pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Evildoers and the Poor

Reading: Psalm 14

Verse 6: “Evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge”.

The second half of Psalm 14 speaks of evildoers. These are the folks who will do anything to become more powerful or wealthier. In order for anyone to gain more power or wealth, someone has to have less. What was true in David’s time remains true today.

Verse four speaks of evildoers as people who “devour” God’s people as “men eat bread”. In this verb there is an implication of greed and gluttony. It brings to mind the memory of placing a pizza before a group of teenagers who had been eating backpacking food for a week. The pizza was gone in the blink of an eye and I could see the look of “more?” in their eyes. But the evildoers that David writes of are not seeing “real food” for the first time in a week. They are folks who will eat and eat and eat – not because they are hungry but because they can. The lust for power and money is never satisfied. Getting some just wets the appetite for getting more.

Verse six reads, “Evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge”. For those living in poverty, it is an enending battle to simply stay afloat, nevermind getting ahead. Decisions like buying gas to get to work or buying food for the kids competes with decisions to buy your medication or to pay the electric bill. It is a world of decisions foreign to most of us. These thoughts draw me back to a prayer walk we were on during a mission trip to Racine. A large pile of belongings was soaking up a heavy rain on the curbside. The pastor explained that someone else had been evicted. Among the belongings was a mattress – no box spring or rails or frame. The mattress was all this person could scrape and save for thus far. It was now ruined because they chose another necessity over rent. Yes, there are legitimate reasons to evict someone and, yes, poor decisions could have led to the eviction. The deeper issues that need to be addressed are why the person cannot earn a living wage or find affordable housing.

Where do we fit into this world of evildoers? As Christians, we are called to stand with and for the poor and marginalized. We are called to speak out against low wages and other practices that intentionally and unintentionally keep the poor poor. We are also called to help alleviate suffering wherever we find it by feeding, clothing, visiting, teaching, training… May we each discern both the changes that need to happen and the differences we can each make in our neighborhoods and communities today. May it be so. Amen.


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Lead

Reading: Exodus 17: 1-4

Verse Two: Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you put the Lord to the test?

At times it can be difficult to lead.  But we are all called to lead our lives as a witness to Jesus Christ and His love.  In this case we are following one leader as we seek to lead others to a relationship with Jesus or deeper in their present relationship with Him.  To lead as Christ led can require us to make difficult decisions and, at times, to take stands that may be unpopular.

God chose Moses to lead the people out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land.  This has been and will be a difficult task, but Moses remains steadfast to his call.  The people have grumbled and even fallen into sin.  God has used Moses over and over to lead the people to freedom and to provide for them.  They grumbled about food and God brought quail and manna, validating Moses’ leadership along the way.  Today, once again, the people grumble.  Instead of praying and seeking God, they complain.  There is also an element of testing God.  Moses says to the people, “Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you put the Lord to the test”?  True, the people are thirsty and they do need water.  But they are certainly testing both God and Moses’ patience.

At times we will be called upon to lead and the Word of God will give us clear and direct guidance on how to proceed.  It is easier to lead when there is an obvious path.  But occasionally we must turn to the Holy Spirit and we must listen very closely to discern the will of God that gives us direction.  In both cases, there may still be grumbling and complaining.  Sometimes this is easy to dismiss and sometimes it is hard to do so.  To be sure in our decisions and leadership, we must spend much time with God.  The larger the decision, the more time we should spend.  Our time spent with God in prayer, reading and meditating on scripture, and discerning His will brings us increased assurances that we are leading in a Godly direction.  Then if grumbling comes, we know that God had left our decision and that God will continue to guide us through.  In this way, we can trust into God.

Moses was a great leader because of his solid connection to God.  May we lead in the same way, deeply rooted in God, leading in a way that brings God all the glory and honor.


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Faithful Servant

Reading: Genesis 24: 34-38

Verse 37: My master made me swear an oath…

Abraham’s servant has been tasked with a very important job.  He is to go back to Abraham’s homeland to find a wife for Isaac.  Abraham and Sarah were well beyond child-bearing years when Isaac was born and Sarah has died.  The precious gift of a child must be cared for.  The line must extend beyond Isaac and no Canaanite woman will do.  The wife for Isaac must come from Abraham’s own clan.  This will become a common practice as Israel becomes more defined as God’s chosen people and God directs them not to intermarry with the peoples around them lest they be led astray.

The servant begins today’s passage by explaining why he is there.  In the previous verses the servant has met Rebekah and has discerned that God’s hand is at work in leading him to this very person and to this very house.  After a prayer of thanksgiving, the servant proceeded to Laban’s home.  But the task is not done.  It is not time to relax.  The faithful servant puts off food until he has spoken with Laban.  He is faithful to the task his master Abraham gave him.

At times we too have tasks to carry out that involve God’s larger plan or our commitment to follow Jesus as Master.  We feel as this servant felt – there is something God has placed on our hearts that must be accomplished.  We must talk to this person about such and such or maybe we feel led to volunteer for or take on something at church or in the community.  For some, maybe they are wrestling with a call to ministry or with a call to serve God in some way.  Taking that first step can be so hard.  Being willing to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and to go where it leads requires a deep and abiding trust in God.

When we sense God’s hand at work in our lives may we be like this faithful servant, trusting fully in God, stepping out boldly in faith to accomplish or respond to whatever God places on our heart today.


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God’s Way

Reading: Jeremiah 2: 4-13

As we go through life, sometimes our focus becomes trained on something other than God.  It can lead us down our own path and off of God’s path.  We lose our connection to God.  This misdirection can even seem to have good intentions and maybe we can even think that it is of God.  But when we cut through it all, we can look back and see we were following our own ways and plans.  God was left saying, “What about me”?

