pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Empty… Fill

Readings: Psalm 106: 1-6 and Philippians 4: 7-9

Keys verses: We have sinned… we have done wrong and acted wickedly (Psalm 106:6).  Whatever is true… right… pure… lovely… admirable… think about such things (Philippians 4:8).

Pairing today’s readings together yields a wonderful truth for our lives.  The Psalm leads us to seek a repentant heart, to admit our sins to God, to begin again to walk in step with His ways.  We are all sinful creatures, living in a world that is full of temptations and that glorifies many sins.  Satan is always at work in our lives, trying to pry his way into our hearts and minds, working on our bodily passions as well as our human frailties and weaknesses.  It is no wonder we occasionally sin.  However, it cannot stop there.  We cannot live with or in our sin.  Each day we must come before God to be honest with God and ourselves, to name our sins, to repent and seek His forgiveness for this time and God’s strength for the next time.  To do all this is essential because it makes space for God in our lives as it clears away all the gets in the way of our relationship with Him.

Paul speaks of what can fill this space created by confessing our sins.  Into that space created by releasing our sins and inviting God into our lives, Paul suggests we think about the things of God.  He writes, “Whatever is true… right… pure… lovely… admirable… think about such things”.  When we train our minds to focus on these things, then we begin to see the world, ourselves, and others as God sees them.  This will help us to walk as Jesus walked – loving God and loving neighbor.  Walking this way will not only strengthen us in our battle with Satan, it will also lead us to have a thankful and grateful heart within us.  Once we are emptied, then He can fill us up.

When we honestly confess our sins and empty ourselves of these burdens, then we are opening ourselves up for God’s participation in our lives.  This is my prayer: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right Spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).  May it be so today.  

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Love and Redemption

Reading: Psalm 130

Verse 7: Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption.

Central to Psalm 130 are God’s unfailing love and His endless mercy.  These two characteristics of God are essential to our faith as well.  As the psalmist does, so too must we cry out to God in order to experience and receive His love and mercy.  It is in prayer that we seek these things.  It is through experiencing them in our lives that our relationship with God deepens.

The psalmist first cries out for forgiveness.  In repenting of our sins we come to realize that God offers forgiveness over and over and over.  The fact that no records are kept indicates the unlimited nature of God’s mercy.  It is new every moment.  In experiencing this is our relationship with God, it becomes a part of who we are and it becomes a practice in our lives.  We pray for this each time we pray, “…And forgive us our trespasses (or debts)…”

The psalmist also writes about the next step God takes.  Not only does God forgive us our transgressions, but also redeems us.  The price or cost of our sins is paid for by God.  We do not have to offer up a dove or a young goat.  We do not have to do anything – God simply redeems us through the power of Jesus’ blood.  Like His mercies being new every morning, we too are made new – pure and holy – through His redemption.  We also take this practice and make it part of our life.  We too love one another in this model, keeping no record of wrongs, wiping the slate clean, forgiving 70 times 7 times.

The key to living in God’s unfailing love and full redemption is our response.  Do we simply enjoy these blessings or do we go forth into the world to share them with others?  As we experience these two great characteristics of God, may we go forth with God’s character as our character, extending love and mercy and forgiveness and redemption to all we meet.  In this way, others will be drawn to the source of these things in us.


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Mountain Top

Reading: Exodus 24: 12-14

God and mountains seem to go together.  It was on the mountain that Moses first heard God’s call and it was on another mountain that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.  It was on the mountain that God passed by Elijah and whispered in that still, small voice. It was on the mountain that Jesus rejected Satan’s temptation and it was later on another mountain that Jesus was transfigured.  It is later that Jesus pleads with His Father on the Mount of Olives.

Many believers have also had their own ‘mountaintop’ experiences.  Some have happened while physically on a mountain.  Bishop Hartwell climbed the mountain in Zimbabwe to seek God’s direction.  On the mountaintop, God gave him a vision that led to the founding of Africa University.  For others, their mountaintop experience is not literally on a mountain, but it feels as if they were on top of the world.  In that place, one experiences God in a way that is amazing and life-changing.  For many, it is the pinnacle or touchstone moment of their faith.

To be on the mountaintop is often to be alone with God.  To physically stand atop Mount Everest or Mount McKinley or Storm Mountain feels as if you were next to God.  There is something about the isolation, something about the height above all else, something about the beauty seen all around you.  In the ruggedness it can feel as if God himself has walked there.  Then when one looks down, the world lays out before you.  This too is a moving experience.  To see all of God’s handiwork laid out in its beauty and splendor creates a feeling of closeness to the Creator.

Our lives themselves can also have mountaintop experiences, and not just the one the first time we met God.  God calls us over and over and over to the mountaintop.  God wants us to experience His power and majesty and wonder over and over again.  Our question is: will we respond to God’s call?  Furthermore, will we obediently go where God leads, will we allow God to be fully in control of our lives?  When our answers to these questions are ‘yes’, then God will bring us to the mountaintop over and over, again and again.  In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.  Do we desire life to the full?  If so, may we trust in God and allow Him to take us to the mountain today.


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Seek God’s Face

Reading: Psalm 27: 1 and 4-9

The emotions we find in the Psalm range from great confidence in God as light and salvation to times struggling with enemies and days of trouble.  The psalmist often repeats the practice of seeking, of finding refuge in God, of seeking God’s face.  There is a relationship with God that remains central in his life no matter what life brings, good or bad.

There is hope for us in the example set by the psalmist.  We too will have good days and bad, days of walking closely with God and days where we are distant from our God.  We can go from the high of worship or an especially moving faith discussion to a busyness of our week that somehow steals away our time with God.  We can allow our day to day worries and concerns to capture all of our attention and focus, and suddenly our faith is adrift.

Let us look to the example of the psalmist.  He constantly comes to God, whether rejoicing in who God is or whether seeking God’s protection.  In the Psalm we find honesty and openness – God can and wants to be in a full relationship with us – not a partial or occasional relationship.  Whether bringing our joys or our concerns, God wants to hear them.  Whether offering our praise and thanksgiving or whether struggling with our doubts and fears, God wants to hear them.

In all things and in all ways, may we seek God’s face.  May we each allow God to be our light in the darkness, our comforter in our pain, our protector in our doubts and fears, and our salvation in this life.  Verse eight reads, “Your face, Lord, I will seek”.  May we seek the Lord our God today!