pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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I am There

Reading: Psalm 22: 1-15

Verse 11: “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help”.

Psalm 22 is full of emotion. David is struggling and he is honest with God about it. This Psalm of Lament almost makes us feel uncomfortable as we read it. Our culture is one of self-reliance and putting on a good face, no matter what the challenge and no matter what is going on inside of us. To feel the honest emotions and to utter the deep cry within us is something we have all experienced. But it is another thing to hear it. Imagine the reaction if your pastor or someone in the congregation uttered such a prayer this weekend in church.

In our Psalm today David expresses things we all have felt. He asks the “where are you God?” questions. He recalls the times that God has been there for others who called out and were answered. To this he asks, “why not me too”? And he reminds God that he has been a faithful follower since birth – “isn’t that worth something God”? These are all questions we want to scream at God from time to time. We surely do in our inner being at times. The Psalm tells us we can do this out loud, in the assembly of believers, in the place where others can join in our prayers and in our suffering.

In verse 11 David writes, “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help”. Yes, we too feel this way at times. And, yes, we can remain isolated in our hurt. Or we can be honest and open with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can trust in the power of community that God created us to live in. We can lay our burdens amongst the believers so that we do not journey alone. When the fires rage and the storms rise, may we come to one another for companionship in the valley. “For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20).

Lord, help me to be open and honest with my fellow believers. Help me to be transparent, sharing my struggles and trials so that I do not want alone. Joining together, we experience your presence too. Grant me the courage and humility to be vulnerable. May it be so. Amen.

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For Us

Reading: Mark 9: 38-41

Verse 40: “For whoever is not against us is for us”.

Who is in? Who is out? What do I have to do to be a part of this group or organization? What are the rules?

These are the questions we ask. We prefer rule and order. We like to be around people who are like us, people who have similar interests and hobbies, people who see the world as we see the world. It is even the way of the natural world. Lions hang out with lions, chickadees with chickadees.

In today’s passage, John asks Jesus about a man they do not know. This man was driving out demons in Jesus’ name. The disciples initial reaction was to tell the man to stop because he is not one of them. Who could walk into the church tomorrow morning and draw a similar reaction?

John is struggling with the opening questions that I posed today. This man is out, he is not part of their group, he is not following all the right rules. To John, one must be part of the group that follows Jesus 24-7. If you do not follow this rule, you better not be doing miracles in Jesus’ name. Jesus does not see it this way. Not even close. Jesus says to John and the disciples, “Whoever is not against us is for us”. Here we see Jesus once again being inclusive instead of exclusive.

If Jesus were the pastor left in our church tomorrow and “that” person or persons walked in, He would welcome them, introduce himself, help them to find a good seat, and would make sure they got coffee and cookies after church. He sees this man driving out demons as being for the kingdom. He wants His disciples to see people this way too. If you are not against us you are for us. For Jesus, all are welcome in the kingdom, all are invited. May we see all people this way too.

Lord, help me to be inclusive and welcoming and open to all people. When my heart or mind begins to erect barriers, smash them down. Give me eyes to see as Jesus saw and a heart to love as He loved. Amen.


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A Choice

Reading: Ephesians 4: 25-29

Verse 25: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body”.

Today’s five verses form four messages unto themselves. Paul begins with, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body”. In other words, do not say what others want to hear but speak the truth in love. Sometimes it is hard to say or hear, but truth is truth. Why let a neighbor pursue something that is hurtful or sinful when you can help them back to the righteous path?

The next verse is about anger. Paul’s advice – do not act out of a place of anger and do not let it fester. Find the middle ground. Offer forgiveness, be a part of reconciliation, be open to differing thoughts and opinions, allow the Holy Spirit to guide your words and actions. Why? Because when we give anger control, then we are giving the devil a foothold. Satan is already working hard enough to pry us away from our faith. Why give him a straight path into your life?

Verse 28 calls for us to work, to do something useful. Paul equates choosing not to work with stealing. Do not take from others (or the government) when you are able to work. And as a bonus you will be able to bless those truly in need. Work is good for us. Plain and simple. It is God’s design.

The last verse is a warning, followed by a better option. Paul writes, “Don’t let unwholesome talk come out of your mouths”. Don’t slander, don’t lie, don’t gossip, don’t curse, don’t judge, don’t insult, don’t quarrel, don’t grumble, don’t complain… Yes, this list is long but also very incomplete. There are many other ways that unwholesome talk escapes our lips. Paul says, instead speak only words that build others up. When we use words to encourage, to compliment, to applaud, to edify… then we build one another up in love.

Each of these ideas are choices. We can choose to do the Christian thing or we can choose the earthly thing. We can build up or we can tear down. We can glorify God or we can elevate Satan. We can walk the narrow path that leads to life or we can meander the wide way that leads to death. It is a choice. Like Joshua declared, may we too declare each day that we will serve the Lord. It is a choice. May our choice ever be for God.


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Opened Wide

Reading: Galatians 4: 4-7

Verse Seven: “You are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir”.

Today’s text is a great reminder of the depth of God’s love for us.  Prior to the coming of Jesus, there was one relatively small group of people who were blessed to be in the family of God.  A small band of twelve tribes were the “chosen people”.  But then, “when the time had fully come, God sent His Son”.  It was then that the door began to open for you and me.

In God’s wisdom the time had come to establish a new covenant.  It was not quite the extensive makeover that came with Noah and the flood, but what God had in store was a pretty radical shift.  But even the sin that had come into the world through Adam survived that flood.  Humanity remained under the law of sin and death.  So God sent His Son to “redeem those under the law”.  That is you and me and all of humanity.  God sent Jesus to a pretty big crowd of people.