Sometimes we start a new outreach or worship experience or church plant this way.  The idea is 100% human and it seems like something that will bring God glory so we plunge forward.  We forget to pray and to discern God’s hand in it.  We are too focused with getting on with it.  When this is the case, soon enough the ‘project’ becomes our new idol, our new god.  Working 80 hours a week ‘for God’s is easy to rationalize.  But time wears on us and soon our project is not sustainable.  As we look back on the ashes, if we are lucky, we realize God was not really the architect of our grand plan.

The people of Jeremiah’s time are in the midst of a similar scenario.  They have gone their own way and have turned to false idols other gods.  They had enjoyed God’s blessings but now view the success as their own and have assumed control of the ship.  Jeremiah warns them that soon enough there will be ashes.  Soon enough the ship will run aground and their way ward course will be revealed.

Praise be that our God is a gracious and forgiving God.  Praise be that the Holy Spirit continually whispers and nudges and pulls at our hearts.  Praise be for Jesus, who will pick us up from the ashes, will clean us off, and will say “welcome home my child”.  May we be cognizant and sensitive to God’s plans in our lives.  May we respond faithfully to the guiding of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom we find in the Word of God.  May we be so in tune with God that we know God’s will for our lives and quickly sense any missteps that we take on our own.  May we pray often and regularly for the revelation of God’s will in our lived.


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God’s Call

Paul expresses the profound call that God has placed upon his life.  He knows and writes of the special and holy role that God has selected him to play – to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.  Paul knows what an honor it is to help include this group into the family of God and to reveal the mystery of faith found in Christ’s saving grace.

Perhaps you too have felt God’s call upon your life to be in ministry to a certain group of people.  Perhaps you are still discerning this call.  For all of us, God does have a call upon our lives.  It may not be as ‘big’ as Mother Teresa’s call to care for the dying of Calcutta, but it may be.  We cannot limit God because He is a limitless God.  There is nothing He cannot do.

We all share in one common call.  Jesus commissioned us all to go and make disciples of all nations.  These were His parting words.  This is the general call or role for all of us as Christians.  We are to be the lights and love of Christ to all we meet.  Through how we live our lives we are to model and share Christ.

God’s call upon us as individuals extends beyond this.  He has instilled in each of us unique gifts and passions to be used in building His kingdom here on earth.  Their own unique gifting and passions will lead some to work with those in need.  For some it will be to mentor single parents.  For some it will be to teach others budgeting skills.  For others it will be knitting hats and gloves and scarves.  What is it for you?  How has God built and equipped you?

If you are living out God’s call upon your life, may He continue to bless you in your service.  If you are still in the discernment process, may He open your eyes and heart and guide your feet on your path of service and mission.  Blessings on the journey!

Scripture reference: Ephesians 3: 1-12


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Obeying Truth

If I were king I would expect my word to be like law.  If I said it was to be so, then I would expect it to be just so.  I assume this is the line of thinking common to kings.

But in today’s story we find that King David’s order is not followed.  There is no “I didn’t know” here because the Bible specifically mentions Joab’s presence when the order was given.  There is no “I had no choice” as the victim was killed while hanging in a tree, trapped and vulnerable.  David weeps over Absalom’s death but there is no record of harsh words or anger at Joab for disobeying orders and killing Absalom.

Perhaps this is because David gave the order from the heart instead of from the head.  It is natural for a father to overlook a son’s sins and even rebellion and to continue to love him in spite of all he has done.  It is not hard for me to imagine doing this myself.

So why did Joab kill Absalom anyway?  It was not for power or revenge – Joab serves David faithfully for the remainder of his reign.  Joab, however, saw the reality and acted upon it.  He knew that if allowed to live, Absalom would always challenge to be king and would remain a thorn in David’s side.  One could even argue that Joab did this for the kingdom.  Joab did what David knew needed to be done.

Although the result has not been death, at one time or another we have done or said what was right instead of ‘obeying orders.’  If you have not, you will one day.  What allows us to discern such a course of action?  The Spirit will guide.  Prayer will bring clarity.  Scripture will reveal truth through the words of the prophets and Jesus.  In short, our faith and our God will bring us discernment.  We just need to seek Him and hear His voice.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 18: 15 and 31-33


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Where You Lead

As peace settles in over David and he feels secure, he begins to ponder.  David has returned the ark to Jerusalem and he decides to build a home for God.  God has been ‘living’ in a tent ‘forever’ as far as Israel is concerned and David is in a palace, so building a house for God makes sense.  But not to God.

Through the prophet Nathan, God lets David know.  In a way it is another reality check for David.  It is a “let’s not forget who really is in charge” moment.  Through Nathan, David is reminded who it was that plucked him out of the shepherd’s field and who guided him to be king, leading David every step of the way.

Sometimes I fall into David’s trap too.  On my own I start planning the next great thing for our Youth or begin to write a sermon or whatever.  I don’t always seek God’s guidance through a time of prayer and discernment.  My first instinct is not always to let God lead.  But soon enough I too am reminded.  Soon enough I come to a roadblock or are somehow else stymied and I realize that I am out there alone.  If I could just always start with God and seek His plans and will first, then life would be so much better.

In trusting in God, I give Him control.  In allowing Him to lead, I follow His plan.  In my heart and soul I know He has a plan and that the plan is awesome and amazing and more than I could ever dream up.  Make me humble O Lord, that I may walk each day where You lead and do as Your Spirit directs.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 7: 1-14a