pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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18″ Journey

Reading: Job 42: 1-6

Verse 5: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you”.

In our passage today, for Job, God has made that 18″ journey. Previous to his great trials, Job was a righteous man. He was obedient in following the Law. He worshipped God on the Sabbath, he gave to his local synagogue, he spoke to God daily. In life, Job was an honest man, a hard worker, a person who could be counted on. Job lived a blessed life – a wife, lots of children, large herds and flocks, many servants, good friends. Job was blessed and saw God as the source of his blessings.

Then one horrible day the storm hit and Job’s world was rocked. It was not a doctor saying they had found cancer. It was not a spouse saying they were done with the marriage. It was not a boss handing him a pink slip. These are horrible things that we and those we love experience. For Job, it was losing all of his kids, flocks, herds, and servants. And then being covered in painful sores.

Job succeeded in two things during his trial: he knew that God was still with him and he knew that God was ultimately in control. Yes, Job questioned why all this was happening to him – much like we do in our trials. But Job held onto God. In the wrestling with and questioning of God, Job was transformed. Verse 5 speaks of this: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you”. Job knew who God was and he followed all His rules – because that is what you do. He knew who God was and he followed out of obedience. But then Job experienced God up close and personal. He got to know God because of and through the trial. God made that 18″ journey from head to heart. Job now had a personal relationship with God.

If God exists in your head, may the Lord bless you with a season of wrestling and questioning, drawing you into relationship. If God dwells in your heart, join me in rejoicing as we shout “thanks be to God”!

Lord, I thank you for dwelling in my heart. I thank you for such a great love that loves even me. I pray for my fellow brothers and sisters who have begun their journey but gave yet to surrender their heart. Move in them, Lord, to become the king of the throne of their heart as well. May it be so. Amen.


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Humble Submission

Reading: James 4: 7-8a

Verse 8a: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you”.

In our short one and a half verses, James gives us three pieces of advice. In James 4 he has just finished quoting Proverbs 3:34, which says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. When we are proud and allow pride to guide our words and thoughts, then we have trouble with today’s advice.

Most Christians are rule followers. In general. Sometimes we follow the rules because of circumstances. For example, in my old truck I do not drive 80 miles per hour on the interstate. 80 is the rule. I could physically drive 80 and the truck can too, but the gas mileage plummets and I am cheap. Most of the time, though, I do follow the rules because it is simply the right thing to do.

Sometimes rules do not make sense or we know they are wrong. In the cases when the rule does not make sense, we struggle to follow it. But when the rules are wrong, as Christians, we must take a stand. Such was the case back in the 1960s, when rules excluded or denied or segregated based on race. These rules were broken by and protested against by people, bringing reform to a bad system. Although it is sometimes long and hard, what is right usually wins out in the end.

Today, James is advising us to follow a rule that is both good for us and is in alignment with our faith. James says to submit to God. Tying in the verse from Proverbs, we are to humbly submit to God. Yes, it is good and right to do so. No, we cannot argue or protest against this rule. Yet at times we struggle to follow it. The devil is always at work, trying to tempt us. It is precisely then that we must over God. When we obey God, we are resisting the devil. When we obey God, the devil flees. And then we receive the promise: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you”. Come to God and He’ll come to you. Draw near and rest in His presence. Connect with God and live in His light and love. How could life be any better?

O Lord, my God, in humble submission I draw near to you. In awe, I come into your presence. It is a good place to be. Fill me up with your love and grace and mercy and compassion. Fill me to overflowing, so that you can flow out of me and into the lives of those I meet today. Amen.


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On the Throne

Reading: 1 Samuel 8: 4-20

Verse Seven: And the Lord told him… “It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me”.

The Israelites come to Samuel with a request: give us a king. The people want a king to lead them. A king rallies the troops and goes out in battle before the army. A king can negotiate with the nations around them. The people say, “then we will be like other nations”. But this is not God’s plan. This was not God’s intent for the chosen people.

