pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Thanks

Reading: Psalm 100

Verse Five: For the Lord is good and His love endures forever.

In my Bible, the subtitle to Psalm 100 is: “A Psalm.  For giving thanks”.  After reading through the Psalm it is certainly a fitting subtitle!  The psalmist begins by calling us to shout for joy and to worship with gladness and then he gives us the why: know that the Lord is God.  He goes on to remind us that God made each of us and therefore “we are his people, we are the sheep of his pasture”.  It is a good reminder for us.

Sometimes life can get crazy and the busyness can feel overwhelming.  We can almost feel as if we are so busy we are moving near paralysis.  Our minds get consumed by the worries and pressures to the point of feeling we are near to collapse.  It is in these moments that the Psalm is an excellent reminder.  It calls us to slow down for a time, to step back from life, and to step into God’s presence.  The words remind us of the bigger picture – we are his people – and this lessens the importance of the things of this world.  In our craziness may we remember to slow down and to connect to God.

The second stanza again picks up the call to praise God, to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise”.  Being thankful is essential to being content.  And being content holds the world and it’s craziness at bay.  Part of my morning routine is my little ‘thank book’s.  I write out five to eight things from the day before that I am thankful for and then I pray through each one.  In giving thanks I can see God’s faithfulness and love for me.

The ending of the Psalm echoes this idea: “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever”.  God was and is and always will be.  No matter what this world brings or has in store for us, God and his love are forever.  Thanks be to God.


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Honor Creation

Reading: Psalm 8

Verse Six: You made him ruler over the world of your hands, You put everything under his feet.

Psalm 8 opens with praise for God.  It then shifts to acknowledge the glory and wonder found in the works of His hands.  Mankind enters the picture in verse four.  “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” reminds us that relative to the heavens, moon, and stars, mankind is a little less.  Yet we are still deeply loved by God.

Verses six through eight establishes the hierarchy here on earth.  Verse six reads, “You made him ruler over the world of your hands, You put everything under his feet”.  This verse clearly establishes mankind as the ruler of the earthly world.  The word “everything” is pretty inclusive.  The list that comes next covers it: flocks, herds, beasts, birds, fish.  Psalm 8 closes with its opening line of praise, but perhaps this time it has a slightly different tone.

Over the years, mankind has indeed ruled the earth.  How well the collective “we” had ruled is debatable.  At times we have practiced things that were bad for the earth.  While at times “we” have harmed the earth, the general trend has been to care for it.  I do not think anyone could argue that we have we cared for it as well as we could have.  Certainly we could have been more diligent in our forethought.  There are things we should have avoided doing but failed to.  This is revealed in our long history of harming the earth and then trying to fix or at least mediate what we did.  Too often progress and the profit margin have led the way and we have done great harms to our waters, land, sky, and the populations of many plants and animals.  The extinction list, for example, has way too many names on it.

If we do indeed praise God and bring honor to the creation of His hands, how do we reflect that in our choices and decisions?  As Christians, we can make choices and decisions that help the earth or do it less harm.  As followers of Christ, we can stand up to protect the earth when we should.  As those in charge of the creation, we can love it as God loves us – caring well for the earth.  It is a monumental task to care for the earth, but it is well within our abilities.  May we love and care for this amazing creation well as we honor God’s work.


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Praise the Creator

Reading: Psalm 104: 24-34 and 35b

Verses 24 and 35b: How many are your works O Lord! … Praise the Lord.

Our Psalm today opens with a great reminder about Creator God: “How many are your works O Lord”!  All that there is – from the largest to the tiniest, all that covers the land and swims in the waters – was created by God.  The psalmist then offers praise for God’s provision.  At just the right moment, God provides for the needs of what He has created.  His love in reflected in His care.  And the Psalm also acknowledges that life ends, that breath is no more and life returns to ashes.  As created beings, we too live within this cycle of life.  We are created by God, we are loved and cared for by God, and one day our human bodies draw our last breath and we too return to ashes.

The psalmist then opens up the praise in verse 31.  In the simplicity of life we can see the glory of the Lord.  We are amazing creations, as is all of life.  Just as in the beginning God was pleased with all He had made, God continues to be pleased with the work of His hands.  Our response?  Verse 31 sums it up well: “I will sing praises to my God as long as I live”.  Because God continues to be active and engaged in our lives and world, He is worthy of our praise.

Today may we join with all of creation in praise of the mighty works of God’s hands!


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Power from on High

Reading: Luke 24: 44-53

Verse 51: While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.

