pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Distance

Reading: Isaiah 64: 5-9

Verse Five: “We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

There are times when we all feel distance from God.  Sometimes it is because we are struggling with sin in our life and this separates us for a time.  Sometimes it is our own inability to move past the guilt or shame that comes from our sin.  We stew init a bit.  We feel unworthy of God’s forgiveness so we do not ask for it.  And some of the time we want to be near God but it just feels as if He were absent or very distant.  We can cause the distance some of the time, but once in a while it is not rooted in us.  It just feels like there is some distance between us and God.

In our writing from Isaiah, there is some distance or separation that the people are feeling.  Verse five opens with a truth: “You come to the help of those that gladly do right”.  This verse may be wishful thinking or it may be a call to get back to doing what is right so that God can again feel present.  As verses five through seven unfold, we see that sin has definitely been a part of the separation.  Isaiah also admits that “no one calls on the name” of God and that no one “strives” to get a hold of God.  There is a complacency also at work here.  despite it primarily being their sins that separate them from God, the people still want to blame God.  Their logic makes no sense.  God cannot be more present.  God’s mercy and grace are always available and at work in our lives.  God never hides from His children.  They are playing the “if only you were here” game with a God who is always there.

The tide begins to turn in verse eight.  Isaiah writes, “We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”  He is reminding the people that they are indeed in God’s hands and that, even in the midst of feeling like there is separation, God is still at work.  Even in the trials, God is shaping us too.  Verse nine closes with a plea: “Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people”.  God has, is, and always will be looking upon His people.  It is a reminder to themselves as much as it is a request of God.  At times we too must confess our need for God.

When we feel separation, we must find the root.  If it is sin that separates us from God, may we cast that aside,  repent, and seek God’s forgiveness.  If it is just a feeling, may we seek God with all that we are.  When we seek Him, we will find Him.  Delve into the Word.  Go out and be the hands and feet.  Spend time in fervent prayer.  Lift your voice in praise.  God is present.  We will find Him when we seek Him.  Amen.

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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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Presence, Rest

Reading: Exodus 33:14

Verse 14: My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.

Today’s passage is one verse long.  It is given to Moses by God to reassure and encourage him.  It is a good promise for us to remember as well.

God’s presence goes with us in so many ways.  I think it begins with the situations and people that God brings into our lives.  These are both opportunities to share God with others and to experience God through others.  Sometimes in our lives we have the blessing of ministering to others and at other times we are ministered to.  When we respond to these opportunities, when we are open to the moving of the Holy Spirit in our lives, surely God’s presence is with us.

A few days ago I felt a nudge to go visit a friend who had experienced a very difficult loss.  I was going to be traveling through her state so I asked if we could have coffee.  As I drove yesterday, the Spirit was at work and the Lord placed upon my heart what I needed to share.  I was able to do that and it was a wonderful experience of being able to share God’s presence and love with a fellow child of God.

The second half of today’s verse is such a blessing too when we can get there.  Life does not get much better than when we can find that sweet spot of rest – whether in the recliner, out on the deck, on the couch in the afternoon sun, in the qiuet of the early morning.  But it can be so elusive!  Life is usually so busy and we go at such a non-stop pace that periods of rest can be hard to find.

One of the most restful times of the day can be our times of prayer and study.  If one is willing to carve out 15, 30, or even 60 minutes each day to spend time with God, then He will be both present and He will bring you rest.  In those quiet, still moments spent talking with God, He fills you with peace and rest for your mind and soul.  God renews your spirit.  Taking time to read and meditate on God’s Word is both nourishment and peace for the heart, mind, and soul.  He is surely present and certainly fills us up!

Lord God, may I dwell in your presence today and maybe honor you in all I do and say today.  May your Spirit grant me rest.  Amen.


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The Lord Is Near

Reading: Philippians 4: 1-9

Verse Five: Let your gladness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.

Paul has just finished writing about pressing on towards the prize for which God calls us heavenward.  He has spoken about those who believe in Jesus having a citizenship in heaven.  Paul has written of the glorious transformation that will come – the one that He and other believers eagerly await.  Our passage today begins with Paul’s encouragement to “stand firm in the faith”.

Paul quickly shifts gears to plead with two people who appear to be fighting.  Paul asks others in the faith community to help them solve their differences and to “agree with each other in the Lord”.  Paul then again shifts gesrs, maybe giving evidence if why we should be of one mind.  In verse five he writes, “Let your gladness be evident to all.  The Lord is near”.  As we rejoice in the Lord, it really should be evident to all.  And when we feel anxious or begin to worry or doubt, Paul reminds us to take it to the Lord in prayer.  He is near so we should quickly go to Jesus in prayer.  When we do, we will find that peace which passes all understanding.  To summarize: stand firm, be of one mind, rejoice in the Lord, pray often, live in His peace.

Sounds like simple steps.  They can be.  But at times these simple steps can be so hard.  My mind easily returns to that pile of to-do on my desk, to that person I need to visit, to that uncomfortable conversation that needs to happen…  At the core of it all is trust.  Do I trust God to lead, to give me guidance, to give strength, to give all that is needed for what is at hand?  Paul’s advice is good advice: pray.  In all things, turn it over in prayer.  When I do, I find His peace.

