pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Permanent Home

Reading: 2 Samuel 7: 1-14a

Verse Two: “Here I am living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent”.

We like security and routine. We prefer to have a home to go to at night, to have food in the fridge, to know what we are doing tomorrow. Even when we go on vacation we plan out where we will stay and what we will do.

King David has established his kingdom and has conquered all of his enemies around him. He gets a moment to breathe as he relaxed in his palace. Soon his attention turns to God. David thinks and then says to God, “Here I am living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent”. David is trying to look out for God. This God who has blessed his life and his reign deserves better than a tent for a dwelling place.

This is a kind thought and a nice gesture, but God is not quite ready to settle down. God sends the prophet Nathan back to David with some good words but a “not now” on the home idea. Maybe God is still unsure about this whole king thing. Remember, David is only the second king. The first king, Saul, did not work out so good. And before that, we recall that God did not want to give the Israelites an earthly king because that was rejecting God as their king.

Yet in God’s response to David’s thought on building a home for God, God tells David that his line will be established forever. God will “make your name great” and “establish his kingdom forever”. Yes, Solomon will build the temple. Yes, Jesus does come from David’s line and His kingdom rules forever. But it is definitely not smooth sailing in between these two heirs of David. A permanent home in Jerusalem was just not to be.

With Jesus, God did finally find a permanent home. The promise to David did come true. Once we choose a personal relationship with Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He does come and sit on the throne of our heart. We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and this presence dwells in our hearts. This is where God has always felt at home – in the hearts of His people. With God in our hearts, we too find a home. With God in our hearts, we become part of His family. In this home and within this family we find the peace and security and love that lasts forever. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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An Honest Look

Reading: Jeremiah 31: 31-34

Verse 33: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts”.

A new covenant. A new promise. Hope. Opportunity. How we sometimes long for a fresh or new start. For the Israelites long in captivity in Babylon this word from Jeremiah had to bring great hope. Suddenly there was possibility and hope ahead again. They must have certainly felt like the old covenant was a thing of the past. They were living without a temple and without the systems that had connected them to God. Oddly enough they saw change as a good thing. They did not simply want a return to the way things were. Where they were spiritually and relationally was broken and needed changed. They were full of joy to hear, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts”.

Today we can find ourselves here too. Sometimes it comes out of nowhere. For example, one day we find out that our job has been eliminated or that our spouse is asking for divorce. These types of disruptions are forced upon us and we have no choice but to adapt. But sometimes it is a slow creep instead. This happens in life sometimes. We look up and suddenly realize where we’ve gotten to and know in an instant that something must change. Sometimes this can happen in our institutions as well. Our church that used to have hundreds in worship and dozens in Sunday school suddenly seems a bit empty and without much life. At this point, whether personally or institutionally, we can look for and seek for God to do a new thing or we can continue the slow fade. Sometimes this is the easier choice.

We are still in Lent, so I challenge you to look within – to both yourself and to your church. Do you see growth and movement forward or do you see plateau or regression, complacency or death? These are hard questions to consider. Take an honest look within and go to God accordingly.


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Universal Love

Reading: Romans 4: 1-5 & 13-17

Paul’s writing today is all about inclusion.  At the time of this writing, Paul was trying to show how universal God’s love is.  Some were hung up on being circumcised and living under the Law as the requirements to be in God’s family.  Paul states that it by faith alone that we receive the promise.  It is through the promise that we are saved.  His argument is based upon salvation by grace alone.  Paul developed this line of thinking from the realization that no one can follow the Law enough or do enough good works to earn or deserve salvation.  Paul knew that it was only by God’s grace that anyone can be saved.  Paul personally experienced this in his own redemption story and it was his life’s work to bring in any and all into God’s family.

This is also our call as individuals and as churches.  There are many people who feel as if they are outside of God’s love.  Some feel they have done too much wrong or have too great a sin, some feel they are too broken, some feel they could never be good enough…  The list is long, the barriers are many.  To all of these people, Paul’s message is that no one is too anything to step into the love of God. All are loved by God.  This is our message to carry forth as well.  The doors of our hearts and the doors of all of our churches need to reflect this idea of universal inclusion.  This means we see all as God sees them, as a child of God.  Yes, they may be less than perfect.  We all are.  News flash.  And yet God offers us all love and grace and forgiveness.  Who are we to draw lines and put up barriers?

May we all have the courage to live out our faith.  May we all be willing to see lost people simply as they are: just another broken child of God who needs to meet their Father.  May each person that crosses our path or walks through the doors of our places of worship encounter the pure and universal love of God in us, opening the way for them to experience God’s love and grace and forgiveness.  God is for all people.  May we help it to be so today.


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Grace and Peace

Reading: Romans 1: 1-7

Paul opens with a thought: “set apart for the gospel”.  We are called to this.  We are called to be different from the secular culture and the worldly values by which so many live.  We are called to Christian witness in a post-Christian time.  Jesus did say that the road is hard and the way is narrow that leads to eternal life.  It is work, at times, to hold fast to the faith we profess.  Although narrow, the way is open to all who choose to live with Jesus as Lord.

