pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Intimately Connected

Reading: Psalm 86: 1-10 and 16-17

Verse One: Hear me, O Lord, and answer me.
This Psalm is personal.  It is built upon a relationship that has grown and developed over years.  It is not a shallow relationship or a ‘foxhole prayer’ – a prayer of desperation thrown up by one who regularly lives outside a relationship with God.  David is intimate with God.  Verses two through four bear witness to this.  He is devoted to God, calls out all day long, and lifts his soul to God.  Verse one reads, “Hear me, O Lord, and answer me”.  David is confident in his right to seek God.  Not only that, one can sense the solid belief that God will answer.  We too can have such a relationship with God.  We grow and develop our relationship with God through worship, daily time in the Bible, and by regular conversations with God.

As the Psalm unfolds, we see that David’s intimate connection to God is built upon God’s faithfulness and love.  David describes God as forgiving, good, and abundant in love.  He acknowledges God’s greatness and the miraculous deeds that God has done in caring for His servant David.  David can look back and see how God was active and present over the course of his life.  It reminds him of the covenant promise that God extends to all who trust in the Lord.

We too can choose to walk each day intimately connected to God.  When this is our daily choice, we too will be able to look back and see God’s faithfulness and love at work in our lives.  Each day may we choose to walk intimately with God, so that we too can pray, “Turn to me and have mercy on me, grant your strength to your servant”.


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Thanks

Reading: Psalm 100

Verse Five: For the Lord is good and His love endures forever.

In my Bible, the subtitle to Psalm 100 is: “A Psalm.  For giving thanks”.  After reading through the Psalm it is certainly a fitting subtitle!  The psalmist begins by calling us to shout for joy and to worship with gladness and then he gives us the why: know that the Lord is God.  He goes on to remind us that God made each of us and therefore “we are his people, we are the sheep of his pasture”.  It is a good reminder for us.

Sometimes life can get crazy and the busyness can feel overwhelming.  We can almost feel as if we are so busy we are moving near paralysis.  Our minds get consumed by the worries and pressures to the point of feeling we are near to collapse.  It is in these moments that the Psalm is an excellent reminder.  It calls us to slow down for a time, to step back from life, and to step into God’s presence.  The words remind us of the bigger picture – we are his people – and this lessens the importance of the things of this world.  In our craziness may we remember to slow down and to connect to God.

The second stanza again picks up the call to praise God, to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise”.  Being thankful is essential to being content.  And being content holds the world and it’s craziness at bay.  Part of my morning routine is my little ‘thank book’s.  I write out five to eight things from the day before that I am thankful for and then I pray through each one.  In giving thanks I can see God’s faithfulness and love for me.

The ending of the Psalm echoes this idea: “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever”.  God was and is and always will be.  No matter what this world brings or has in store for us, God and his love are forever.  Thanks be to God.


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Joy

Reading: Psalm 40: 6-11

What is the source of true happiness?  Is it your spouse or your children?  Is it your house or your car?  Is it having enough in the bank or in your retirement account?  Is it your job or where you are planning to go on vacation?  The psalmist exudes joy as he writes of his relationship with God.  In verse ten we read, “I speak of your faithfulness and salvation”.  It is here, as well as in God’s love and truth, that we find joy that never fades.

It is common for mankind to seek pleasure, happiness, and security in the things of this world.  We pursue possessions, positions, and power – thinking “this” will finally make me happy.  But the next new car does not bring pleasure and happiness and security forever.  There will always be a newer fancier model or an older, more rare classic.  And soon we feel empty and unfulfilled sitting in our current car.  The same is true with positions – there is always a younger and better person eagerly working their way up the ladder, one day to take your title.  Same is true for power.  At some point another will be calling the shots, making your decisions, spending your money, and driving your fancy car.

The psalmist found a source of happiness and joy that is eternal.  It will never go away, it will never be replaced by a newer model or a bigger version, it can never be taken from you, and it always loves and accepts you just as you are.  The psalmist exudes joy and happiness because of and through his relationship with God.  When life is lived for God, then the things of this world lose their luster.  Yes, we still need food and shelter and income to provide for our basic needs, but these are just “things”.  God’s faithfulness and salvation are eternal and unchanging.  Verse eleven reads, “may your love and truth always protect me”.  God’s love and truth protect us from the desires of this world.  We find our worth and our hope reside in God’s love and truth.

This day and every day may we seek God’s faithfulness and salvation.  This day and every day may we desire to live in the promises of God: He is faithful, His love and truth lead to joy in this life and to everlasting life in the age to come.  God is our joy!  May we always share our joy.


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Hope and Promise

Reading: Isaiah 11: 1-5

In many places winter is settling in.  On the coldest of windy days, one just wants to hunker down inside with a good book and a cozy blanket.  In this way, one finds a little comfort and solace in a harsh world outside.  In today’s passage, Isaiah is offering a vision filled with words of hope and promise.  The people are in exile.  Their surroundings are secular, polytheistic, and oppressive.  To a degree, they have begun to ask God how long this season of exile will last.

