pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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A Wonderful Day

Reading: Revelation 21:10, 21:22-22:5

Verse 26: “On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there”.

Today’s passage comes at the end of the Bible. The world that we see outside our windows and will step into just outside our doors today will not exist any longer. Our passage opens today with John seeing the Holy City coming down. It is a city of light and love. There is no temple – God and the Lamb are the temple. There is no sun or moon – God is the light and Jesus is the lamp. Only the children of God will inhabit the city and “on no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there”. All whose names are in the “Lamb’s book of life” will come and go freely. The river of life will feed the tree of life. It will bring healing to the nations – there will “no longer be any curse” – no pain, no tears, no grief… God and Jesus will reign forever. It will be a wonderful day.

Yet today, in the world just outside our window, just beyond our door, there is brokenness and evil and despair and division. This vision of heaven in Revelation is a someday vision. We live in this earthly reality. Our task as followers of Christ is to work to bring vision and reality closer together today and each day. We are to seek to build the kingdom here on earth. This heavenly vision draws us and helps us to focus on the task at hand. Our primary focus is how we live our day to day lives, striving to bring healing and hope and love and light to the world we inhabit. In building the kingdom here on earth we seek to end division and to break down barriers that separate us from one another. When we live together, celebrating our differences, not in spite of them, then the peace and love of God and Jesus will reign. If we can live and love and bring hope and light into the world each day, then each day will be a wonderful day. May it be so for me and for you.

Prayer: Bringer of light and love, of hope and peace, use me as an instrument of yours today. Help me to walk side by side with all of my brothers and sisters in the world today. Enable me to break down all that separates in order to build up your kingdom here on earth. Guide me, O Lord. Amen.

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Cry Out

Reading: Psalm 130: 1-4

Verse One: “Out of the depths I cry out to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice”.

The psalmist writes of something familiar to us. At places in life we find ourselves in the depths of despair. Life wrings us out and we feel no other choice but to cry out to God. Yes, at times we arrive there quickly and unexpectedly. But more often than not, we cry out only after a time of trying to cope or solve or dealing with it on our own. We cry out only when we have done all we can do and see no other option. I think sometimes we find ourselves in the depths because we did not cry out on the downhill. We waited until we were at the bottom.

This is odd because we trust that God hears us when we cry out. We do trust that God is attentive to the needs of His children. And when we have cried out we have experienced God’s presence, guidance, peace, comfort, … So we cry out with some history that allows or helps us to have confidence in God’s response. Yet often we wait.

The psalmist shifts gears a bit in verse three. To us, it is also a recognition that we are all sinners saved by grace. To the psalmist though, they would have understood a connection between illness or suffering or trial to sin in their life. Sin brings with it punishment. The system of sacrifice that made atonement for sin was the mechanism to receive forgiveness. It cleared the record with God.

When we read these verses with our New Testament eyes, we think of Jesus our Lord, the one who died to pay the price of our sins. In our understanding, our sins are wiped away as soon as we confess and repent. At our best, we too know that without the forgiveness that comes through the blood of Jesus that we could not stand before God either. Verse four closes with “therefore you are feared”. In translation, some meaning is lost. The fear that the psalmist speaks of is not a fear of snakes or a fear of the dark. This fear is a healthy respect, a holy reverence for God. It is the reminder or acknowledgement that God is God.

As we journey through today, may we be quick to cry out to God, coming to the Lord before the depths entangle us. May we seek God’s presence and know His great love that makes us pure and holy in His sight.


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Ever Present

Reading: Isaiah 40: 1-8

Verse Eight: “The grass withers and the flowers fail, but the word of our God stands forever”.

The people Israel strayed from God and His ways, wandering off into idol worship and other sins.  The Babylonians invaded, destroyed the temple, and carried off the best and brightest people into exile.  It was a time of despair; a feeling of abandonment was prevalent.  At times we too stray away from God and find ourselves in sin, lost in the wilderness.  At other times, forces outside of ourselves seem to rise up and life crumbles around us.  In both cases, we feel alone and in a place of despair.  We too know what it can feel like to be out in the wilderness of life.

But because God is faithful, the time in the wilderness does not last forever.  Although it is sometimes necessary, God does not abandon us and leave us in the wilderness forever.  Because of His love and mercy, God seeks us out and calls us back.  Our passage today speaks of this: “Comfort, O comfort my people”.  God is saying that it is okay, that He is right there.  The prophet Isaiah goes on to remind them that a time is coming when a voice will call out in the desert and the paths will be made straight and level for the Lord.  The “glory of the Lord will be revealed”.  There is promise and hope even in our times in the wilderness.  Our God is faithful and true.

The voice of God encourages Isaiah to cry out on behalf of the people.  The Lord always wants to hear from His children.  Our passage goes on to remind us that the glory of man is like the grass of the fields or like the flowers – it flourishes or blooms today but then is gone.  It withers and fails.  But just as there is a temporal nature to our successes, so too is there a temporary nature to our failures.  Through the highs and the lows, God remains our loving and faithful God.  Isaiah reminds us of this, writing, “the word of our God stands forever”.  His words are love, hope, mercy, grace, forgiveness, peace, joy.

If we find ourselves in the wilderness today, may we cling to God’s words of hope, love, promise.  If we find ourselves in a good place today, may we rejoice in God’s words of mercy, peace, grace, forgiveness, and love.  God is our all in all.  He is our ever present help in the trial and our constant light in the joy.  Thanks be to God.


