pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Sing God’s Praises

Reading: Psalm 146

Verse 5: “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose help is in the Lord his God”.

The psalmist has chosen God. He will praise God and he will put his trust in God. In contrast to this, the psalmist addresses where many put their trust – in man. He writes, “Do not put your trust in mortal men, who cannot save”. They die and return to the earth; their plans end with them. We often extend this idea to the things of men. We place our trust in our possessions, in our wealth, in our titles, in ourselves. All of this is finite. None of this has the power to save. Only the Lord can save.

The psalmist goes on to write, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose help is in the Lord his God”. We can place our trust in God because God is the maker of all and because God “remains faithful forever”. This contrasts sharply with men and the things of man. God is also pure love and goodness. Because of who God is, because God is faithful to his children, the cause of the oppressed is upheld, food is given to the hungry, prisoners are set free, the blind receive sight, those who are down are lifted up, the alien is watched over, the orphan and the widow are sustained. God cares for and loves on the weak and powerless. God gives hope and strength to the least and the neediest. How does the God who dwells in heaven do all this? Through those who are faithful.

Remember where the Psalm began – with the rulers of the earth. Their plans cannot save, they fade. They are concerned with themselves and their things. Contrast this to the desires of God. The endless love of God is concerned with those who are in need. There is poverty and neglect in our cities. Many sit in prisons – some with bars and some without. Injustice and abuses of power splash across the headlines and our feeds. A stream of aliens, orphans, and widows nears the land of opportunity. As the people of God, how are we making God known in the midst of all this hurt and pain and sadness? How are we working alongside God to alleviate the affects of poverty and injustice and inequality and prejudice? When we enter into the places and into the lives of those affected by these things, we bring the hope and love of God with us. We are opening the door for them to know God, to know God’s endless love. One day they will also sing God’s praises. May the work of our hands and feet and the love in our hearts make it so.

Lord, make me an instrument of hope, love, and peace. Amen.

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The Maker

Reading: Psalm 124: 6-8

Verse 8: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”.

Our Psalm continues the thanksgiving for God’s presence and rescue from those who sought to capture Israel. The Psalm ends with a familiar line: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”. God, the maker of all, is surely our help too. The bigger question to me is: what do we do with this experience and knowledge? Do we hunker down within the walls where it is safe and comfortable? Or… do we venture outside the walls where it is unknown and is where those who attacked us, those whose anger flared against us, those who tried to sweep over us live? Do we peer out through our stained glass windows or do we engage the world, inviting them too to know the maker of heaven and earth?

The stories and promises of faith – that God will rescue us, that God will be present in the trials, that Jesus is the way, truth, and life, that Jesus is the hope for more than this earthly life – are all parts of our faith that we treasure. They are what sustains us in our day to day life. Together this is the good news that Jesus commissioned the disciples and all who would later take up their cross to follow to share with the lost, the broken, the least, the arrogant, the marginalized, the self-assured, the lonely…

Today each of us will have opportunity – maybe just one or two, maybe many – to introduce those who do not know Jesus to the Son of our maker. We will have a chance to hear their story, to connect that thing inside them to the answer. Whether they need rescue or presence or truth or hope or whatever else, the answer is found in Christ. Modeling Jesus and His love, may we offer whatever ministry we can then and in those moments. In doing so, may we begin to connect them to their maker, to the One who loves them as His dear child.

Today, God, may I recognize and seize the opportunity you give me. May I be your hands and feet, your eyes and ears, when I can. May I always be your voice, whether by word, action, or deed. This is my prayer for today and for every day. Amen.


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Going Out

Reading: Acts 1: 1-11

Verse Eleven: “Why do you stand there, looking into the sky”?

The book of Acts opens with a brief recap of the forty days after the death and resurrection of Jesus. It reviews how Jesus offered “convincing proofs” that He was alive and it reiterates His promise to send the Holy Spirit. The disciples then ask when Jesus is returning to restore the kingdom of Israel. Yes, they are still thinking of earthly kingdoms instead of the heavenly kingdom. Again, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. Then Jesus is taken up into heaven and the disciples stand there staring up. Two angels appear and ask, “Why do you stand there, looking into the sky”?