Just prior to today’s passage, the two who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus return and tell the disciples about their encounter with the risen Lord.  In the midst of the conversation that follows, Jesus appears to the disciples.  He begins by saying, “Peace be with you”.  Surprisingly, they were “startled and frightened” so Jesus shows them His hands and feet.  To reassure them He says, “It is I!” but there is still doubt.  So Jesus takes a piece of fish and eats it in their presence.  It is as if Jesus we’re saying, ‘See, I am real’.  This is where today’s passage picks up.

Jesus then goes on to explain all that is written about Him in “the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms”.  Just as He had with the Emmaus pair, Jesus did this to open their minds so they could fully understand and know who and what He was and to help them understand where He was going now.  He again promises them “power from on high” – the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Jesus then leads them out near Bethany, offers them one last blessing, and is taken up into heaven.  We can only assume that this is one of the things that Jesus had just explained as He taught them and opened their minds.  The disciples worship Jesus right then and there and then return to the city with great joy.  They go to the temple and continue to lift their praises to God.  The disciples know that Jesus has ascended and that they have been promised this “power from on high”.  No wonder they are filled with joy!

In the 2000+ years since, Jesus has continued to sit at the right hand of the Father.  He continues to intercede on our behalf.  The promise of “power from on high” remains in effect.  When a believer accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit comes and lives within us as a daily presence of Jesus.  It is also our reason to be filled with joy.  No matter what life brings, we do not walk alone.  His presence is always with us.  May we too offer our praises to God this day!


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Let Me Tell You

Reading: Psalm 66: 8-20

Verse 16: Come and listen, all who fear the Lord; let me tell you what He has done for me.

The opening verses of today’s passage speak of praising God for many things.  The praise is lifted for God preserving the people, for God refining the people, and for God bringing them to a place of abundance.  The response of the psalmist is to bring offerings to God: rams and bulls and goats.  This is a natural pattern.  When we feel that God has been especially present in our lives, gratitude and thanksgiving and worship are our natural responses as well.  This is even more true when we feel like God reached down and rescued or saved us from something.

The last set of verses, starting on verse sixteen, are a bit more personal in nature.  I love verse sixteen: “Come and listen, all who fear the Lord; let me tell you what He has done for me”.  These words are the essence of a song by David Crowder.  It is a beautiful song that echoes this idea over and over.  This is also the call of our lives as Christians.  Jesus commissioned us to go and make disciples of all nations, sharing the good news with all we meet.  As much as praising and worshipping God should be our response to God’s presence in our lives, so too should be our going forth to invite others to come and listen, to hear the good news of what Jesus has done for us.  The gift we have in Jesus Christ is the good news worth sharing.  All people love to hear good news.  Today, may we go out and share our good news with all that we meet.


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Imperishable.

Reading: 1 Peter 1: 17-23

Verses 18-19: It was not with perishable things such as gold or silver that you were redeemed… but with the prescious blood of Christ.

Today’s text plays with the contrast between the perishable and the imperishable.  Peter calls us to pursue the imperishable and to strive for the things of God.  This is in contrast to the world’s view of what matters and what is worthy of our efforts.  Peter encourages the believers to set aside the ways passed down by their fathers and to not follow in pursuing an “empty way of life”.  The chasing after the gold and silver leads to emptiness.  This is a lesson we all eventually learn.  To be rich in things most often leaves one pour in the soul.  At some point all people look in the mirror and come to realize that money and things and status do not bring true happiness.  Living a full life cannot rest on the perishable but must instead be founded on the imperishable.

Peter calls on Christians to “live your lives as strangers in reverant fear”.  To live as strangers means to live not of this world and its cares.  Another phrase that parallels this idea is “in the world but not of the world”.  Our true citizenship is in heaven.  To have ‘reverant fear’ is to have holy respect for God.  It is to be aware that the world’s choices lead to death and destruction.

This passage reminds us that we were bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  This sacrifice made in love calls us to love our brothers and sisters with a deep and sincere love.  Jesus demonstrated what this love looks like and He calls us to follow after Him and to love like He loved.  Verses 18 and 19 capture this love: “It was not with perishable things such as gold or silver that you were redeemed… but with the prescious blood of Christ”.  The blood and love that made it flow so that you and I can be redeemed are imperishable.  This love of God that was poured out on the cross can never be lost.  There is nothing we can do to find ourselves outside of God’s love.  Nothing.  This is why God is our only hope in this world.  This is why God alone provides for our salvation.  He is our eternity.  It is not founded on our fickle love for God but upon God’s unfailing love for us.  It is a gift far more precious than any gold or silver and it is far more enduring.  For the imperishable love of God that we have in Jesus Christ, this day let us offer our praise and thanksgiving.


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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?