As Jesus ministered to those He met, a couple of things became clear.  First, Jesus cared for and loved all people.  It did not matter who or what you are or were, Jesus loved you just as you came.  There were no hoops to jump through, no boxes to check off, no barriers to keep people out.  Second, Jesus was a humble servant who was obedient to God alone.  From washing feet, to welcoming sinners, to touching the unclean, to healing the hurt and broken and damaged, to going to the cross – Jesus offered all He could.  Why did Jesus do all of this?  To make a way for you and me, so that we “might receive the full rights of sons”.

Full rights means we are in.  We are part of God’s family and part of His plan of salvation.  As a child of God, we are loved and cared for, protected and provided for.  As a child of God, we are privy to the Holy Spirit and to the gift of eternal life.  Before Jesus, we would just be another Gentile on the outside looking in.  But with Jesus, we are now a part of the family.  Jesus was such an amazing gift to the world.  Jesus is such an amazing gift to you and me.

Paul concludes our passage today with these words: “You are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir”.  Through His blood we have been set free from our slavery to sin and death.  Through His love we have been made children of God.  The door has been opened Wide so that all may enter in.  Praise be to God!  Thank you Jesus!


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Wonder, Imagine

Reading: 2nd Samuel 7: 1-11 and 16

Verse Sixteen: “Your house and kingdom will endure forever before me”.

I wonder if as a young boy out in the fields tending the sheep if David ever dreamed of being king.  I wonder if a a teen bringing food to his brothers who were off to war if David ever imagined replacing Saul as the king of Israel.  I wonder if after David established himself on the throne if he wondered if there could be more.

As David settles into the beautiful palace that he has built for himself, he considers the ark of the covenant.  In many ways the ark represents God’s presence with the chosen people.  Since the days of Moses, the ark has been dwelling in the tabernacle – a divinely designed and excellently functioning portable tent.  Following success after success David is “comfortable”.  David does attribute his success to God so it is natural for him to think of doing something nice for God, almost as a way to say or give thanks.  So David decides to build a temple for God and for the ark of the covenant.  It is a wonderful and kind thought, but God has other plans.

I wonder if we are ever like David – thinking things are good or just fine while God has more in the works.  I wonder if we are ever like David – thinking we’ll do something ‘nice’ for God when God turns around and amazes us.

In our passage today God says that it is nice that David wants to build a temple, but, now now, I have bigger plans at work.  God says to David, “Your house and kingdom will endure forever before me”.  I wonder if David thought beyond a generation or two and really imagined what God was saying here.  I wonder if David imagined that God’s promise would culminate with a baby born in a manger in tiny Bethlehem.

I wonder if God has anything at work in my life right now that I am unaware of or don’t even realize is in motion.  I wonder.  Do you ever wonder about this?  May we be open to the impossible that God wants to do through each and every one of us.


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Seek God

Reading: Judges 4: 1-7

Verse Three: “They cried to the Lord for help”.

Sometimes we find ourselves crying out to God because of something we have done.  Sometimes it is because life has brought us a trial or circumstance.  In either case we find ourselves at the point the Israelites find themselves.  Their sin has led God to give them over to a foreign king.  King Jabin cruelly oppresses them.  They know why they are being oppressed and they take it for 20 years.  Finally they have had enough.  Verse three tells us that then, “They cried to the Lord for help”.  In life, w all get to this place at times.

The Israelites experience this cycle over and over again.  Temptation leads to sin, continued sin leads to punishment, punishment leads to prayer, prayer leads them back to God, God responds and restores.  The sins are usually following other gods, not following the one true God.  And always, always, always, God waits patiently for His people to return to Him.  And He loves them again like the transgression never even happened.  It is an amazing love and an amazing grace.

In faith the Israelites returned to prayer.  Through prayer the possibility of God’s action became real.  The possibility lead to expectation and hope.  Living into the expectation lead to action on their part.  Deborah called Barak and he gathered an army, expecting God to lead.  And He did.

We may be in the midst of something today.  The trial may come tomorrow or next year.  Maybe the Holy Spirit is convicting us of a sin in our life.  Whatever and whenever, our response should be the same as the Israelites.  May our faith in God lead us to our knees as we seek God’s hand to be at work.  May we expectantly live, being open to and aware of how God goes to work, seeking to come alongside of God to do our part, seeking His redemption or restoration or simply guidance.  God has an amazing love and an amazing grace to share with us, His children.  May we seek God today.


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God Moments

Reading: Exodus 24: 19-25

Verse 21: All that night the Lord drove back the sea.

The Israelites experience God’s presence in several ways in today’s passage.  God moves the pillar of cloud to be a barrier to keep the Egyptian army at bay.  This same cloud gives light in the darkness so the Israelites can move.  God next provides a way: “All that night the Lord drove back the sea”.  The sea floor is made dry and the people of God pass over.  That same sea bed is made muddy and the Egyptians get mired down.  Chariots wheels fall off, stalling them out completely so that the waters can come over them all – drowning every single Egyptian soldier.  God at work in powerful ways.

Al times we too can see God at work n our lives.  Some of the time we can see how God has opened a door or provided a way when we saw none, bringing hope, relief, joy…  Other times a door closes or we become stymied.  After our initial frustration we find a new way or a path forward.  In both cases we can see God at work when we look back and reflect.  It is almost as if there were step by step instructions being worked out as we wandered along.  It is only with some reflection that we can see God’s hand at work.

Just as with the Israelites, we too remember these times of God’s hand at work and we rejoice.  Our faith grows as we see how God has worked plans once again for our good, demonstrating His great love for us.  This day may we look back at some of our God moments and bring God our praise.