pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Our God Remains

Reading: Psalm 23: 1-4

Verse 4: “I will fear no evil, for you are with me”.

Today’s passage is one of three this week that draw upon the image of shepherd and sheep. This is a common illustration in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. In today’s passage, God is the shepherd and we are the sheep. The opening three verses detail the care that the shepherd provides. “I shall not be in want” – God will provide for our basic needs. “He makes me lie down” – God gives us periods of rest. “He restores my soul” – God brings us back into right relationship with Himself and with others in our lives. “He guides me” to learn more and more about God. God, our shepherd, offers good, loving care to each of us, the sheep of His fold.

Because of this daily and constant care, we come to trust in our God. Over and over and over our God has been present. This develops a deep sense of trust and reliance. Because of the trust, we will go where we would not. Because of the reliance, we turn quickly to God when we feel uncomfortable or are in unpleasant situations. Verse four reminds us of this. At times we walk in the “darkest valleys”. The loss of a loved one, a move to a new community, the ending of a relationship or employment, depression, anxiety, addiction – they all can feel like the darkest of valleys. These are not places we choose to go. But God chooses to go with us. In those dark valleys, God remains steadfast and true. Even there our God cares for, provides for, gives us peace and rest, even restores us. Because God remains with us always, we can always say, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me”. From our past experiences with our God, we can trust in Him.

Yesterday in church we sang a song called “You Never Let Go”. The pre-chorus contains these very words: “I will fear no evil, for my God is with me. And if my God is with me, whom then shall I fear”? Like Psalm 23, this song’s source, it is a great reminder that God remains present. The chorus goes on to remind us that “in every high and in every low” God never lets go of us. Whether today, tomorrow, or sometime down the road, when we find ourselves in the valley, may we always draw upon both the promises of God that we find in Psalm 23 and upon our own experiences of God’s steadfast presence, rejoicing in God’s love and care for us. You are our God. We will fear no evil. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: God, over and over you remain present. In the valleys you are there. When I stumble and sin, you remain present, calling me back into your presence. Even in the best of days, it is your hand that guides. Thank you, God. Remain ever present to me, each and every day. Thank you, God. Amen.


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You Will Be Blessed

Reading: John 13: 2-7 and 31-35

Verse 5: “He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him”.

The alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, the Lord and Savior of the world gets up from the table and takes off His outer clothing. The Messiah, the King of Kings, the One who is to come wraps a towel around His waist. “He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him”. God’s only Son, the risen and eternal one, the Good Shepherd, our Redeemer humbles Himself and becomes the lowest of all. Jesus tells the disciples that they do not yet understand what He is doing, but that they will understand later.

Jesus goes on to explain that, yes, they rightly call Him ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’. Jesus is both of these things but so much more. In verse 15 He says, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you”. Jesus willingly set aside these titles, all I listed above, and more. He humbled Himself once more, laying aside all status, all selfishness, all pride, to kneel and wash some feet. Jesus models what He expects His disciples and followers to do. In verse 17 Jesus states, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them”. The washing of feet is no longer culturally a symbol of humble servanthood. But there are still many ways that we can be a humble servant to others. There are many tasks that we can willingly take on that demonstrate the love of Christ to others. Jesus names many: clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the lonely and imprisoned, care for the sick, give to those in need, befriend the outcast and marginalized, be present to those walking in the valley of grief, loss, depression, or addiction. We too are called to lay aside our titles, our status, our importance, our stereotypes, our stigmas,… to be in ministry to each other and to the world.

Our passage today concludes with a new command. Jesus commands the disciples and us: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another”. To love as Jesus loved is a pretty extraordinary command. His love was unlimited and unconditional. It was a love that knew no bounds. He concludes today’s passage by giving the impact of loving this way: “by this all will know that you are my disciples”. May we be well known.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, use me today as you will. Give me eyes to see the opportunities and a heart to love into them. May it be so. Amen.


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His Love and Care

Reading: Isaiah 40: 3-11

Verse Three: “Make straight in the wilderness a highway for the Lord”.