Samuel senses right away that their request is a bad idea. Their request displeased Samuel. But God says to him, “It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me”. Yes, Samuel is God’s voice as the prophet, but it is ultimately God that they are rejecting as their leader. The Israelites are creating a system that we ourselves know is difficult to follow. One cannot serve two masters. One cannot chose both God and the world.

Samuel gives the people a litany of ways that a king will use his power to take their sons and daughters, their crops and livestock, and even some of them as slaves. The people do not heed the warning. They simply say again, ‘give us a king – we want to be like all the other nations around us’.

We too can sense the danger in this line of thinking. We question the logic. But how often do we choose other ‘kings’ over our relationship with the one true King? The primary king we often choose is self, placing ourselves on the throne of our heart. When we do do we soon are like the Israelites, focusing on the other things of the world in pretty short order: power, possessions, status, recognition, popularity… We top it off by justifying it, saying we’re just like all the other people around us. This too is a rejection of God. But God will never force or coerce us into loving or obeying. God is a true King.

When we are tempted to follow anyone or anything other than God, may we remember the cost of that choice. May we also remember the awesome place we find ourselves when we keep God on the throne of our hearts.


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Filled with Joy

Reading: John 15: 9-11

Verse Eleven: “…so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete”.

Jesus loves you. Jesus loves me! He invites us to remain in His love. It is a wonderful place to be – in Jesus’ love. Jesus tells us that to remain in His love we must obey His commands. Jesus obeyed God’s commands and remained in God’s love. He invites us to do the same. Why is Jesus telling us this? “…so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete”. Love brings joy. Jesus loves you and me.

Love brings joy primarily two ways. One way is by feeling loved. As children, when we felt especially loved by our parents, we felt joy in our hearts. The first time you kissed your first love, you felt joy in your heart. When we experience the love of God in the ways He interacts with and intercedes in our lives, we feel joy in our hearts. For example, today when we partake in communion and once again remember the love that Jesus poured out with His life, we will feel joy in our hearts.

The second way we can have our joy made complete is by being Jesus’ hands and feet, by bringing His light and love to others. When we take time to stop our busy lives to love and serve another in need, the Lord fills our hearts with joy. This happens frequently for me on mission trips. It can be through the changes I can see happening as God goes to work in that young person’s life. It can be in the absolute gratitude expressed by someone we have blessed with a handicap ramp or new roof. And sometimes this joy sneaks up on you. It happens when someone you have not seen in a while comes up to you and says, “Do you remember the time when…?” and goes on to tell you how much what you did or said meant to them. They say it made the difference. Your heart is suddenly filled with joy.

Jesus’ command was to love as I have loved you. His love was limitless and knew no bounds; it was given to all. Jesus loves you and me. May we go forth and love as He loves you and me. Amen and amen!


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Grow Well

Reading: John 15: 9-17

Verse Sixteen: “You did not choose me, but I chose you… to go and bear fruit”.

“Love each other as I have loved you”. This is the command we find in verse twelve of today’s passage. But Jesus, you were perfect, the incarnation of God in the flesh. And I am just a simple human being, often tempted by the things of this world. Jesus, you were so smart – you knew just what to say or do at just the right moments. I stumble and bumble and bumble opportunities.

Yes, this passage from John 15 is beautiful in its imagery of a loving relationship, but sometimes I feel inadequate. Yes, this passage promises that God will give whatever I ask in Jesus’ name, but at times I feel unworthy and powerless to ask. I do try to remain in God’s love and to obey the commands. On our own, we are destined to fall short and to fail. But through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, “everything I learned from my Father I have made known to you”. The Spirit reminds us and teaches us what we need to know, helping us to live in an intimate connection with Jesus.

In our passage we see that Jesus makes the choice to exit the master-servant relationship and to enter into a friend-friend relationship instead. This new relationship is based upon love instead of on hierarchy and power. It also shifts our role in the relationship. Instead of doing because we are “supposed” to or because it is our “job”, we do out of a mutual love and affection. When this is our perspective, we “abide” in His love. It is from this place of constant presence that we can love one another as He first loved us.