The angels indicate that Jesus will come back. But the implication in the question is ‘stop staring, it is time to get to work’. There is much to be done, so let’s get busy. Much needs to be accomplished before Jesus returns, so let’s get to work. Quit standing around staring at the sky.

I wonder how often God thinks thoughts like these today. How much of our time is spent staring up at heaven instead of engaging the work that needs to be done down here? How much time do we spend each day in prayer and personal study and how little time do we devote each day to the acts of mercy that Jesus so often called His followers to?

Nothing builds itself. While it is wonderful that we Christians spend our “alone time” with God each day, we must spend at least that much time spending “face time” with the lost, least, and broken of this world. No one will come to faith and experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promises without someone first introducing that person to Jesus Christ. It is essential to go outside of our churches to find those who need a saving relationship with Jesus. They are not coming to us. We must go to them.

Each and every day may we look down and around us, seeking to be kingdom builders, going out into the world to share the light and love and hope if Jesus Christ with a world in need. Amen.


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Praise

Reading: Psalm 148

Verses 1 and 7: “Praise the Lord from the heavens… from the earth”.

The psalmist calls for all created things to praise the Lord.  He begins with the heavens -the angels, the heavenly host, the sun, moon, and stars, and the sky.  All of these objects in the heavenly realm were created by God and they praise God continually through their splendor and beauty.  They testify to God’s power and might.  The angels and heavenly host praise God continually as they gather around the throne.  Next the psalmist goes on to include all created things on the earth – living and non-living alike.  The mountains, hills, and trees join the sun, moon, and stars in bringing praise to God.  Coming alongside of these are all forms of life, including all types of people.  In the Psalm we see the praise brought to God by all things.

In the Psalm we also gain a sense of the connected nature of all things.  There is a sense that all things have value and that all things matter to one another.  In this way the Psalm reminds me of Paul’s words concerning the parts of the body in 1st Corinthians 12.  Each part of creation would be less if a part of it were missing.  Although mankind is listed near the end of the Psalm, our role is primary in the care for creation and all of life.  As the pinnacle of God’s creation, our role as steward must be taken seriously.  This too is a part of our praise to God.

The Psalm closes with a focus on the singular nature of our praise.  We should not praise our own accomplishments (individually or corporately) but should keep our praise focused on the creator and giver of all good things all things: God.  “Praise the Lord from the heavens… from the earth”.  May we join our voices with all of creation as we praise the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.


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Binding and Letting Loose

Reading: Matthew 18: 18-20

Verse 20: For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.

What do we bind on earth?  What do we let loose on earth?  And more importantly, what does God desire us to bind and to let loose on earth?  Jesus came to establish God’s kingdom here on earth.  If we look at the example set by Jesus, we can get a glimpse of the answers to these questions.  Jesus first sought to bind with love.  Love was at the center of and bound all of His relationships together.  He also spoke of love covering over sin (which we see on the cross in its fullest form) and of love overcoming evil.  When we bind love to things, sin and evil flee.  In addition, Jesus sought to bind joy, peace, kindness, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness to all He said and did.  Jesus bound Himself to these things and they flowed through His very being as He brought the kingdom of God to the earth.  These same things that Jesus bound Himself to here on earth remain bound to Him in heaven.  He says the same will be true for us in eternity.

What did Jesus let loose on earth?  Jesus let loose God’s justice and mercy for all, a radical hospitality that welcomed all sorts of people, an inclusivity that drew all into God’s love, and an unending well if healing and restoration that sought to make all things new and whole.  Jesus burst open the doors of the church and the kingdom of God flowed out into the world.  And lastly, when Jesus departed this Earth to return to the right hand of God, He let loose the Holy Spirit.  He let loose the Holy Spirit to live in and to move amongst us, keeping Jesus’ words and actions fresh in our hearts and minds, ever leading and guiding us to live and love as Jesus did.

