pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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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.

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Hope and Promise

Reading: Isaiah 11: 1-5

In many places winter is settling in.  On the coldest of windy days, one just wants to hunker down inside with a good book and a cozy blanket.  In this way, one finds a little comfort and solace in a harsh world outside.  In today’s passage, Isaiah is offering a vision filled with words of hope and promise.  The people are in exile.  Their surroundings are secular, polytheistic, and oppressive.  To a degree, they have begun to ask God how long this season of exile will last.

Into this despair and a growing sense of abandonment, God uses Isaiah to speak a word of hope.  Isaiah speaks of a shoot that will come up.  Just like us looking for that first burst of green after a long winter, Isaiah tells of a time coming soon when hope and promise will rise up from the house of Jesse.  Isaiah goes on to describe this new King – He will reign with wisdom and understanding and power and knowledge.  To these Isaiah adds that the King will give wise counsel and will live with a fear of God.  And not only all of this, but the king will also stand for the needy and those dealing with injustice.  To a people living in oppressive exile, someone who reigns by righteousness and faithfulness would provide great hope and promise.

Many living today need to hear these words of hope and promise.  Many in our country and probably some in all of our communities need to find a little hope and promise.  Some in our congregations need to know hope and promise.  Hope and promise abound in this passage from Isaiah.  A king who loves and cares for the needy and oppressed, one who rules with justice and righteousness – this is a king many need.  This King comes to us again this year in a manger, soon to be celebrated in all of our churches.  In this season where we prepare to welcome again the baby Jesus, may we also share the King of Kings, the King of justice and righteousness with a world so in need.  May we each share the King’s hope and promise this day.


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God’s Economy

Reading: 1 Kings 21: 1-21a

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  The wealthy strive to attain more and more while the marginalized cling to what little they have.  The powerful use the system to add to their position and possessions; the downtrodden feel trapped and isolated.  This is part of the world’s economy.

The last shall be first.  When you do this for one of the least of these…  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Love one another as I first loved you.  Do not go over your field a second time and do not harvest all the way to the edges.  These things are part of God’s economy.

In Elijah’s time the precedent was set for the king to care for and protect the people.  The king’s role had been established in the desert when God gave t he covenant.  The king was to be the champion of the oppressed, the poor, the widow.  But King Ahab strayed far from this idea of benevolent king.  Queen Jezebel, who was not an Israelite, certainly helped this departure from God’s covenant.

Today many stray from the commands of God.  Today many, like Ahab and Jezebel, seek to place themselves and their desires far above God’s.  The forces that drive the world’s economy are powerful.  The pull on individuals to be successful in the world’s eyes is strong.  Injustice and oppression often occur as the costs of the world’s economy.

God stand opposed to these things and calls on His children to do the same.  We are called to be servants to one another and to share His blessings with those in need.  God desires for our hearts to grow to become His heart, loving and caring for those with less.  May we bring God into the world, being a people who give freely and love deeply.  May we lay aside self and seek to care for the needs of all of His children.


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Hope … in a Child

Hannah’s prayer is answered and she gives birth to a son.  After weaning him, Samuel is given to Eli the priest to fulfill her pledge to God: “as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.”  For the end to long years of shame and feelings of inadequacy and out of thanks for God answering her prayers, Samuel is given as a gift to the Lord.

Following these events Hannah offers up a moving prayer to the Lord.  One might expect it to be thanking God for a child or seeking blessings upon his life.  But it is not.  One can read Hannah’s experience into the prayer, but it is much more about God and who God is for us all.  It speaks of no rock like our God.  It reminds us that He raises the faithful up.  It tells us that God raises up the poor and needy to seats of honor.  It warns of what God will bring to those who think they are high and mighty.  The prayer flows with God’s love, grace, mercy, justice, and equality.  The prayer is quite upside down compared to the society of Hannah’s day – and to our’s today as well.

Yet today we still have hope in a child who was born to us, who descended from heaven’s riches and glory to dwell among us and to live a poor and simple life here on earth.  In Jesus we are taught that love, grace, mercy, justice, and equality are what matters and that we are to live our lives sharing these with others.  In Christ we learn that none of thee can be earned but that they are freely given so that we too can freely give them away to others.  Through His promise and by His example, may we do so today.

Scripture reference: 1 Samuel 2: 1-10


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Moments and Encounters

Anthony came to church yesterday.  He arrived almost at the end of the 9:30 service. I recognized his face but couldn’t remember his name.  I confessed that to him as I greeted him at the back of the sanctuary.  He kindly reminded me and he apologized for being so late.  I assured him that is was OK and shared that I was glad to see him in church again.  Anthony asked for a Coke and I went downstairs and bought him one.  He did not follow me downstairs but he did wait for my return at the top of the stairs.  After a couple cookies and some conversation with others in the Parlor, Anthony headed off for the next part of his day.  Our paths will cross again.

In encounters such as these, I often wonder if I did enough.  It was a good chat and I was able to meet his request for a pop, but should have I done more?  In the time and space between services on a busy Sunday morning, it was probably what I could offer.  And maybe Anthony sensed that and kept his request simple as well.  And now I will remember his name next time so I can start our conversation by greeting him by name when our paths cross again.  In asking the question about doing enough, we prepare ourselves to do a little more the next time.

Our God has a special place in His heart for the poor and needy, for the widow and the orphan, for the  destitute and powerless.  In many places in the Bible we read about this love and our charge to care for those in need.  In those moments and encounters today and in the week ahead, may we offer all we can, seeking to be His hands and feet.

Scripture reference: Proverbs 22: 1-2, 8-9, and 22-23


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Willingness to Give

In many places in the Bible we are called to give. We are called to give of our time, our talents, and our gifts. We find this call in other religions as well. On our confirmation trip to Denver this past weekend, we heard this call to give to those in need echoed in the foundational beliefs of the Jewish and the Muslim faiths. To give to those in need is such a basic human drive when we can set selfishness aside and allow our natural compassion to rise to the surface.

In Leviticus 19 God directs the farmers to leave the produce missed in the first picking so that the poor and the traveler may come and glean from the fields. God instructs them not to pick all the way to the edges and not to go over the field a second time. In the New Testament we see Jesus and his disciples being the recipient of this practice. When harvests were bountiful, this must not have been so hard to do. But in a year with drought and a poor crop coming in, a farmer would be tempted to get every last grape or head of grain out of the field. Society knew this practice was in place and that people could come glean from the harvested fields. Because it was a social norm, it removed the need for the poor and alien to have to come beg from the landowner. It was an early form of social justice and loving neighbor in the biggest sense of the word neighbor.

So… how do we seek to administer similar acts of social justice and giving? How do we honor the call to share our time, talents, and gifts? How intertwined these can be!! For most the simplest way is to share our gifts (money) – we give some back to the church to use in various outreach and mission projects or causes. Some also chose to donate directly to a cause or to sponsor a child in a third world country. We may volunteer to teach Sunday school or to help with Youth group or donate some time each week through a program like CASA that helps those in need. All great ways to say ‘thank you’ to God for all that he has blessed us with. All ways to share with our neighbor the things that God has given to us!

However we chose to make a difference in our world, it is all based on the same underlying idea. All that we have is God’s. In the days of old Israel, the farmers got to keep almost all of the crop that God had blessed them with. Today if you go so far as to tithe, you still get to keep 90% of what God has blessed you with. May we joyfully give from what we have been blessed with!! In the end, it is all God’s anyway!!