Jesus also says in our passage today, “You did not choose me, but I chose you… to go and bear fruit”. Much like the first twelve disciples, we are chosen by Jesus. It feels good to know that Jesus picked you and me. He does have an expectation that He voices. Jesus picks us to go and bear fruit. Bearing fruit comes after planting seeds. We plant seeds by sharing the Word and by being Jesus to others. In doing so we become more like Him.

Athanasius, an early church father, wrote, “He became what we are that we might become what He is”. Jesus lived and modeled love so that we could live and model love. In doing so, we grow in His image. May we grow well today.


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Central Command

Reading: 1st John 3: 18-24

Verse 23: “This is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another”.

We are reminded many times in 1st John that we are “children” of God. In calling followers of Jesus children of God, John is establishing a certain relationship. As children of God we have a father who loves us and cares for us. God is a father that wants the absolute best for His children. God is an understanding father that accepts us as we are yet always wants to see more out of us as we grow to become more and more like His Son, Jesus.

Like we are with our earthly fathers, we too want to please God our heavenly father. John echoes this as he writes, “we obey His commands and do what pleases Him”. The result is also the same as it is with our earthly fathers as we “receive from Him anything we ask”. My dad would have given me anything I wanted on two conditions: if he could and if it was good for me. Our heavenly father does not deal with the first limitation but does give in accordance with what is best for us.

John identifies a central command in today’s passage: “This is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another”. The first part is to believe in Jesus Christ. To do so we first confess Jesus as the Lord of our life and we accept Him as our Savior. In belief we receive the Holy Spirit, which dwells in us and leads and guides us to be ever more like Jesus. The second part of the command flows out of this first part. As we grow to be more and more like Jesus, we naturally do more and more of what He did. Jesus’ key action was to love others. This too is our command: love one another.

Both parts of this command are challenging at times. Our inner self seeks to be in control as the desires of the flesh rise up from time to time. At other times we find it hard to love one another as Satan works to separate us from His love by deceiving us and by telling us lies. Yet even the powerful allies of self and Satan cannot ever fully overcome the love of Jesus Christ that is in us. This love is always in us. John writes, “this is how we know… by the Spirit He gave us”. The Holy Spirit is also always at work, countering the desires of self and the work of Satan, always reminding us that we belong to Jesus and that we are a dearly beloved child of God. Thanks be to God for the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. May the Spirit ever lead and guide us. Amen.


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Your Will

Reading: Genesis 24: 42-49

Verse 42: O Lord… if you will, please Grant success on the journey to which I have come.

In today’s passage, Abraham’s servant recounts what happened at the well.  In doing so he is trying to persuade them to allow Rebekah to go and become Isaac’s wife.  In a way, it is a very strange request.  This stranger shows up and wants to take your daughter or sister off to a far away land.  But as the story unfolds, two things become apparent to Bethuel and Laban.  First, this man has been sent by Abraham.  Lava’s father is Abraham’s brother.  This is family!  Second, God is clearly at work in this process.  Through earnest prayer and deep trust in God’s guidance, the servant has been led to the well and now to their home.  God’s presence flows throughout the recounting of the story.

Sometimes we too can experience God’s presence in the midst of our unfolding lives.  For me it is most often becomes apparent after the fact.  I look back on some event or experience and I can see how God led me this way or orchestrated that to happen.  In these cases it is reassuring that God was present and guided me.  But once in a while we realize that God’s hand is active right in the midst of an event or experience.  We have a sense that God is actively there.  It is almost as if we were being washed along by the current.  We are there, but only sort of.  We are acting on behalf of God and He is fully in control of us and of the situation.

In our story today, the faithful servant invites God’s guidance and direction and really triggers God’s active hand.  He earnestly wants God to lead and guide him.  He is boldly praying a prayer I sometimes only half pray.  When the faithful servant prays the “let your will be done” prayer, there is no ‘but’ or any other condition or stipulation.  It is simply here I am Lord, let’s go!  This day, may I live more fully into the example set by this faithful servant of God.  This day may your will be done O Lord.