As individuals and as churches, we choose what we bind ourselves to and what we let loose here on earth.  When we choose to closely connect ourselves to Jesus, what we bind and let loose mirrors what Jesus bound and let loose.  In doing so, we also bring the kingdom of God here to the earth.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we seek to spread the gospel to all peoples and to all nations.  Jesus encourages us to move out together, promising, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them”.  May we bind ourselves to Jesus Christ this day as we seek to let loose the kingdom of God here on the earth.


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Honor Creation

Reading: Psalm 8

Verse Six: You made him ruler over the world of your hands, You put everything under his feet.

Psalm 8 opens with praise for God.  It then shifts to acknowledge the glory and wonder found in the works of His hands.  Mankind enters the picture in verse four.  “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” reminds us that relative to the heavens, moon, and stars, mankind is a little less.  Yet we are still deeply loved by God.

Verses six through eight establishes the hierarchy here on earth.  Verse six reads, “You made him ruler over the world of your hands, You put everything under his feet”.  This verse clearly establishes mankind as the ruler of the earthly world.  The word “everything” is pretty inclusive.  The list that comes next covers it: flocks, herds, beasts, birds, fish.  Psalm 8 closes with its opening line of praise, but perhaps this time it has a slightly different tone.

Over the years, mankind has indeed ruled the earth.  How well the collective “we” had ruled is debatable.  At times we have practiced things that were bad for the earth.  While at times “we” have harmed the earth, the general trend has been to care for it.  I do not think anyone could argue that we have we cared for it as well as we could have.  Certainly we could have been more diligent in our forethought.  There are things we should have avoided doing but failed to.  This is revealed in our long history of harming the earth and then trying to fix or at least mediate what we did.  Too often progress and the profit margin have led the way and we have done great harms to our waters, land, sky, and the populations of many plants and animals.  The extinction list, for example, has way too many names on it.

If we do indeed praise God and bring honor to the creation of His hands, how do we reflect that in our choices and decisions?  As Christians, we can make choices and decisions that help the earth or do it less harm.  As followers of Christ, we can stand up to protect the earth when we should.  As those in charge of the creation, we can love it as God loves us – caring well for the earth.  It is a monumental task to care for the earth, but it is well within our abilities.  May we love and care for this amazing creation well as we honor God’s work.


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Ends of the Earth

Reading: Acts 1: 6-14

Verse Eight: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses to… the ends of the earth.

In His last words to the disciples, Jesus promises them the gift of the Holy Spirit and reminds them that they will be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.  This last part is a restatement of the great commission.  Although Jesus does not tell them how to accomplish this task, He does let them know that the Holy Spirit will bring them power for the task.  In addition, Jesus has spent the last three years training the disciples.  He has shown them by His own example and He has sent them out on their own – like on-the-job training.  Although the disciples probably do not realize it, Jesus has been preparing them to take the good news to “the ends of the earth”.

Verse eight reads, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses to… the ends of the earth”.  His is what the disciples would soon go on to live out.  It is what God intends us to experience too as followers of Jesus Christ.  As we grow in our relationship with Jesus we too come to a point where we make the decision to follow Jesus.  We profess Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives.  At this point we receive the Holy Spirit and our lives begin to be led by the power of the Spirit.  But in our humanity, we wrestle with the Spirit for control.  We question and sometimes even ignore the voice and nudges of the Holy Spirit.  But as we spend time in the Word, as we develop a deeper prayer life, and as we grow in our love of God, we become better followers.  We become more disciplined and our following improves.  The Holy Spirit gains more voice and power in our lives.  Soon enough we become like those first disciples, bearers of the good news, heading out to the “ends of the earth” with the gospel message.

Wherever we are on our journey to share the good news of Jesus Christ, may today provide us with opportunities to grow in our discipleship and in our love of Jesus Christ.