pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Blessings

Reading: Psalm 112

Verse 1: “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands.”

Psalm 112 is a beautiful reminder of the great gain one finds from a faithful walk with the Lord. Verse one begins with “blessed is…” and the psalmist continues on by recounting all the ways that God can bless the faithful: children are blessed, good comes, and the heart is secure. A faithful walk can be one without fear, one without being shaken. Living faithfully can draw out ones generosity, graciousness, compassion, and sense of justice. Choosing to fear the Lord and to honor his ways leads to a blessed life.

Not all who live a faithful life will be wealthy or healthy or free from troubles. Blessings are not always monetary bounty. Many who live within a budget and do not have much beyond the basics feel very blessed and contented, living joyous lives. Blessings are not always living healthily until 94 years of age or more. The blessings come in being assured of God’s presence and love in and through the illness and disease and other physical trials of life. These things are part of life for almost everyone. God’s presence is the gift of blessing for the faithful amidst their trials and sufferings. Life will bring other times of trouble too – some self-inflicted, some by others doing. In the same way, the faithful can turn to God and can rely on God’s strength to get through these seasons as well.

As the Psalm draws to a close, we read, “his righteousness endures forever”. Living a faithful and righteous life here can bring many blessings, both here and in the kingdom to come. As we live out our faith in the here and now we also look forward to our heavenly home. May we walk each day faithfully, blessing others as we are blessed by God.

Prayer: Loving Father, life is truly better when lived in close relationship with you. Strengthen me in moments when I falter or am weak and lift me up. Encourage my daily walk through the power of your Holy Spirit. May all I do and say honor you. Amen.


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Prayer of Peace

Reading: Psalm 122

Verse 7: “May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadel”.

In many churches we begin the season of peace, hope, love, and joy tomorrow. Advent begins tomorrow and many churches will read a liturgy and perhaps some scripture and some will offer a prayer as they light the candle of peace. Peace is something we all seek.

Here in rural South Dakota the snow is gently falling, the world is quiet and beautiful outside. As the sun brings more light to the day, it will become even more beautiful. It is a good day for something warm to drink and a good book to enjoy.

While it is a good day for peace in my household, I must also recognize that it is not so in all places. So from my place of peace I raise a prayer of peace for all who are struggling to find or experience peace today. For those who do not have a warm home or a place to go as snow blankets our state, I pray for open doors and generous hands. For those with strife and discord in their relationships, I pray for peace in their homes, businesses, or communities. For those who are lonely and for those facing uncertainties because of health, I pray for community and for your healing touch. These are but a few of the prayers that could bring peace to others.

The psalmist wrote “May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadel”. The prayers for peace seek to reach into hearts and into homes and community, our places where we build walls and where we feel peace. May this be our prayer for all of these above and for all others on your heart and mind. May we be people of prayer, seeking for God’s peace to reign.

Prayer: Prince of Peace, thank you for the peace in my heart, knowing you and your love. This day may you use me to bring your peace to whomever I can today. Use me to be an instrument of your peace. Amen.


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Offer Joy and Thanksgiving

Reading: Colossians 1: 10-20

Verse 10: “Live a life worthy of the Lord… please him in every way”.

Today and tomorrow we will look at this passage from Colossians. Today we spend time with the first five verses and then tomorrow we turn to the last six verses. Paul is writing to the Colossians to first encourage them. Paul acknowledges in verse six that the gospel is bearing fruit and growing all over the world, just as it is in the Colossian church. Paul has been praying for the church too. He prays that God will fill them with the knowledge of God’s will. Paul prays this for a purpose: so that they may “live a life worthy of the Lord… please him in every way”. This is a great prayer for us to pray for the church universal, for our own churches, and for ourselves.

Paul goes on to unpack what this worthy and pleasing life entails. The first mark is “bearing fruit in every good work”. Fruit is both growth in personal faith AND making new disciples. How are you and your church each doing in these two areas? This first mark ties into the second. The second is being strengthened (or maturing) in the faith so that we have “great endurance and patience”. We must exercise to grow stronger. We exercise our faith by practicing it. As a simple example, did you read Colossians 1:10-20 or did you just read the verse listed at the beginning of this devotional? In a bigger sense, will you worship God with all that you are tonight or tomorrow or will you just show up? We get out what we put in. A good effort with the means of grace (prayer, study, meditation, fasting, worship) will produce much fruit in our lives and for the kingdom of God.

