pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

Arise, Beloved

Reading: Song of Songs 2: 8-13

Verse 10: “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me”.

The Song of Songs is about love. On the literal level it is the story of young love, of courtship, of desire. In today’s six verses we see the beloved, the young woman, being sought by her lover. Twice in today’s passage he calls out, saying, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me”. The earth itself is coming to life as spring begins. The flowers and vines are blossoming, the doves coo, the figs begin to form. Life is bursting all around. The two lovers can sense the energy in creation and want to be a part of that.

In the metaphorical sense, the Song of Songs is the story of how God seeks to be in relationship with us. This relationship is also built upon love. God’s love is not the “I love my brother” kind of love from childhood. It is not the pinky swear “I’ll do anything for my BFF” kind of adolescent love. It is not even the wild and passionate love of two twenty somethings who have fallen madly in love. Even this love pales in comparison to the love that God desires to lavish upon us. God’s love is unconditional, unfailing, unending. The best of human love is conditional, fickle, wavering.

God pursues us like the young man pursues his love. God leaps the mountains, walks across the seas, peers through any opening that he can find, calling out to each of us, his beloved. Today, be aware of how God is calling out to you, seeking to deepen your relationship with him. Will you arise and go with God?

Prayer: Loving and compassionate God, make me aware of each way that you reach out to me today. Create in me a sensitive heart, a willing heart. Help me to take in and to pour out your love this day. Amen.


Leave a comment

Trust and Pray – Part 2

Reading: Acts 1: 6-14

Verse 14: “They all joined together constantly in prayer”.

After Jesus makes his ascension into heaven, the angels lift the spirits of the followers standing there by telling them that Jesus will return. Greatly encouraged they return to Jerusalem and gather together – all eleven disciples, the women who were part of the regular group of followers, and Jesus’ mother and brothers. The angels’ encouragement became the fuel of their prayers. In verse fourteen we read, “They all joined together constantly in prayer”.

I imagine their prayers were a mix of thanksgiving and anticipation. Thanks for the news that Jesus would return and anticipation asking for it to come soon. There must have been a ton of positive energy and emotion poured into their prayers. Just ten days later their prayers will be answered. Jesus will return. It will be in the form of the Holy Spirit. Just as he had promised, it would be better that he left so that the gift could be sent. Instead of the physical Jesus being present with a group here and then there, the Spirit of Jesus would be present with all believers everywhere at the same time. As this group prayed, all must have thought that Jesus coming back as he was before would be the best thing ever. But it wasn’t. God’s plan was better. It always is.

As we turn to God in our prayers, may we make our humble and honest petitions known to God. But may we also trust that God will work in the way that is best. God will do with our lives what he did for the early church. Again, if we will but trust and pray.

Prayer: God of all, thank you that you are so much more than we can imagine. In the Holy Spirit you sent an amazing gift. In our lives you shower us with blessings. Thank you so much. Amen.


Leave a comment

God’s Hands

Reading: Psalm 121

Verse 2: “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”.

Psalm 121 is one of my favorites. It is a Psalm that reminds me both of God’s grandeur and of God’s intimate care for each of us. I enjoy being out in nature. One of my favorite places to be out in nature is a church camp in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Lookout Point is my go-to place there in camp. From the point I can look out over the hills and pine forests to see the rolling plains and even the Badlands on a clear day. About 100 feet below the point a creek churns with life and energy. Sitting there in the beauty of God’s creation, I feel close to God.

Verse two is a great reminder for me: “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”. It is a verse that brings assurance and comfort as I am reminded of how close God is to each of us. God is our helper. One could use other terms: provider, giver, father. There is a deep love that God has for you and for me, his children. That feeling of being loved continues in verses three and four. Here the psalmist reminds us that “God will not let your foot slip” and that God watches over us as we sleep. Perhaps a childhood bedtime prayer comes to mind for you too! As a loving God, he is our protector, our shield, our defender, our guardian.

What beautiful images of our God. May we rejoice today in the God who is both the hands that formed all of creation and the God who holds us each in those same hands. May our lives proclaim God’s glory!

Prayer: Father God, thank you for the many ways you touch my life. Thank you for the beautiful and magnificent world to live in. Thank you for the personal and intimate relationship that I have with you. You are a good and great and loving God. All praise and honor to you! Amen.


Leave a comment

Filled

Reading: Colossians 2: 6-19

Verse 13: “And you… he has made alive together with him”.