Into this despair and a growing sense of abandonment, God uses Isaiah to speak a word of hope.  Isaiah speaks of a shoot that will come up.  Just like us looking for that first burst of green after a long winter, Isaiah tells of a time coming soon when hope and promise will rise up from the house of Jesse.  Isaiah goes on to describe this new King – He will reign with wisdom and understanding and power and knowledge.  To these Isaiah adds that the King will give wise counsel and will live with a fear of God.  And not only all of this, but the king will also stand for the needy and those dealing with injustice.  To a people living in oppressive exile, someone who reigns by righteousness and faithfulness would provide great hope and promise.

Many living today need to hear these words of hope and promise.  Many in our country and probably some in all of our communities need to find a little hope and promise.  Some in our congregations need to know hope and promise.  Hope and promise abound in this passage from Isaiah.  A king who loves and cares for the needy and oppressed, one who rules with justice and righteousness – this is a king many need.  This King comes to us again this year in a manger, soon to be celebrated in all of our churches.  In this season where we prepare to welcome again the baby Jesus, may we also share the King of Kings, the King of justice and righteousness with a world so in need.  May we each share the King’s hope and promise this day.


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Beautiful and Useful

Reading: Jeremiah 18: 1-11

When working with clay, the potter molds the clay into what he or she intended it to be.  At times it became marred or flawed or not exactly what the potter had planned.  So the potter reshapes the clay so that it becomes something beautiful and useful.

Imagine if the clay had a mind of its own.  What would happen if the potter was trying to form a serving platter and the clay wanted to be a vase?  As the potter tried to smooth and flatten out the clay, the clay kept rising up.  Soon enough the potter would give up or would allow the clay to become a vase.  But the clay is not becoming what the potter intended.  To the potter the creation will never be as beautiful or useful as it could have been.  Although it may function as a base and hold water, the potter will not see it as beautiful.

Growing up God often shapes us through the hands of parents, teachers, Sunday school leaders, youth group leaders…  We are molded and shaped as young Christians.  Before we move on to becoming mature Christians, we often seek our own way.  Whether in high school or college or young adulthood, we start to see ourselves as the center of all things.  We think we know do much and decide we will be the ones calling the shots.  We are like the clay that wanted to become a vase.  Over the course of a few years or maybe decades, we wander far from God.

Yet the Creator’s love for us never wains.  God continues to bring us back to the purposes that were laid out for our lives before we were born.  God does not give up.  It is a love so great.  In time, the seeds of faith begin to sprout again for most of us.  We come to know God again and we begin to walk in God’s ways again.  We begin to become the beautiful and useful creation we were meant to be.  Life just seems better again because we are in the palm of God’s hands.  For your faithfulness, O God, we say thank you.


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Thank You

The psalmist writes, “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens”.  The writer goes on to speak of God’s faithfulness reaching to the skies and of His righteousness being like the mighty mountains.  Lastly God’s justice is paralleled to the ocean.  How vast and wide and high and deep is God’s love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice!  Verses like these remind us of who God is and cause us to give praise and thanksgiving.

Yet almost as often as there are grains of sand on the beach, I can forget all that the psalmist writes of.  In an instant I can forget all about this omnipotent and omnipresent God and rely only on myself.  On the one hand this amazes me and on the other hand I know I have been there over and over and over again.  But no matter how many times I seem to try to do it on my own and fail, He is always there.  With that love that reaches to the heavens, God always waits for my return.  Through a faithfulness equally as big, God never gives up on me.

It is humbling to think of such things.  All I have to do is rely on God.  To know I fail reminds me of my total dependence on God.  To be humbled is to remember my place in the large order of things.  Thank you God for your immeasurable love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice.  Thank you God.

Scripture reference: Psalm 36: 5-10


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Listening and Seeing

The prophet Micah is like all of God’s other prophets.  He speaks the word that God gives him to speak to the people.  While much of the time the prophets are warning the people of the consequences of their sins and calling them to repent, sometimes the prophets also spoke of the hope in and the promise of God’s faithfulness.  Such is the case with our passage today from Micah.

Since the life of Jesus, Christians read this section of Micah like many other prophecies found in the Old Testament.  As Christians we read the Old Testament not only as the history of the people of Israel and our faith, but also as a book that points to the New Testament and ultimately to Jesus.  When Micah writes of a leader who will come out of Bethlehem and speaks of him as one who will shepherd the flock, our mind immediately links up with the story of Jesus’ birth and life.  Micah also connects Jesus to long before His birth – “whose origins are of old, from ancient times.”  These words echo the message we find in the opening lines of John’s gospel.

The prophets, Micah included, also always provide hope and remind us to believe in the promises of God.  God is always at work in our lives and in our world.  In hard times that can be difficult to remember.  But Micah reminds us of the promises and that in hard times we most need to rely on God’s presence and call upon His strength.  Micah also reminds us that we must seek God’s word and see God in our daily experiences.  This day may we have a heart that listens and eyes that see God.

Scripture reference: Micah 5: 2-5a