pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Praise

Reading: Psalm 148

Verses 1 and 7: “Praise the Lord from the heavens… from the earth”.

The psalmist calls for all created things to praise the Lord.  He begins with the heavens -the angels, the heavenly host, the sun, moon, and stars, and the sky.  All of these objects in the heavenly realm were created by God and they praise God continually through their splendor and beauty.  They testify to God’s power and might.  The angels and heavenly host praise God continually as they gather around the throne.  Next the psalmist goes on to include all created things on the earth – living and non-living alike.  The mountains, hills, and trees join the sun, moon, and stars in bringing praise to God.  Coming alongside of these are all forms of life, including all types of people.  In the Psalm we see the praise brought to God by all things.

In the Psalm we also gain a sense of the connected nature of all things.  There is a sense that all things have value and that all things matter to one another.  In this way the Psalm reminds me of Paul’s words concerning the parts of the body in 1st Corinthians 12.  Each part of creation would be less if a part of it were missing.  Although mankind is listed near the end of the Psalm, our role is primary in the care for creation and all of life.  As the pinnacle of God’s creation, our role as steward must be taken seriously.  This too is a part of our praise to God.

The Psalm closes with a focus on the singular nature of our praise.  We should not praise our own accomplishments (individually or corporately) but should keep our praise focused on the creator and giver of all good things all things: God.  “Praise the Lord from the heavens… from the earth”.  May we join our voices with all of creation as we praise the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

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Shouldn’t You

Reading: Matthew 18: 21-35

Verse 33: Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?

Forgiveness.  It is something we all want when we have done wrong and want to restore the relationship.  It is something that at times we can try and manipulate.  It is something that can be hard to give sometimes.

Just after teaching about how to offer forgiveness in the midst of conflict in the church, Jesus is asked by Peter, “How many times…”?  We do not know if Peter is asking when he can stop forgiving or if he is seeking a goal far past his current practices or if he is setting Jesus up to say we need to always forgive.  In any event, the latter is the point Jesus makes.

Jesus goes on to share a story that illustrates why we must always offer forgiveness to others.  A servant owes the king an amount worth millions of dollars.  The king demands payment.  The servant cannot repay the debt and begs for mercy.  In compassion, the king forgives the debt.  In our minds the servant should be very grateful and thankful.  But as he leaves he runs into another servant who owes him a very small sum.  He harshly demands payment and his fellow servant also begs for mercy.  It is refused and the second servant ends up in jail.

I ask for mercy and forgiveness every day.  Daily I seek forgiveness from my wife and frequently from others in my life.  I often ask my King for forgiveness of my sins and my failures.  It is a practice that I walk through quite often.  Each time the Holy Spirit convicts me, I go asking one more time.  One Sunday a month I am reminded of what led to the open door to forgiveness that we find through Jesus.  Despite my vast experience with being forgiven over and over, sometimes I too struggle to give it.

The king in the story finds out the first servant withheld mercy and he calls him back in.  The king says to him, “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you”?  Jesus asks me the same question.

Lord, give me the love and strength to be merciful and forgiving this day and every day.  Amen.


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Strong Faith

Reading: Exodus 1: 15-22

Verses 20 and 21: God was kind to the midwives… He gave them families of their own.

Shiphrah and Puah we’re very brave women.  They feared God more than they feared Pharaoh and they did what was right according to God instead of bowing to the king’s orders.  Pharaoh’s cruel and ruthless treatment of the Israelites had not curbed their growth, so Pharaoh goes one step further.

Pharaoh calls in Shiphrah and Puah and orders these two midwives to kill all make babies during birth.  These two women are told to murder the babies of their own people.  They have the power to carry out this cruel and hateful order.  Refusal to follow the order will probably not end well for these two midwives.  Pharaoh had demonstrated his evil and dark side in the harsh treatment of the Israelites and with this new order.  Fear and paranoia are clearly guiding his thought process.  It took quite a strong faith in God to choose to not follow Pharaoh’s newest order.

These two brave women are summoned once again when Pharaoh discovers that they are not killing the Israelite make babies during childbirth.  He asks them, “Why have you done this”?  They offer up a lie and Pharaoh buys it.  God protects them.  Because of their faithfulness, “God was kind to the midwives… He gave them families of their own”.  Shiphrah and Puah are looked on with favor because they chose God over the powers of this world.  In this high-stakes decision, they trusted in God and stayed strong in their faith.

Shiphrah and Puah are two of many women of strong faith in the Bible.  Ruth and Naomi, Rahab, Esther, Deborah, and the women who followed Jesus all the way to the foot of the cross are a few more examples of women of strong faith.  All of these women resisted fear and possible physical loss as they chose God’s ways rather than the ways of the world whatever the cost.  They are shining role models of strong faith who bear witness to God’s love and power.  May we follow their example, choosing what is righteous and godly above all else.  And may we have the courage and strong faith they demonstrated, not counting the cost but giving all we can for our God and King.


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Trust and Sing

Reading: Psalm 13

Verse One: How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?

Our Psalm of complaint opens with quite the line: “How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever”?  It is a place we all have been at times in our lives.  In our minds we know that God is always present and that His love never fails, but in our hesrts sometimes we feel like God is absent.  We can relate, in our own monents of trial and/or suffering, to the psalmist’s feeling that God is hiding.  Of course, this is all our own creation.  The Psalm refers to wrestling in our thoughts and this is usually when we think God has been absent – when we were too busy to stop and go to God because we had to solve or fix the ‘problem’.  We are sometimes slow to “let go and let God”.

