pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Come as You Are

Reading: Jeremiah 8: 18-22

Jeremiah cries out to God on behalf of the people.  He is acutely aware of their sins, yet he prays for them and their relationship with God.  Since being called to be the prophet to Israel, Jeremiah has spoken to the people about their sins and the coming danger that their sins are drawing in.  He has made the consequences of living life outside of the covenant relationship with God crystal clear.  Yet the people do not repent.  They do not turn from false idols and foreign gods.  They instead rely on tradition and appearances.

The people think their status as God’s ‘chosen people’ will save them.  But even the most special child in all the world can be disobedient and experience the consequences.  The people of Israel also think their ritualistic trips to the temple will be enough for God to relent.  But the trips are hollow and there is no relationship with God.  It is all appearance.  It is all on the surface.  It is simply going through the motions.  If their relationship was real it would lead to a personal relationship with God.  The relationship would affect how they were living outside their one hour in the temple.

Does God expect any less of us?  Isn’t a personal and intimate relationship with us what God desires most?  God wants to be fully known by us and for us to experience being fully known by God.  When we are limited in our commitment and when we keep the relationship at a shallow, surface level, we are not being honest with God and we are only fooling ourselves.  God knows all and sees all.  There is nothing we can hide from God.  When we hold back and try to live a second life, we are being disrespectful to the omnipotent and omnipresent God.  Instead, may we willingly strip away all the gloss and glitter and come honestly and humbly before our God.  God does not expect perfection but takes us as we are.  God simply says to us, “Come as you are”.


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Living Water

Reading: Jeremiah 2: 4-13

Where do you get your sense of worth?  Where is it from that you draw confidence, peace, and contentment?  Where do you turn in time of trial, stress, or temptation?  The answers to these questions will reveal much about your faith and your relationship with God.

Jeremiah is writing to a people who have turned away from God.  The people have strayed from God and have turned to worthless idols.  They have defiled the land with altars to foreign gods.  They have put their trust in “broken cisterns” – in their own power and might.  In this sense they have made themselves gods.

Like the people of Jeremiah’s day, we also turn to idols.  We look to our bank accounts and retirement investments for reassurance that all is well in life.  Instead of building altars to foreign gods, we park shiny new toys in our driveways and garages.  In these we see our own worth.  We see our name on the door of our office with its fancy title and think we are content.  But when a storm rolls in we turn to alcohol or drugs to dull the pain or to TV or the internet to numb the mind.  Too often God is a last resort, a desperate prayer when we have exhausted all other options.

Soon enough the shiny becomes dull, the title just isn’t what it once was, and the ways to cope don’t seem to be working anymore.  We feel lost and stuck at the same time.  All the while the Holy Spirit has been present, trying to turn us outward instead of inward, to look to the only way, truth, and life instead of everywhere else.  Even in our most self-centered moments, God does not give up, does not stop loving us, does not stop reaching out.  It is a live beyond our understanding.

At some point we all come to sense that our peace, contentment, and joy cannot come from the things of this world.  They are all temporary.  At some point we all get to this place.  It is a place of silence, of being alone.  It is a place where all else is stripped away.  It is where we meet God.  Maybe it is ‘again’ for some, maybe it is the first time for others.  It is here, in this place of solitude, that the living water seeps in through all the cracks in our brokenness.  It is here that we begin to find peace, contentment, and joy.  But our cracks remain.  We are imperfect creations.  We will lose our focus and fall back to the things of this world.  We will stray from God and our souls will become dry.  But our God is never done with us.  This living water is always seeking to seep back in, to fill us up.  Always.  It is a love beyond our understanding.

This day and every day, may we enter the silence, draw near to God, and confess our sins.  This day and every day, may we invite God in so that the living water will fill us up.


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Idols

Is there a commandment we struggle with more than the commandment against idols? Today the idea of an idol has grown to represent a wide variety of things: money, possessions, job, position or status, physical beauty, authority, time…  Our own ‘idol’ can really be anything we place before or above God.

