pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Presence

Reading: Psalm 68: 1-10 & 32-35

Verse 35: The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.

Psalm 68 speaks of God’s love and care for His people.  It begins with protection as God scatters the enemies.  In response, the righteous are glad and rejoice.  God has provided protection.  In the next verses, God helps the widow, the lonely, the prisoners – those on the fringes of society.  Not only does God lead and protect the nation, He also protects the least and the lost.  Surely you and I fit somewhere along this spectrum.  Let us also praise our God who protects and watches over us.

The psalmist then recalls the people’s wilderness experience.  They were freed from slavery in Egypt but wandered for forty years.  God gives them “abundant showers” as they eat their fill of manna and quail.  God led them on and they settled into the Promised Land – the land of bounty.  God again leads and guides and protects the people.  And again the psalmist notes that God also gave from that same bounty to provide for the poor.  In how many ways does God continue to provide for and bless us?  Let us praise the Lord our God!

The Psalm closes by offering singing and praise to God’s power and majesty.  God’s power is revealed to the psalmist in the skies – thunder representing God’s voice.  In the thunder is power and majesty.  The Psalm ends by acknowledging that God also gives power and strength to His people.  Verse 35 reads, “The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people”.  They experienced this in the pillars of cloud and fire in the wilderness.  They experienced this in the partings of the waters and in the crumbling of the walls.  The Israelites had some very tangible experiences with God’s power and majesty.

As we fast-forward a few thousand years, we too have a very real and tangible presence of God in our lives.  Through the gift of the Holy Spirit know that God continues to be near His people.  Through the Spirit we continue to receive God’s protection, guidance, direction, power, and strength.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit provides God’s constant presence in our lives.  It is a wonderful gift.  Through this presence we experience what the psalmist writes about.  For this deep and powerful connection to the Lord our God, may we lift our thanksgiving and praise!

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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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Healing and Wholeness

Reading: Lamentations 1: 1-6

The title of the book from which we read says a lot about the content.  There is much to be sad about.  The words chosen convey this: deserted, desolate, distress, weep, grieve, slave, exile, sins.  It is indeed a dark time in Israel’s history.  It is made even darker because of the reason they are lamenting.  It is not because of a cruel twist of fate or because of a random act of history.  It is because of a long period of sinning against God.

There are times in our lives when we find the need to lament.  These are times when many tears are shed.  The sadness seems deeper when we have had a hand in bringing on the season of lament.  Because of our own poor choices or bad decisions, we find ourselves in the wilderness.  We can look back and see how our own actions have led us to where we are.

The years the Israelites shed were at first tears of sadness.  They looked at their new situation and cried and mourned.  They longed for what was.  This is often our first reaction as well.  But we cannot stop here.  Just as the Israelites realized the error of their ways and repented and came back to God, so too must we learn from our poor choices and bad decisions.  Our tears of regret must lead us to change, to become more than we have become, to repent, and to begin walking as God calls us to walk as disciples of Jesus Christ.

As the Israelites cried tears of repentance, God began to work in their hearts and began to restore them to a righteous relationship once again.  God desires to do the same with each of us each time we go astray, each time we fail, each time we hurt.  We too must repent and turn back to God.  Then God will dry our tears and lead our hearts to turn back to our faith.  There we will find healing and wholeness and love.  There we will be made righteous and holy once again.  May we humbly and earnestly seek the Lord our God.


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Expanding Welcome

Reading: Luke 14:1 and 7-14

Too often we help another person because we foresee repayment.  I’ll come help you move because I know we’re moving in a couple months.  I’ll come help you brand cattle because, well, I own cattle and they’ll need to be branded soon.  I’ll buy a car from you because when you are ready to buy that boat, I know you’ll come to me.  I’ll help you with your event at church because I know the event I lead is just around the corner.

In today’s passage Jesus is saying ‘no’ to think kind of thinking.  It was all too common (and still is today) to think ‘What’s in it for me?’ instead of simply being a good neighbor or following where the Holy Spirit is leading.  When we do things with these attitudes and are only willing to spend time with those just like us, God’s kingdom does not grow very much.  When we rub elbows only with people just like us, then we are keeping the circle small and the walls high.

Jesus came to reverse this.  He ate with the sinners, healed the outcast and poor, talked with the tax collectors, and worked on the Sabbath.  Jesus acknowledges that if we invite only our friends, yes, they will repay us.  He also says that then our reward will be done.  Instead, Jesus says to invite the poor, lame, crippled, and blind.  They cannot repay us but God’s reward will be there in heaven for us.  This is wonderful.  But we are also rewarded here on esrth.

When we serve and live life alongsidethe poor, lame, crippled, blind, and other social outcasts if our day, then we experience true giving.  It is giving without strings attached.  It is pure and free and feels so good.  We also experience true gratitude.  We do so within ourselves when we realize how blessed we are.  We experience it in the thankful and grateful hearts of those we come alongside.  Loving those on the margins and the outcasts aligns us with God’s ways and purposes.  It is here that we are closest to God.  It is here we are truly blessed.


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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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Mary Said “Yes”

Mary’s joy overflows and bursts out through this passage.  Right up front she states that her soul glorifies God and that her spirit rejoices.  Mary is filled with joy over being the one chosen by God to bear His Son because she is of a humble Spirit. She realizes that she is just a humble servant chosen by God to carry out this special role.  Her words that all generations will call her blessed because of what God has done reflect her humble heart.  Mary is well aware that it is God’s hand at work here.

In her words Mary also acknowledges that she is just one of many unexpected ones that God has called.  From early on with Abraham and Rahab on through David and now her, God has chosen the humble to play a role.  This pattern continued with the calling of the disciples and it continues with you and me – often unwilling but chosen nonetheless.

Mary’s song also spells out what we are chosen for.  Like all who have come before, we are called to lead people to God.  We can do no more than to fill our humble role and to trust God with the transformative work that will change people’s lives.  Through our words, actions, and deeds we bring God into the world around us and work to build His kingdom here on the earth.

Mary’s song also reminds us of what this role can include.  It includes condemning and working to fix the inequalities and injustices we see in society.  It includes caring for the poor and the outcast.  It also includes sharing the hope and love we find in Jesus.  Mary Said ‘yes’ to God’s call.  May we as well.

Scripture reference: Luke 1: 46-55


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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