pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Presence

Reading: Psalm 68: 1-10 & 32-35

Verse 35: The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.

Psalm 68 speaks of God’s love and care for His people.  It begins with protection as God scatters the enemies.  In response, the righteous are glad and rejoice.  God has provided protection.  In the next verses, God helps the widow, the lonely, the prisoners – those on the fringes of society.  Not only does God lead and protect the nation, He also protects the least and the lost.  Surely you and I fit somewhere along this spectrum.  Let us also praise our God who protects and watches over us.

The psalmist then recalls the people’s wilderness experience.  They were freed from slavery in Egypt but wandered for forty years.  God gives them “abundant showers” as they eat their fill of manna and quail.  God led them on and they settled into the Promised Land – the land of bounty.  God again leads and guides and protects the people.  And again the psalmist notes that God also gave from that same bounty to provide for the poor.  In how many ways does God continue to provide for and bless us?  Let us praise the Lord our God!

The Psalm closes by offering singing and praise to God’s power and majesty.  God’s power is revealed to the psalmist in the skies – thunder representing God’s voice.  In the thunder is power and majesty.  The Psalm ends by acknowledging that God also gives power and strength to His people.  Verse 35 reads, “The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people”.  They experienced this in the pillars of cloud and fire in the wilderness.  They experienced this in the partings of the waters and in the crumbling of the walls.  The Israelites had some very tangible experiences with God’s power and majesty.

As we fast-forward a few thousand years, we too have a very real and tangible presence of God in our lives.  Through the gift of the Holy Spirit know that God continues to be near His people.  Through the Spirit we continue to receive God’s protection, guidance, direction, power, and strength.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit provides God’s constant presence in our lives.  It is a wonderful gift.  Through this presence we experience what the psalmist writes about.  For this deep and powerful connection to the Lord our God, may we lift our thanksgiving and praise!


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Controlled by God

Reading: Romans 8: 6-11

Verse 6: The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

Paul establishes an either/or situation in today’s reading.  Either we are controlled by the Spirit or we are controlled by the flesh.  Either we submit to God’s ways or we pursue our sinful nature.  Either we are alive as Christ dwells in us or we are destined for death.  Either we are filled with God’s peace or we are hostile to God.  Paul is drawing some clear distinctions.

For Paul, being a part of God’s family was a universal invitation.  He did not see any limitations on who could live in covenant relationship with God.  It was not by birth that one gains access.  This remains true today – some born into a “Christian home” never find a faith of their own and others raised in a secular home come to a deep faith.  Paul also saw no barriers in regards to race or ethnicity or nationality or status or anything else one could name.  We also see this today.  Jesus’ mandate to “make disciples of all people of all nations” has brought the gospel all around the world.

There are many, many people today who are active participants in fulfilling the great commission of Jesus.  While some are in far away places bringing the Word of God to every tribe and tongue, most of us operate in a much smaller, more local context.  While our prayers may go far and wide for the work of the church universal, our actions and words most often impact those close at hand.  Those affected can be family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and even strangers.

When our “mind is controlled by the Spirit”, we exhibit a life of peace and love and hope.  When we are filled with the Spirit, our lives are different than those whose live by the flesh.  We do not chase after the things of the world because the Spirit helps us and leads us to trust in and to rest in God.  We live life longing for and trusting in an eternal time when we will forever dwell in the light and love of Christ.  The day to day of this life is small change.  We are not held captive to but are set free from the power of sin and death that so easily entangles the world.  We follow God’s ways and offer love and hope and peace to the world.  This day may our lives be a living testimony to the power and presence of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit within us, drawing others into the kingdom of God.


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Signs and Wisdom

Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31

Jesus did not fit into the mold that some people had.  He did not meet their expectations, so they struggled to see Him as the Messiah.  Even though the Jews were looking for a Messiah, Jesus did not match their vision, therefore He was rejected.  The Greeks operated on wisdom and logic.  A person cannot be argued into or convinced of belief.  The miracles had to have some logical explanation.  Jesus did not fit their mold either.

For the Jews, their history is full of big signs of God’s presence.  The signs are often on the national scale.  All of the firstborn die in Egypt – except the Jewish families were passed over.  The manna and quail come for a long period of time to feed the whole nation in the desert.  God sweeps in the Assyrians and then the Babylonians to deal with the nation’s sin.  Perhaps Jesus giving sight to a blind man or raising one person from the dead were simply too small.  These miracles did not fit into their understanding of God at work amongst the nation.

We are not too far removed from the Jews and Gentiles of Jesus’ day.  Wisdom gets in the way of following Jesus all the time.  We rationalize why we couldn’t possibly do this or that instead of stepping forth in faith. We think we know best and need to be in control instead of trusting in God’s lead.  At times we demand signs too.  We try and strike if-then deals – if You will do this Jesus, then I will…  We want to see Jesus at work in the answer to our prayer or in the resolution to a situation and then we will…

The perspective had also changed.  God’s covenant was with the nation of Israel and it covered individuals.  This is how they wanted Jesus to act too.  They wanted to see the Romans banished in one fell swoop, for example.  But Jesus sought a personal relationship with each believer.  Jesus sought a covenant with individuals that extends to the whole world.  This is still what Christ seeks: a one-on-one relationship with each of us.  This relationship is based upon faith, belief, trust, love…  All are foundational.  And all must be experienced.  This is how the relationship begins and how it grows.  These are our experiences that translate into ‘wisdom’ and ‘signs’.  This is what we have to share with those in our lives who do not have a relationship with Jesus.  Through each of us, may the world come to know Christ, one person at a time.