In Rome, Caesar was lord.  To call upon Jesus Christ as Lord was to be set apart.  As we we’ll know from our own daily struggles to keep Jesus #1, there can only be one Lord.  So to profess Jesus is Lord implies that Caesar is not.  This was risky back in Paul’s time.  Today many think it a bit risky to profess Jesus Christ as Lord all the time and in all aspects of our lives.  This can be risky to our jobs, our friends, our hobbies, our money, and, perhaps most significantly, to our self.

As a church we can choose to be set apart.  We can have doors that are open to any and all instead of just to some.  We can offer communion to any and all who seek to be made new instead of just to those who meet our qualifications.  We can invite and welcome the whole community into our sacred spaces instead of just our church members.

As individuals, we can take these ideals and apply them to our lives as well.  W can engage any and all as we live out our lives as slaves to the gospel.  We can welcome all guests who come to our places of worship and to the events we put on or host.  We can invite all of our neighbors, coworkers, and classmates to be a part of our communities of faith.  Our lives too can have open hearts and open doors.

Paul writes, “grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.  May we choose to live as disciples and apostles each day, bringing peace and grace to the world, to any and all we meet.


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Fully and Wholly

Reading: Amos 8: 1-6

God proclaims to Amos that “the time is ripe for my people”.  God is fed up with their preoccupation with money.  Worship is no longer worship.  They want to rush through their one hour of worship so that they can get back to turning a profit.  To make matters worse, during their one hour ‘given’ to God their mind is filled with thoughts of how to get richer.  The fact that they do not hear God’s message and call upon their hearts is revealed in the ways they exploit the poor and needy.

God’s desire is the same for us.  When we sit down to spend time with God, He expects all of our being to be present.  Our call is not to read the devotional or accompanying scripture as quickly as possible so that we can continue on with our day.  God desires for us to linger a while, to allow His Word and message for us that day to soak in and to percolate deep within us.  Our time with God should draw us in and transform and renew us.

The same is true on a Sunday morning or whenever we gather for worship.  We are called to enter His house with thanksgiving in our hearts and praise on our lips.  We are to be fully in His presence and to welcome the Spirit to move in us and around us.  God hopes to touch our souls with the music, the words, the prayers.  If our focus is elsewhere, we are not being authentic in our worship and we are not being honest in our relationship with God.

Each time we enter into His presence, whether in private or with our community of faith, may we be fully focused and wholly in His presence.


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The Living Water

Much of our world is dependent on water to sustain their crops.  Much of the world is still agriculturally based and many people outside of the US are subsistence farmers just getting by day to day.  For many of these people, water is hard to come by.  Either the water source is polluted or it is not clean or it is far away.  In many places a well would provide good water but the people do not have the resources to have a well.  Even in our country, water access can be difficult for some as well.  But one thing is true no matter where you live – water is essential to grow food and to sustain life.

In faith God is essential to sustain our spiritual life.  But to some, God is like their water – scarce.  He is hard to find or He is difficult to relate to or to get to know.  He exists but does not seem to want to be in a relationship with them.  To some, getting to God requires a good effort – like walking hours to fill a jug with water.  God seems to exist, but just is not very close tho their corner of the world, to their daily lives.

For others, God is simply there all the time.  God’s grace and blessings are like the gentle rains that fall in the Spring.  To a believer, God’s love is as vast as the ocean and as powerful as a mighty river.  It sustains and gives life.  The living water that Jesus brings is not like the water that many have to work so hard to get – His water is free and only requires that one asks Jesus to come and dwell in their heart.  Once we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, then His living water becomes a spring welling up inside of us.

Who do you know that needs to drink of Jesus’ living water?  How will you help them drink today?

Scripture reference: Isaiah 12: 3-6


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Transform and Lead

John came to prepare the way for the Lord.  In the desert he preached a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”  He came to bring a message that would transform people’s hearts and make them ready for Jesus.

The radical changes to the earth that Isaiah wrote about and Luke quotes are very dramatic – valleys are filled in, mountains laid low, and crooked paths made straight.  Powerful things that only God could do.  But John called for and calls today for us to undertake such radical transformations in our lives as well.

As we seek to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ this Advent season, what valleys or low spots in or lives do we need God to lift us out of?  What mountains or pedestals do we need to step down off of to allow humility in and God to be the one lifted up high?  What crooked paths do we sometimes walk that we need the Holy Spirit to turn us from and to walk alongside us on the narrow path?

We anticipate a time of celebration as we remember Christ’s birth.  We also need to be transformed by and made right with God.  May we allow God to transform us and to lead us in a life that knows His saving grace.  May we prepare Him room in our hearts.

Scripture reference: Luke 3: 3-6