Paul concludes today’s Word with things to fill our minds with that remind us that He is near.  These are things that keep us close to God and that keep our gladness evident.  Paul calls upon us to think of whatever is true… noble… right… pure… lovely… admirable…  He is calling us to think of God in Jesus Christ.  When we choose to keep our minds on Jesus, we are ever reminded that “the Lord is near”.  When Jesus Christ is near, peace and joy are close as well.  This day, may we rejoice in the Lord!


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Lead

Reading: Exodus 17: 1-4

Verse Two: Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you put the Lord to the test?

At times it can be difficult to lead.  But we are all called to lead our lives as a witness to Jesus Christ and His love.  In this case we are following one leader as we seek to lead others to a relationship with Jesus or deeper in their present relationship with Him.  To lead as Christ led can require us to make difficult decisions and, at times, to take stands that may be unpopular.

God chose Moses to lead the people out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land.  This has been and will be a difficult task, but Moses remains steadfast to his call.  The people have grumbled and even fallen into sin.  God has used Moses over and over to lead the people to freedom and to provide for them.  They grumbled about food and God brought quail and manna, validating Moses’ leadership along the way.  Today, once again, the people grumble.  Instead of praying and seeking God, they complain.  There is also an element of testing God.  Moses says to the people, “Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you put the Lord to the test”?  True, the people are thirsty and they do need water.  But they are certainly testing both God and Moses’ patience.

At times we will be called upon to lead and the Word of God will give us clear and direct guidance on how to proceed.  It is easier to lead when there is an obvious path.  But occasionally we must turn to the Holy Spirit and we must listen very closely to discern the will of God that gives us direction.  In both cases, there may still be grumbling and complaining.  Sometimes this is easy to dismiss and sometimes it is hard to do so.  To be sure in our decisions and leadership, we must spend much time with God.  The larger the decision, the more time we should spend.  Our time spent with God in prayer, reading and meditating on scripture, and discerning His will brings us increased assurances that we are leading in a Godly direction.  Then if grumbling comes, we know that God had left our decision and that God will continue to guide us through.  In this way, we can trust into God.

Moses was a great leader because of his solid connection to God.  May we lead in the same way, deeply rooted in God, leading in a way that brings God all the glory and honor.


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Slumber

Reading: Romans 13: 11-14

Verse 11: The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber.

Paul opens today’s passage with this great line: “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber”.  For Paul, his faith always seemed to carry a sense of urgency.  Not only did Paul live each day like it could be his last, but he wanted all believers to do so as well.  Not only that, but Paul also lived with this urgency that each day may be a non-believer’s last day so they needed to be saved now.

If today were your last day, would you live it any differently than any other day?  If we are living as Paul implores us to – clothed in Jesus Christ – then, no, we would not live today any differently.  Although deep down we know this should be our answer to the question, the reality for most of us is that we’d live the day very differently.

When we hear and ponder the words “wake up from your slumber” all of our minds can quickly come up with some things that we should wake up from.  Paul is talking about our faith in today’s passage and if we limit it to that topic, even then we could all come up with a thing or two.  Or more.  Even though we know deep down… we procrastinate, we think “tomorrow…”, we…  Just like that exercise regimen or that diet plan, we say we will get to that at the start of next week and a month later we still have not begun to read our Bible each morning or to pray each night before heading off to sleep.

Paul writes, “our salvation is nearer now…”  While this is absolutely true, too many of us fail to live like it is true.  Even the greatest of saints alive today could name a thing or two that would better or more fully “clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ”.  Surely we can too.  May we step out into the light and surely and steadfastly “put on the armor of light” as we live out our faith each and every day.


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Pray, Trust, Know

Reading: Matthew 14: 22-25

Verse 25: Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.

After feeding the 5,000, Jesus sends the disciples off across the lake.  They were a crew that liked to stay with Jesus.  We do not have very many examples where Jesus creates separation from the disciples.  But in today’s passage, Jesus “made” them get in the boat and head across the lake.  Our passage reveals three reasons Jesus did this and they are lessons for us as well.

The first is Jesus’ desire for solitude.  After dismissing the crowd, Jesus goes up the mountain to pray.  Jesus often found space and alone time to talk with God.  It is one of the best models He gives us and one we should seek to practice often.

The second is Jesus’ desire for the disciples to trust Him.  We do not know if Jesus foresaw the storm but we do know the last time they were out on this lake they feared for their lives.  They have a recent bad experience with this lake and a storm.  It was when Jesus awoke and calmed the storm that they felt safe again.  Now they head out without Jesus.  They must trust in His continued care even though He is not physically present with them.  At times, so must we.

The third is to demonstrate Jesus’ absolute power over everything.  In the middle of the night, as the boat is buffeted by wind and waves, “Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake”.  As the storm goes on, the disciples’ fears must have escalated.  Memories of almost sinking and now being without Jesus must have created some tension in the boat.  Jesus finishes praying and He returns to the disciples.  To see Jesus walking on the water must have helped solidify their belief in Jesus as the Son of God.  Just as God is, so too is Jesus omnipotent.  Knowing that Jesus is truly Lord of all brings us great comfort and reassurances as we journey through life.  To pray often and to trust always and to know Jesus Christ as Lord of all, these are the building blocks of our faith.