flees. When we are connected to God then we are strong in the Lord. May we be strong today, praying always to stand against the powers of evil, rejoicing in our strong defender and our eternal hope, Jesus Christ.


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Seek the Lord

Reading: Psalm 9: 9-20

Verse Ten: “Those who know your name will trust in you; for you, Lord, have never foresaken those who seek you”.

Today’s section from Psalm 9 begins by reminding us of God’s love and care for us. David begins by reminding us that God is a “refuge for the oppressed” and is a “stronghold in times of trouble”. At times in our lives, God has certainly been these things for us. We can each recall times when God walked through the valley with us or when God brought relief to our trials or persecutions. God has been our protector and our defender at times.

David goes on to write, “Those who know your name will trust in you; for you, Lord, have never foresaken those who seek you”. This is almost an if-then statement. Those who know God will trust in God. Those who seek God will find that God is right there. The first verse, verse nine, helps us to these if-then statements. When we recall experiences where God was our refuge or when God was our stronghold, then we are more likely to trust and to seek God in our times of trial and suffering. While no one desires or tries to find testing or hardship, they are part of life. It is in these valleys and dark times that our faith resolve grows and our walk with God gains strength.

In our Psalm we also see David’s response to these moments when God has been there for him. He sings praises to God and proclaims to the nations what God has done. Thanksgiving recognizes that it was God who brought us through and proclamation allows or helps others to know about this great God. Thanksgiving keeps us humble and proclamation models God’s love for others.

Psalm 9 ends with a reality check of sorts. “Arise, O Lord, let not man triumph”. David knows our tendency towards being independent and self-sufficient. He closes with, “let the nations know that they are but men”. We are only human and God is God. It is a good reminder. This day may we who are powerless and weak turn quickly to our God who can do all things and whose strength is beyond measure. May we seek the Lord our God today and may we share the good news with all we meet!


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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