pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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At Work

Reading: Genesis 37: 12-28

Verses 23 and 24: They stripped him of his robe… they threw him into the cistern.

Joseph does not have the best of days.  He heads out to check on his brothers and the flocks and ends up being sold into slavery.  His brothers’ hatred of him most directly leads to this event.  But the hatred did not begin today.  It is something that has been building.  The favored son comes alone, wearing that coat that Dad gave him, and evil thoughts are at hand.  Our text reads, “They stripped him of his robe… they threw him into the cistern”.

We have a tendency to want to blame someone when bad things happen to us.  Sometimes we identity a person or group of people and we cast blame on them.  Sometimes it is an occurrence of nature that causes our hardship.  Sometimes when all else fails, we blame God.  Seldom do we look inward right away to find the source of our troubles or hardship.  Joseph probably first blamed his brothers and then maybe Israel for sending him out alone.  At some points He probably questioned or blamed God.  From what we know of Joseph, it is unlikely that he became introspective.

In reality, many had a hand in what happens to Joseph in our passage today.  Israel has favored and spoiled Joseph.  This day he sends him off alone to a group of brothers who are jealous and dislike Joseph.  Joseph himself has helped build the animosity by sharing his dreams and by tattling on his brothers.  Satan has also been at work, fanning the flames of anger and planting thoughts of murder.

Although God is not mentioned in the text for today, God is also surely at work.  He softens Reuben’s heart and then Judah’s.  The caravan doesn’t just happen to come along.  Yes, in our lives nature, the bad decisions of others, and our own poor choices can cause us hardship and trial.  But in it all, God is still present.  God still has the bigger picture in sight.  His plans for us are ultimately for good and to prosper us.  As Joseph’s story unfolds, trials continue to come yet God remains at work always.  The same is true for us.  As the story of our lives unfold, may we trust into the God who loves us and seeks good for us.


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He Restores My Soul

Reading: Psalm 23: 1-3

Verses 2b and 3a – He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul.

Psalm 23 is well known.  At its core it speaks of resting in and trusting in the Lord.  The Psalm uses the common shepherd-sheep analogy to illustrate our relationship with God.  In a society that was highly agrarian, the original readers would have related well to this analogy.  Today many would have to google it to find a video that explained it.  Articles are just too much.  (I am only half joking.)

The relationship between a shepherd and their sheep is exclusive.  The shepherd will do anything to protect and care for the sheep.  The sheep will only follow the voice of their shepherd.  This very well parallels our ideal relationship with God.

Just as it did in David’s day, life gets busy for us too.  Just as it did back then, the voices of the world were loud and called often.  Just as it was back in the day, we need time to step away, to find some solitude, to reconnect deeply to God.  In the Psalm, this place of quiet and solitude was out in a meadow beside some still waters.  One can easily imagine birds singing as butterflies flutter around.  Just envisioning it brings a lot of peace.

I try and get out to walk each morning.  It is just around the streets of our small community.  As I walk past homes and businesses, there is time to think and pray.  As I walk past churches and the jail and the courthouse and the schools, there is opportunity for specific prayers.  My walk is definitely not through green pastures and the still waters are puddles from melting snow.  But I am outside in God’s creation, enjoying the sounds of the birds, connecting with God in a time of quiet prayer and reflection.  It is good for my soul.

This day may we all find a quiet time and space to be outside in God’s beautiful creation, allowing God’s presence to restore our soul.


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Might and Power

Reading: Psalm 77: 1-2 and 11-20

As our reading opens, the psalmist feels stress and worry and fear.  The writer feels all alone – isolated from people and from God.  It is a hard place to be.  At points in life our problems can seem to mount up like a wall around us.  We cannot see over the top and it seems as if others and God cannot see in.  In these moments we cry out to God and seem to get no response.  We want God or people to come to our aid or to at least bring comfort and it turns out as if all were oblivious to us.

As the song progresses, there is a shift.  The psalmist is perhaps in worship or maybe just the power of the raging storm reawakens his sense of God’s presence.  In either case, the psalmist realizes that God has always been present.  He recalls God’s mighty acts on behalf of the community of faith.  He remembers God’s good news and this lifts his spirit.  In the vastness and power of God the writer comes to see that he is not alone and that there is much more to God than just the personal relationship.

In our lives we too will feel all alone from time to time.  As our problems mount, may we look to the skies, to nature, to history to remind ourselves of God’s presence.  May we recall the story of Jesus and all that God incarnate offers to us.  May we find presence and comfort and strength in His power and majesty.


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Realize and Recognize

Readings: Psalms 47 and 97

Both Psalms exclaim, “God reigns”!  In one we see the physical ways in which we can offer our praise: singing, clapping, shouting, and with instruments.  In the second, we see many ways we can experience or observe this exclamation: clouds, melting mountains, consuming fires, and images of heaven.  In these two Psalms, we see God’s grandeur, we see His glory.

At a concert last night we sang songs of praise to our God and to Jesus.  We also clapped and shouted; the band’s sang and played a variety of instruments to lead our praise and worship.  The Word was also proclaimed and the message of salvation was loud and clear.  Perhaps many of us also experienced something similar in church yesterday morning!  One leaves gatherings such as worhsip or a concert with energy, enthusiasm, and the Spirit of the Lord upon them.  We go forth with an exalted sense of who God is.  We go forth filled with joy, hope, love, and a sense of now being closer to God.