Have you ever been lost, either physically or spiritually?  Have you ever lost your way because of a storm?  Maybe it was an actual storm – a good blizzard perhaps – that you can remember being lost in.  Before long you lose your sense of direction and the safest thing to do is to hunker down and wait it out.  At some point the snow and wind subside and, more often than not, the white-covered world that is revealed is beautiful to behold.

Sometimes our storm is not a physical one, but what we feel is very similar.  The storm could be the loss of a loved one or of a job; it could be the loss of a special relationship or the loss of a home.  It can be depression or anxiety or stress that rises up to an all-new level.  Many things can rise up and swirl around us to the point of feeling lost and not able to see where to go or how to proceed forward.  Often we want to hunker down at these times as well.

In these stormy times in our lives, Isaiah calls out to us as well: “In the desert, prepare the way for the Lord”.  He invites us to open our hearts and minds for God’s presence and activity in our lives.  In the midst of the storm, Isaiah encourages us to “Make straight in the wilderness a highway for the Lord”.  He is encouraging us to allow what God desires to do: to lead us out of whatever we are in, out of our proverbial wilderness.

Our passage closes with these words: “He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart”.  It is both a beautiful image and a promise from God.  God loves us dearly and so desires to let us know and feel that love.  This day may we open ourselves up to His love and care, resting in our good shepherd, trusting Him to guide us through all that life brings our way this day and every day.


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Shine

Reading: Psalm 80: 4-7 & 17-19

It is dark outside.  The street lights and Christmas lights shine brightly in the cool, crisp air.  In dark places, even one small light can seem so bright.

The psalmist also writes of darkness, although it is a different kind of darkness.  Our Psalm today speaks of “eating the bread of tears” and drinking tears “by the bowlful”.  At times this is the darkness we experience.  Life has become difficult and we feel like we are alone in the dark.  If not us right now, it is true for someone we know.  This time of year can be particularly hard for folks.  For all those who are in pain and feel like they are in darkness or in a dark place, one small light can seem so bright.  God’s love is that light.

Light shines into darkness, casting the dark away.  There can be no darkness in the presence of light.  Whether it is depression or loss or loneliness, darkness can settle in like an unbearable weight.  Often with the darkness comes a loss of hope.  A kind word, a simple gesture, a warm invitation, a gentle hug, a short prayer offered, just our presence – all bring light into darkness.  All bring God’s love to bear.  None of these human efforts, by themselves, cures depression or loss or loneliness, but they bring in God’s love, they begin a step in the right direction.

The psalmist writes, “Restore us, O Lord God Almighty, make your face shine upon us”.  When we reach out, when we pray, when we offer our presence, then we are helping God’s light to shine in dark places.  God’s love can restore anyone and can heal any brokenness.  May we be willing bearers of the light and love this day.  May our lives help God’s light shine into the dark places of light.  In dark places, one light can seem so bright.


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Turn to Him

Psalm 130 has a somber tone to it.  It is one of the Penitential psalms.  Many if us can relate to this psalm type because we have all had times of sadness or depression.  These psalms resonate with us.  Sometimes we question God or our faith in these seasons.  In these times it is important to remember that God is always fully present with us, no matter our state of mind or heart.

God knows what it is like to wrestle with these feelings of sadness, emotional emptiness, and anguish.  In he form of Jesus, God experienced these emotions.  Jesus wept tears for Lazarus.  He sought solitude at times when the feelings of being completely drained rested heavy upon Him.  He cried blood tears of anguish in the garden.  Jesus has been there too so He intercedes for us and He reaches out a hand towards us.

The psalmist reminds us of God’s role too: “with the Lord is steadfast love and with Him is great power to redeem.”  It is a love that comes to us out of Jesus’ experiences.  It is a love that wants the best for us all of the time.  It is a love that brings healing and wholeness.  It is a love to which we are always called and invited into.

In the midst of the hard day, in the middle of the struggle, we must turn to Him.  Spend time in the Word, time in prayer, and time with Jesus.

Scripture reference: Psalm 130