The third mark is to “joyfully” give thanks to God. This also is tied to the first two marks. We are blessed in so many ways. Whether the blessing is family or health or financially or occupationally or all of these, joyfully thanking God should be our response. Paul also points to another blessing: our inheritance in the kingdom of light. Paul is not speaking of heaven here. Yes, that too is an inheritance. Today he speaks of the privilege of walking in the light in this life. This has two parts. First, Jesus rescues us from the darkness of this world. In the light we have hope, joy, peace, love, contentment, and so much more. Second, Jesus redeems us from our sins, bringing salvation to our souls. Wiping away our sins, Jesus removes the guilt, shame, regret… freeing us to walk as children of the light. This allows us to grow in our faith, to bear fruit for the kingdom, and to joyfully thank God for our place in his kingdom of light. Let us offer our joy and thanksgiving to the Lord!

Prayer: Living God, you are so, so good to me. Your grace draws me in, deeper and deeper. Your Spirit strengthens and encourages me for the day to day journey and for the long journey through life. Your mercy makes me new every morning. All praise to you, O God! Amen.


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Reconnect to God

Reading: Psalm 42

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by problems relating to money, health, relationships, and vocation.  When a couple of these worries pair up, which they often do, then our lives can be quite challenging.  Our habit tends to be to dwell on such things, to allow them to consume our lives.  The cloudiness that settles in can even affect our relationship with God.

Sometimes we become so centered on our problems that we forget God is available as a source of strength and relief.  Our troubles can consume us.  When we finally are reminded of His presence we wonder why we did not turn to Him sooner.  At other times we are like the psalmist.  We seek God but end up asking, “Where is God”?  Despite our efforts, God feels distant.  The cloudiness can be hard to shake.

In these cases, we need to practice the motions of faith that we know so well.  First, we need to pray.  We need to pray out to God even if we feel all alone.  God is near and He is listening.  If we pray faithfully, He will be present.  Second, we need to praise God.  If we are too downcast to find any current praises, turn back to times and ways in which God has blessed you before.  Also, we can be thankful for the littlest things.  Song is another way to pray and to praise God.

In both of these ways we will reconnect to our God, our help and our rock.  In prayer and praise we invite God’s presence to be real to us and to also offer ourselves back to Him.  May we place our hope in God, for He is ever faithful and His love never fails.


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God Is Present

Satan took all from Job except his wife and his life.  In spite of all the loss in Job’s life, he remained resolute in his faith.  So Satan gains permission to afflict Job’s health.  God draws the line at taking is life.  Satan covers Job’s body from head to toe with painful sores.  Satan assures God that this will break Job as a person is willing to give anything to save one’s own life.

Have you ever been in a stretch of a few bad breaks?  You are down but holding on, and then one more thing happens.  It is easy to feel like giving up at this point.  It’s tempting to scream out, “Why God?!”  In these moments, words of encouragement from our spouse and close friends are essential to maintaining our faith and to keep our spirits up.

As Job’s wife sees him covered in cores, sitting in ashes, she offers these words: “Curse God and die.”  Can you imagine those being the first words from your spouse after being afflicted with one more thing?  She may have meant well, seeking to end his pain.  Job did not take it that way though.  I would not have either.  Job’s response reveals his wisdom and the depth of his faith.  Job understands that life brings both the good and the bad.  He asks her, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”  He understands that both are a part of life.

Job’s answer also reminds us that God is present with us in both the good and in the times of trial.  It is important in times of trial to acknowledge that it is difficult.  But it is even more important to remember that God is always a present source of strength in the midst of our troubles.

Scripture reference: Job 2: 4-10


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What Do You Want?

“Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”  Just imagine for a moment if God asked you that.  I am sure we have all had practice dreaming about what we would do if we won the lottery or if we somehow found a genie in a bottle.  Our answer would reveal a lot about us.

God asked Solomon this very question.  He could have asked for wealth or power or at least for peace during his reign.  He could have asked for long life.  He did not ask for anything for himself.  Or for his family.  Solomon asked God for a discerning heart to govern justly and to be able to distinguish right from wrong.  God was very pleased with Solomon’s request so He granted it and gave him more.

You and I may never be asked this question.  But we do answer it each day with how we live.  We reveal what we desire and what we value by the way we live.  Every word we speak, every choice we make, every action we undertake, every goal we set – all answers the same question: “What do you want?”

If we desire a deep faith, do we invest daily in the development of this faith?  If we long for contentment, do we choose to live simply and not choose to chase after the next, newest, best thing?  If we want quality relationships, do we give of ourselves honestly and sincerely all the time?  If we feel led to help the lost and the least, do we spend time with alongside them ministering to their needs?

So.. what do you want?  What has your answer been and how does it need to change?

Scripture reference: 1 Kings 3: 5-9