pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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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.

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Conflict Resolution

Reading: Matthew 18: 15-17

Verse 17: If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.

Today’s passage deals with conflict resolution in the church.  Although the church is intended to be the loving body of Christ and to reflect His light out into the world, at times there is conflict in the church.  Sometimes the conflict involves just two people, but at times the conflict can involve larger groups of people.

Jesus chooses to address conflict resolution in the church because it does happen.  And it is no coincidence that this address follows the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew’s Gospel.  Perhaps Jesus addresses it so directly because He knows a second truth as well – when conflict arises most of us avoid it at almost any cost.  If we are hurt or offended or sinned against by another at church we would much rather “get over it” and avoid further conflict than go and talk with that person.  Yet Jesus tells us to do just that – go and talk with them.  Why?  Because unresolved conflict becomes a murmur always humming just below the surface.  It becomes a feeling that can pervade gatherings and can inhibit the church’s ability to function as the loving body of Christ.

Jesus also gives two more steps to try next to try and resolve the conflict.  If a one on one visit fails, Jesus says to go back with one or two other believers.  Bring someone wise and respected to navigate the waters of reconciliation.  He is not saying to make it three on one but to bring in others who will help both sides come to the table to find resolution.  The next step, should the second step also fail, is to bring it before the whole church.  Hopefully more heads will work together to find a solution that leads to repentance and forgiveness.

At each step the goal is always reconciliation and restoration.  In the end, “If he listens to you, you have won your brother over”.  This is the goal: to help one another along on our journey of faith.  We are called to hold one another accountable.  This is true love in the church – being open and honest and transparent and speaking the truth in  love as we all journey together, each seeking to grow in our faith.


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Search, Know, Lead

Reading: Psalm 139: 13-18 and 23-24

Verses 23 and 24: Search me, O God, and know my heart… Lead me in the way everlasting.

The opening lines of Psalm 139 establish the deep and intimate relationship that David has with God.  In today’s reading, David goes back to the very beginning of life and then asks for God to continue in their present relationship.  It is a lifetime with God.  Over the course of this journey, David has fallen deeply in love with God.

All of us begin as David began – knit together in the womb.  He acknowledges that as he was woven together, God was there and saw his unformed body.  In understanding the process of how he was created, David in turn offers priase for how he was “fearfully and wonderfully made”.  The miracle of life and birth can only be accomplished by the creator of all life: God.  We too offer our praise as we are also the wonderful works of God’s hands.

The Psalm concludes with David’s invitation to God.  He writes, “Search me, O God, and know my heart”.  David invites the One who created him to continue to be present in a very open and totally transparent way.  He willingly opens his heart and soul to God and asks God to search out all the corners and closets – to know him completely.  This is an honesty and a transparency that we are sometimes a little hesitant to offer.  At times, we like to hold onto a little of the control.  At times, we like to keep that secret sin tucked away in the closet.  And at times, we place a part of ourselves in that dark corner, where it can come our from once in a great while.

David, we know, had some of these things in him as well.  To varying degrees we all do.  We find David in a new place today though – in a place where he is inviting God to search and know all of him.  In a way it is an admission that he needed to make to get to the next level in the relationship.  David had to release whatever was left, whatever was holding back the relationship.  Search me, know me, O God.  May we follow David’s example of surrender, offering all of ourselves to God – the good and the bad – knowing that our loving Father will “lead us in the way everlasting”.


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God Story

Reading: Psalm 116: 1-4 and 12-19

Verse 12: How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?

The psalmist begins by declaring his love for God because God heard his voice.  Because of God turning His ear to him, the psalmist commits to call on the Lord as long as he lives.  If only we were so steadfast in our relationship with God.  Sometimes we are more likely to coast in our relationship with God and then to ramp it up when trial or suffering set in on us.

I began my working career as a teacher.  I soon added ‘coach’ to my titles.  Shortly thereafter I added middle school Sunday school teacher.  That was the beginning of a long transition in my life.  Eventually I taught high school Sunday school and that led to working with the youth program.  God continued to work on my heart.  Almost seven years ago I left coaching and went to work serving part time as the youth director at my church.  Almost five years ago I left teaching and became a pastor.  God blessed my path in life and opened many doors for me.  This is one story.  While it is all true, it is not the whole story.

Eleven years and nine years ago I applied for the youth director’s job.  Twice I was not selected as the church hired someone else.  Rejection is always hard.  But perseverance is part of who I am.  And God’s call helped me to continue to be a part of the youths’ lives, He kept me engaged.  Those four years were a part of shaping me, a part of preparing me to do the job when God decided I was ready.  God’s timing is excellent.  It is perfect.