In our passage from Colossians 2, Paul is encouraging the church and us to fill ourselves with Christ. Those around the church, the world, are trying to fill them with all sorts of things. Some think they need to follow Jewish laws: circumcision, dietary, festival, and Sabbath laws. Some are pressing them with the things of the world: philosophy, worshipping angels, the pleasures of the flesh. Paul reminds them and us that all of these things are false and temporary. All that matters is Jesus Christ.

Today we can struggle with what we choose to fill ourselves with. We too can chase after other, worldly things. What we fill ourselves with will determine how we live. If work is our top priority, then it will eat up the majority of our time and energy. If we next allocate space for family and friends, then most of our time and energy has been spent. Add in a hobby or interest plus a little sleep… and little time is left for God and faith. It can become hard to fit faith into our lives. Nevermind being filled with Jesus.

According to Paul, this is backwards. Paul encourages the Colossians and us to first fill ourselves with Jesus Christ. When we first put on Christ, we become one with him. We circumcise self and our selfish desires. We are baptized into new life with Jesus. We cannot stop there though. We cannot allow our faith to become boxed in, to become a list that we check off periodically. Nourishing and growing our faith must be our top daily priority. If it is we will live in and through Christ. We will live into verse 6: “And you… he has made alive together with him”. We are alive with Christ when we fill ourselves with him. This day and every day may we begin by filling ourselves with Christ. May we be so filled that he overflows.

Prayer: Father God, fill me to full with Jesus. Fill me so that he is my all in all. May Christ shine bright in my life today. Amen.


1 Comment

Positive Results

Reading: Luke 18: 1-8

When we learn to stick to something, we find we get better at it.  A player who shoots free throw after free throw improves their percentage.  An aspiring writer who writes and rewrites and edits and rewrites again becomes a better writer.  A chef who nuances a dish over and over and over eventually comes to the exact balance of flavors desired for the dish.  If we are willing to invest our time and energy in a concentrated and focused manner, we will see positive results.

The widow in our story is willing to stick up for herself.  She is willing to go against social norms.  Above all else is a sense of being wronged and her driving need for justice.  As the widow went to the unjust judge day after day, I imagine she tried a variety of approaches.  I cannot imagine her showing up day after day issuing the same request.  She worked a variety of angles and applied a variety of reasons to show that she deserved justice from the judge.

Our prayer life is something like these two scenarios.  We latch onto something we desire from God and we begin to pray for it.  Early on we are like the player or writer or chef, seeking to craft just the prayer that will draw the response we desire.  As our prayer is offered up day after day we refine and shape it.  Eventually we fall into the widow’s pattern as we apply various reasons why God should answer our prayer.  Sometimes we even get to the “if, then” praying.  If you will ___ God, then I will ___.  

Through our begging, our pleading, our bartering, God is at work.  If we remain persistent in our prayers, we will often find that it is us or our faith that changes.  For example, in praying for “that” person or situation, our approach or view or understanding is often changed so we become more loving, more compassionate, more accepting.  If we are willing to invest time and energy in our prayers, we will experience God at work in our lives.  The results will be positive.  We may not always receive the answer we began praying for, but God will always be present, always working, always shaping us through our prayers to be the Christian we need to be.


Leave a comment

Giving Self to God

Reading: Colossians 2: 6-19

We often try to fill our lives with so many things and activities that we think will bring us joy, happiness, contentment, peace.  We chase after things that appear to be just what we need to get us to that ‘place’ where we think all will be ‘good’.  As we pursue these things of the world we come to realize soon enough that they do not really satisfy.

In other seasons of life we fill our lives with so many things and activities that we do not seem to have time for Christ.  So many things simply consume our time and leave us exhausted and with little energy to pour into our relationship with Christ.  What little we have left that we do offer to Christ is a pittance of what it should be.  As we get completely run down we realize our need for Christ and our need to re-prioritize our lives.

In each day we have a finite amount of time and energy.  Christ needs to be the center of our lives if we are truly to find content and satisfied lives.  He is the big item that must first be given time and energy each day.  When Christ is our core and foundation, all else will fall into line, all else will be taken care of.  Our gift of our presence must be the first thing we give to Christ each day.  In this way we demonstrate our love for Him by giving Him our best and we also show our trust in Christ that all else will be cared for throughout the day.  Each day may be begin by dedicated ourselves to God, by giving Him the best moments of our day, and we will find the joy, happiness, contentment, peace we desire.