It is a fine line sometimes between providing for our families and accumulating wealth or between doing a good job at work and pouring oneself into the job in the pursuit of a promotion.  But when one is in a right relationship with God, then one knows in their hearts when they are nearing or have crossed that imaginary line.

The command against idols is the only command that also has a punishment attached.  Perhaps God knew people would wrestle with this one!  God warns that He will punish out to a person’s fourth generation if one bows down to idols.  However, God also promises that He will love your family for a thousand years if you love Him and follow His commands.  Quite a difference!  Must be important.

In this holy season of Lent, may we spend a little extra time looking at the idols we have in our lives.  May we seek God’s strength and presence so that our idols become less and He becomes more.

Scripture reference: Genesis 20: 4-6


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Jesus as Center

Idols are all of those things that we invest our time in, that we put our trust in, and that, in the end, draw us away from God.  Our idols can include our possessions or money, our job or position, our looks or our body.  It is all that we place ahead of or before God.  Idols are stumbling blocs in our relationship with God.

In times of need, when we are struggling or suffering and need strength or comfort, our idols can do very little for us.  For a time we can think our chosen idol is helping as it masks the pain or hardship for a time, but it cannot take is away.  Only God can do that.  Only through a relationship with Jesus Christ do we find true peace, comfort, rest, and contentment.

Our idols can also harm others, drawing their attention away from God.  One new to the faith may see you as an example to follow.  If we choose an idol over God, they too may make a similar choice for themselves.  The same is even more true for our children.  Their little eyes are watchful and their small ears are attentive.  What they observe in our lives, they mimic in theirs.

As our lives silently speak out about what we value and where we put our trust, does your life reveal Jesus as your center?  All in our life must fall under His authority.  It is a daily struggle to put God first in all we do, but we can have Jesus as our rock if we make a conscious choice to take our stand upon Him each day.  He is our firm foundation.  Thanks be to God!

Scripture reference: 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13


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Mercy’s Promise

God promises to always be with us, to never leave us.  Yet at times we can question this as we feel all alone and seem to have lost touch with our creator.  But we must remember His promise as it is always us that creates the separation or the distance.

It can happen in big things and in little things.  In Exodus 32 Moses has been gone up the mountain just long enough for Aaron and the people to start worrying.  Moses is their connection to God.  The solution?  Gather up all the gold and make a new god to worship and be led by.  Seems crazy now but at the time I’m sure it make perfect sense.

It can happen in our lives too.  We can easily allow ourselves to be drawn into conversations and activities that have God nowhere in sight.  When we suddenly realize where we’ve wandered to we ask, “How’d we get here?!”  Thankfully we serve a merciful God.  He says, “Yup, I’m still here” and “Welcome back my child”.  And just like that we are back in a right relationship with our creator.  Praise be to God!!

Scripture reference: Exodus 32: 1-6


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Strength and Refuge

God is often seen as our strength and our refuge.  We sometimes pray most ardently when life has taken a turn for the worse and when we feel we have nowhere else to turn.  And yes, He  hears our prayers.  Psalm 16:2 reads, “You are my Lord; apart from You I have no good thing.”  It is important to remember His blessings as we struggle or wrestle with His answer to our prayer.

At times when all is well in our lives, we can drift away from God and come to rely and trust more in ourselves and our own abilities.  We can also look to other things or people as well.  Whether it is self or medical technology or some other earthly power, we are looking to a false idol.  Verse 4 reads, “The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.”  It is not that God is punishing us for turning to something else for our strength and refuge, it is that we lose that contentment from God being our strength and refuge – during the good and the bad times.  It is just that in the bad times we notice the lacking more.

God is our strength and refuge.  The psalmist assures us that God assigns us our cup and portion and that God keeps us secure.  We are also reminded that in Him we have a ‘delightful inheritance’.  Psalm 20:4 reads, “May God give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”  May the desire of our hearts be to live fully with God as our strength and refuge!