The first part of my story tells how God was at work in my life, slowly drawing me in.  The second part involves some trial and a little suffering, but it too is an essential part of my story.  Like the psalmist, I too must ask, “How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me”?  The first response is to tell my story of what God has done in my life.  The second is to do what the psalmist did: praise the Lord!  What is your God story?  How can you tell it?  And what is your responsive praise to God?


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Universal Love

Reading: Romans 4: 1-5 & 13-17

Paul’s writing today is all about inclusion.  At the time of this writing, Paul was trying to show how universal God’s love is.  Some were hung up on being circumcised and living under the Law as the requirements to be in God’s family.  Paul states that it by faith alone that we receive the promise.  It is through the promise that we are saved.  His argument is based upon salvation by grace alone.  Paul developed this line of thinking from the realization that no one can follow the Law enough or do enough good works to earn or deserve salvation.  Paul knew that it was only by God’s grace that anyone can be saved.  Paul personally experienced this in his own redemption story and it was his life’s work to bring in any and all into God’s family.

This is also our call as individuals and as churches.  There are many people who feel as if they are outside of God’s love.  Some feel they have done too much wrong or have too great a sin, some feel they are too broken, some feel they could never be good enough…  The list is long, the barriers are many.  To all of these people, Paul’s message is that no one is too anything to step into the love of God. All are loved by God.  This is our message to carry forth as well.  The doors of our hearts and the doors of all of our churches need to reflect this idea of universal inclusion.  This means we see all as God sees them, as a child of God.  Yes, they may be less than perfect.  We all are.  News flash.  And yet God offers us all love and grace and forgiveness.  Who are we to draw lines and put up barriers?

May we all have the courage to live out our faith.  May we all be willing to see lost people simply as they are: just another broken child of God who needs to meet their Father.  May each person that crosses our path or walks through the doors of our places of worship encounter the pure and universal love of God in us, opening the way for them to experience God’s love and grace and forgiveness.  God is for all people.  May we help it to be so today.


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One Matters

Reading: Psalm 99: 1-4

Psalm 99 begins by speaking of God’s love of justice and the nation’s response.  They tremble.  God’s justice is universal – it applies to all people.  God’s justice removes power dynamics and the desire to elevate oneself over others and replaced them with equity.  When do much of our world is driven by power, position, and authority, justice stands counter to these forces, instead saying things like ‘the last shall be first’.  Of course the nations tremble.

The call of Christ leads us to stand alongside God and to champion His love for justice and equality.  Through the ages, great men of faith have gone just this, no matter the cost to themselves.  Martin Luther stood against the abuses of the church, preaching that faith alone saves.  All people can tap into faith, meaning all are loved by God, meaning all can be saved without price.  John Wesley stood for equality, believing that all people should have access to the Word of God.  He preached salvation in the fields, streets, and mines, welcoming all people, not just those who met certain qualifications.  Both of these men, and many others too, led to opening the church doors a little wider and expanding the circle of God’s love.

You and I may not be people of Luther’s or Wesley’s fame, but we too are people who are called to stand for justice and equality, to make a positive difference in our world.  We too are called to be people who say ‘no’ to injustice and inequality.  We too can each work to open the doors of our churches a little wider, to welcome all into our communities of faith, and to draw the circle of God’s love even wider.  One sheep that was lost and is now safely in the fold matters.  One son that was wayward and returns home matters.  One widow who finally receives justice matters.  Who will you matter to today?


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Seek God’s Face

Reading: Psalm 27: 1 and 4-9

The emotions we find in the Psalm range from great confidence in God as light and salvation to times struggling with enemies and days of trouble.  The psalmist often repeats the practice of seeking, of finding refuge in God, of seeking God’s face.  There is a relationship with God that remains central in his life no matter what life brings, good or bad.

There is hope for us in the example set by the psalmist.  We too will have good days and bad, days of walking closely with God and days where we are distant from our God.  We can go from the high of worship or an especially moving faith discussion to a busyness of our week that somehow steals away our time with God.  We can allow our day to day worries and concerns to capture all of our attention and focus, and suddenly our faith is adrift.

Let us look to the example of the psalmist.  He constantly comes to God, whether rejoicing in who God is or whether seeking God’s protection.  In the Psalm we find honesty and openness – God can and wants to be in a full relationship with us – not a partial or occasional relationship.  Whether bringing our joys or our concerns, God wants to hear them.  Whether offering our praise and thanksgiving or whether struggling with our doubts and fears, God wants to hear them.

In all things and in all ways, may we seek God’s face.  May we each allow God to be our light in the darkness, our comforter in our pain, our protector in our doubts and fears, and our salvation in this life.  Verse eight reads, “Your face, Lord, I will seek”.  May we seek the Lord our God today!