pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty 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


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Called to…?

In today’s section of Jeremiah, God is promising the Israelites a return to normal.  It has been so long that captivity and exile have become almost normal for them.  But their faith in God has kept them connected to and in touch with what is their normal homeland.  Thus they long to return and to once again live in safety under God’s protection.  It is a great place to live.

For most of us, this is were we exist.  We live a relatively comfortable and secure life.  There is food in the fridge and gas in the car.  The house is warm and is secure.  Employment will be at the same place tomorrow and my family will be around me in the evening.  This indeed is wonderful ‘normal’ and a great place to live.

But for some this is not the case.  In our call to care for the poor and needy, this situation disturbs my peace.  Even though it got down to the low single digits last night, some people slept outside.  Many of the people without the basics we take for granted will abuse drugs and/or alcohol as a means to cope with the despair, hopelessness, and other feelings generated by their situations.  The substance abuse often leads to an increase in the acts of violence on the streets and to the higher levels of fear that permeate the homeless community.  I do not think I would last long in this world, but it is ‘normal’ for far too many people.

So what is God calling me to do?  Is it to donate warm clothing to the local shelter?  Is it to volunteer time at the nearby day center?  Is it to teach a class that empowers one who is struggling to make positive changes in their life?  It may be one or more of these or something entirely different.  Lord, help me to discern where and how You are sending me to be in ministry to those in need.

Scripture reference: Jeremiah 31: 10-14