The psalmist pleads with God to “look on me and answer” as he seeks some resolution or end to his struggles.  It is a point we eventually get to as well.  We finally hit bottom or get to the point of not knowing what else to do and we then turn to God.  We admit that our “enemy” has overcome us and we cry out for God to help us.  At times, this can look like a ‘we is me’ pity party.  Sometimes though, we do try and seek God right away, but it feels as if God is distant.  Mother Teresa called the season in her life when she felt far from God even though she was seeking God the “dark night” of her soul.  It is a very hard place to be, but sometimes we find ourselves here too.

In the end, in the last two verses, the psalmist returns to the faith that has sustained him before.  He recalls trusting in God’s unfailing love and his heart rejoices at the thought of salvation.  Instead of complaint, the psalmist sings to the Lord – “for He has been good to me”.  These too are choices we can make.  May we ever trust in God’s unfailing love and sing our praises to God each dsy, ever remaining close to our God and King.


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God’s Plan

Reading: John 18:1 to 19:42

Verse 19:30 – Jesus said, “It is finished”.

Good Friday is here!  Jesus has been arrested and has been brought before Annas and Caiaphas.  Before this parade will move on to Pilate, Peter will deny Jesus three times – just as Jesus said.  Before the high priest Jesus asks, ‘What did I do wrong’?  Jesus reminds them that He taught in the temple and said nothing in private.  Yet early in the morning, Jesus ends up before Pilate, the Roman governor.

It is interesting that Jesus ends up here.  They are asking a political leader to offer a solution to their religious conflict.  On at least a few occasions, these same leaders have picked up rocks to stone Jesus.  It was an option.  It was a practice used by the Jews to punish certain sins.  The blasphemy they accuse Jesus of would qualify.  But the crucifixion fulfilled the words Jesus himself had spoken about His own death.  It was another example of how God was fully in control of what was unfolding.

Peter’s denials also fit into this category.  It seems odd that the one on whom Jesus would build the church would be the same one to deny even knowing Jesus.  God’s plan at work.  In a short time, the risen Jesus will ask Peter three times if he loves Him.  Three times to wash away the three denials.  Jesus restores Peter and now he is ready to be the Rock.  God’s plan even includes Pilate.  Pilate declares Jesus innocent.  His is an important statement.  Yes, an innocent man will die.  Jesus used the word ‘truth’ with Pilate and it must have stuck.  Pilate has a sign prepared and placed on top of Jesus’ cross.  It reads: “Jesus of Nazareth.  King of the Jews”.  It was written in three languages so that all could read it and take in the truth of it’s message.  All in God’s plan.

As death approaches, Jesus offers one last act of love.  He provides for His mother’s care.  It is a beautiful gesture.  Now that all is right in the world and now that all has gone according to God’s plan, Jesus is ready to die.  He says, “It is finished” and breathes His last.  The tomb awaits.  But He won’t be there long!


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Bow and Worship

Reading: Luke 2: 1-12

The people of Israel had been sent into exile to many points east.  The Assyrians and Babylonians had defeated them and dispersed the Israelites throughout their empires.  Some of the people of God remained faithful while in exile.  And somehow the stories of faith that they told amidst these foreign cultures was heard by outside ears.  When the strange star appeared a long-ago memory was triggered and the Magi head off.  The Magi follow the new Star to see you this newborn king of the Jews.  God provides the lead as the Magi travel west toward Jerusalem, the capital city.  After all, wouldn’t a king be born in the palace?

But the God who leads them from afar only leads them so far.  The star disappears as they come to Jerusalem.  So the Magi go to King Herod – it must be his newborn son that they have journeyed two years to see.  But this is not the case.  So Herod gathers the religious leaders and they quickly recite the Micah prophecy.  The Magi head off towards Bethlehem.  For the Magi what happened next must have been attention- grabbing.  The star that had appeared and disappeared suddenly reappeared.  The star guides them on into Bethlehem and comes to rest over the home of Mary and Joseph.

God’s amazing power again emerged as the Magi continue their journey.  They have brought gifts – a customary gesture.  But as these educated men enter the house to end their quest and to satisfy their curiosity, a strange thing happens.  They worship Jesus.  These scholars bow down and worship Jesus.  Not their intent when they began the trip.  Being in God’s incarnate presence must have triggered something in them.  Perhaps it was the same sense or feeling that lef the first disciples to leave all when Jesus simply said, “Follow me”.  May it be the same in each of us this day.  May we bow and worship the King!


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Praying for Our Leaders

Reading: Psalm 72: 1-7 and 10-14

A good king in Israel would rule with justice and righteousness.  A good king would protect the people and provide for their needs.  A good king was sensitive to the needs and concerns of the poor and needy, giving them voice and meeting their basic needs.  A good king ruled according to God’s will.  The people prayed daily for the King, asking God to bless their reign with justice and righteousness.  Life was simply better when a good king reigned.

Today we do not have kings but have presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, senators, representatives, judges, governors, legislators, mayors, councilmen, and councilwomen.  The titles have changed by the roles should not.  As whatever level one serves, it should still be with righteousness and justice.  All should serve for the good of the people and the prosperity of the nation, state, city, or community.  It should not be a self-serving role.  Our role should not change either.  Our role is still to pray daily for all of our leaders.

As the people of God, we should pray each day for our leaders, at all levels, whether or not we align with their political leanings.  Each day we should pray for our leaders to govern with righteousness and justice, with compassion and understanding.  Each day we should pray for our leaders to be sensitive to the needs of the poor and the outcasts, for those without voice.  Each day we should pray that our leaders would lead according to God’s will.  And each day we should pray for our leaders to know and walk with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

May we be faithful in our daily prayers for our leaders so that God’s blessings and justice and righteousness may touch the land.  May we ever lift up our leaders so that God’s glory may shine through them.