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Oh What Love

Readings: Psalm 31: 14-15, Psalm 118:1, Isaiah 50:7, and Philippians 2:9

Today we celebrate both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday.  With palms we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  It is an event filled with joy yet tinged with sadness as well.  This happy parade marks the beginning of Holy Week.  The events of this week will contain a good deal of despair but in the end hope is triumphant.  The passion of Jesus for humanity reveals the depth of His love for us.

Today’s Psalm readings remind us of the truth and steadfastness of God.  In Psalm 31 we are reminded to trust God because He WILL deliver us.  Yes, there will be trials, but He will see us through them.  Psalm 118 reminds us of the why: because God is good and because His love endures forever.  When we choose to fully trust our lives to God, we discover that He will deliver us each and every time because of the depth of His love for us.

That depth of love allowed His own Son to be tried, tortured, and crucified because God knew that death would not have the last word.  God knew that the grave could not contain His Son.  God knew that love is stronger than death.  So sin was  heaped upon Jesus on that cross.  He bore them all as the perfect sacrifice.  Oh what depth of love the Father has for you and me!  Oh what love.


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Salvation

Reading: Psalm 118: 14

Salvation, as it was often used in the Old Testament, has a slightly different connotation than how it is primarily used in the New Testament.  Whereas in general Christians see salvation as a personal and eternal matter, to the average Jew of the time salvation was more communal and concerned life in the present time and place.

In the Psalm there is a sense of tragedy and despair that God has rescued them from.  During this time the psalmist felt trapped, limited.  It was as if the world has closed in tight and it was hard to breathe.  It is a feeling we all can surely relate to.  For the psalmist, God’s act of salvation rescued them from despair and restored their hope in this life.  Part of this rescue is the liberation from that which constricted or oppressed them so that they can again have the abundant life that God intends for us all to live.  For the Hebrew community, salvation was something that could happen over and over and over again.

As Christians, we also see God’s presence and interaction with us as a regular, daily event.  We also view God as active and engaged in our daily lives.  We see God as present with us as individuals as well as with our faith communities and world.  God listens to our praise, our cries, our thanksgivings, and our pleas.  He responds to our needs and rescues us from trials so that we can live a life that is abundant and joyful, filled with His many blessings.

In both the Old Testament and in the New Testament, salvation has a saving character to it.  In the Old Testament it mostly had to do with God’s hand at work in their world, saving people from their struggles.  For us as New Testament people, we still see God at work doing this, but we also see salvation as the work that saves us from sin, death, and their consequences.  For both of these aspects of God’s salvation, I am thankful.  Praise be to God!


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Our God is Supreme

Reading: Psalm 31: 9-16

There are days and maybe even seasons when we feel like the psalmist – in distress, weak with sorrow, strength failing.  When we are in this place, sometimes people avoid us too.  After a quick ‘hello’ they find someplace else to be.  We must admit that at times we too have at least had this thought concerning others.  It is uncomfortable and awkward and hard to be around someone when they are struggling with life.  For most family and good friends, we will enter into this space when we need to do so.  Yet even sometimes with those close to us, this is a hard step to take, a hard place to be.

It is a step God always takes.  In fact, God usually runs.  He does not hesitate to enter into our hurt and our mess.  God loves to be our rescuer, our comfort, our fortress, our guide, our redeemer.  The psalmist recalls times when God was all of these things.  We too can recall when God was there for us as well.  By recalling these times, we can begin to again find that light in our darkness and we can build up our trust in God as one who is faithful and as one who will not abandon us in our times of need.

The psalmist concludes this section by declaring, “You are my God” and placing full trust in God alone.  The psalmist gives his or her life over into God’s hands.  Like the psalmist, we too can call on God and trust our life into His hands.

We know that hard times and trials will come our way in this life.  We also know that God is always present and that He will remain steadfast.  He will never run away and He will never fail us.  We too may trust in Him fully.  No matter what we face and no matter what the outcome, we know that through Jesus sin and death have been defeated.  He has defeated the enemy and has provided the way to eternal glory.  This life and all of its trials will not have the final word.  In all things, our God is supreme.


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Trust and See

A bloom appears in the desert.  Hope rises up our of the midst of despair.  New life stirs as the dust of a tragedy settles.  In all things God works for the good of those who love Him.

God never promised us that life would always be happy and easy.  He did promise us that life would be blessed.  He promised us that His mercies and grace would be new every morning.  He promised that His love would endure.  It is with these promises that we can walk through our times of despair, trial, and tragedy.

As we grow in our faith, God builds us up to be able to go through bad things and to still stay connected to Him.  Jesus is for us that living water that keeps us connected to God.  In our passage for today, Paul speaks of commending themselves in every way – even in the trials, beatings, imprisonments, and hunger.  In these types of things our faith will allow us to rely on God’s grace as well.  Paul ends this section of scripture with these words: “having nothing, yet possessing everything”.  At times we feel totally lost, yet still have our faith and that is everything.

In the good and bad times we rely on God.  He alone has the love, strength, and grace to see us through. These qualities of God are always present but we most need them in times of trial.  Trust in Him and cling to faith – there we will see that God is good.  He is good because His steadfast love endures forever!

Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 5:20 to 6:10