Often this reframed sense of our relationship to and with God causes us to see the world and people around us in a different way.  We exit an experience that drew us closer to God more able to see Him in our world – in nature and in people.  We also can recognize Him in people more quickly and more clearly.  When we choose to draw closer to God we are also choosing to be more like Him.  That joy, love, and hope that we now know better more easily flows from us to others in our lives.  Each time we allow ourselves to connect to, to share, to be a part of His activity in our worlds, the more we come to realize and recognize His presence the next time.  May we ever continue to seek, share, and grow in our relationship with our God!


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Praise the Lord!

Reading: Psalm 148

Praise certainly is the main idea of Psalm 148!  At the beginning is a general call to praise the Lord.  The  praise quickly begins in the heavens with the angels, moon, stars, and sun.  Each is called to praise God for both their own creation and for their eternal place in God’s creation.  Then the Psalm shifts to the earth and calls all to praise the Lord.  The psalmist calls upon the elements and parts of nature that God stirs to life.  Also called are all of the living creatures and all of humanity – from Kings to children to the old.

All of this leads us to see that in our daily life we should offer our praise.  Our praise should be deeply rooted in our prayer life, letting God know how grateful we are for all He has blessed us with.  Our praise should also shine out through our lives in such a way to bring glory to God in all we do.  Just as all of creation reveals God and is called upon to bring Him praise, so should all of our lives.

The Psalm draws near its end recognizing that God alone is to be exalted.  We are to  worship none other than God.  We are not to worship any other being or any other thing.  But in a world that pushes pleasure, self-satisfaction, and individual preferences, this is tough to do.  To worship Him alone takes discipline, dedication, and effort.  Even with  heaping amounts of these, we cannot obey on our own.

At the very end of the Psalm, it is written that the Lord has raised up a horn which is the “praise of all His saints”.  This strong and mighty King is Jesus, the perfector and witness of our faith.  In Him we find the example of how to live a life of praise that brings glory and praise to God alone.  In Jesus we also find the strength to do what we cannot do on our own.  Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we find guidance, direction, correction to help us follow Jesus’ ways and teachings.  May we join all of creation in praising the Lord!!


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Praise

Reading: Psalm 150

Psalm 150 is the last Psalm.  It concludes the fifth ‘book’ within the larger book of Psalms.  But unlike the other four books, it does not end with a conclusion.  All of the other books in Psalms, and most other books in the Bible, have a definite conclusion to them.  Most often it is the word “Amen” and it usually functions much like ‘The End’ does in a novel or movie.

Psalm 150 ends with two sentences that invite a continuation of the action instead.  Verse 6 reads, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord”.  The invitation to praise is not limited either.  It does not say Israel or even human beings but ‘everything’.  As the bird lifts up its song one can certainly find praise in that.  As the cat purrs in response to affection one can feel love and bring God praise.  If one is open to a broad definition of breath, one can connect to God in the gentle breeze on a hot summer day or in the stream gently bubbling along.  From the beauty and awe of nature we often bring praise to God.

So why does God, through the psalmist, close with an open-ended invitation to continue to praise the Lord?  On the large, upper level it is just one more example of the Bible as the living Word of God, always active and moving.  On the more personal level, it is God asking each of us to live a life of praise.  God desires for our verbal praise to be not only daily but frequent within our days.  It is our grateful response to His many blessings.  But it is also more than words.  God desires for our actions to bring Him praise as well.  How we love and care for and treat others, both our friends and family as well as the enemy or stranger, should bring praise to God.  May He so shine in our lives that all we do and say brings praise to the Lord!


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God’s Law

The psalmist declares how wonderful is it is live according to God’s laws.  These perfect and trustworthy laws are more previous than gold for the psalmist.  How these two ideas run counter to our secular culture!  Society is nothing if not tolerant and tells us to live however makes us happy.  In society today, little is more important than wealth, so how could one possibly hold the law above accumulating wealth?

The beginning of Psalm 19 speaks of how the sun encompasses all with its light.  The same is true of God’s laws.  Although many will try to hide from His law, it surrounds them like the sun.  No one can really hide because in the end there will be a consequence for this choice.  So as people living under this perfect law, it is our call and command to show others the joy and peace and contentment we find in God’s ways.

In following God’s law we find life that is truly life.  His ways bring wisdom, enlighten our path, and gives joy to our heart.  The law also protects us from our human nature within.  It leads us away from living for our human desires and helps us to find contentment and peace in what God blessed us with from out of His goodness.  His ways allow us to live good, orderly, happy lives.

To live according to God’s laws and as He intended us to live is harder than living by the world’s ways.  It is a hard choice to make in today’s culture.  The culture says that getting more and more and more is the path to the good life.  But we know where that path ends up.  There is a more perfect way – the way of God.  May we live by God’s ways this day and every day so that we find true peace, joy, and contentment in this earthly life and in the eternal life that is to come.

Scripture reference: Psalm 19: 7-14