pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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In the Midst

Reading: Jeremiah 23: 1-6

Verse 1: “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture”.

The overall theme of our passage from Jeremiah 23 is that one day the Lord will reign. In essence, we know the end of the story. Even though we know this, sometimes we endure hardship and suffering during the story. Jeremiah begins our passage by addressing the bad shepherds who are negatively affecting the flock of Israel. To these the Lord declares, “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture”. This word of warning comes with some explanation.

God is speaking to those who are leading Israel. The kings and priests are the primary leaders. These leaders have scattered parts of the flock. By not caring for and watching out for the most vulnerable of the sheep, they have driven them away. These have sought care and protection elsewhere. Unfortunately, they often find greater danger outside the flock. The hardening of hearts within the flock has led to destruction. Love and care and empathy for one another is a memory. When the leaders become inwardly focused, soon the people do too. God promises to bring evil on these bad shepherds.

This word from Jeremiah remains relevant today. On many days it seems that our leaders are more concerned with fighting each other than they are with leading and caring for the people. The cost of this is great. The more they fight, the more the sheep scatter and wander into isolated camps. The hurling of bombs from afar leaves no space in the middle. The two polarized ends see anyone not in their camp as the opposition. The arts of dialogue and compromise and win-win seem to be lost. But we must remember we are just in the midst of the story. Jeremiah also reminds us, “the days are coming”. Christ will reign. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: God, help us to see more than just ourselves, more than our own little camp. Open our hearts to the other, to sitting at the table even with those that we are not totally aligned with. Remind us over and over that there is but one God, one Christ, and one Holy Spirit. Thank you, God. Amen.


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Refuge

Reading: Psalm 71: 1-6

The psalmist is experiencing a rough season.  The writer desires to seek refuge in God and to find a place away from their attackers.  There are pleas for God to rescue and deliver, to save.  The psalmist turns to God for help.

At times in life we may also feel like we are under assault.  We may feel like things are stacked against us or that life is a lot uphill lately.  When this is just a day or maybe a few days in a row, we can usually lean on God to help push us through.  Soon enough we see daylight and are thankful for God’s presence and strength that helped us endure and remain faithful.  But what about those times when a few days turns into a few weeks, maybe longer?  It is in this place that we find the psalmist.

We can relate to the psalmist.  It feels as if attackers and other negative people are all around us.  We think we are remaining faithful and obedient to serving God.  So why the conflict?  Why the opposition?  It seems unfair and unjust.  It becomes a tipping point.

Maybe we have stepped where we shouldn’t.  Maybe we have followed our own plans instead of God’s.  So maybe the opposition is calling us into check, back into alignment with God.  Maybe the trial is to refine or define or purify our faith.  When we are deep in a time of trial the temptation can be to turn away from God and to run to something else.  So maybe the discomfort forces us to really look at our faith, to define or refine our trust in God, or to deepen our faith.  It may be a season that yields growth.

There will be times of conflict and opposition when we serve God.  It is Satan’s best trick – doubt, questioning, fear.  It is his attempt to derail us.  The psalmist wrote, “Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go”.  May the Lord our God always be our rock of refuge.  In God we can trust.