pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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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.


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Anything

Reading: Romans 9: 1-5

Verse Three: For I could wish that myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers.

Paul writes of the sorrow and anguish he feels because his fellow Jews, his brothers, have rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  Paul initially rejected Jesus too.  After Jesus’ death and resurrection Paul, then known as Saul, was one of the greatest persecutors of the new Christian faith.  But after his face-to-face with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul was converted and became one of the greatest evangelists ever.  His conversion brought him great joy and peace in his life.

Yet he would willingly give all of this up for his people, the Israelites, who refuse to accept Jesus as Lord.  He writes, “For I could wish that myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers”.  Paul is ready to give up the best thing that ever happened to him so that the Jewish people could come to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  It pains him greatly that the chosen people reject Jesus.

On our own faith journeys we too will encounter people who reject Jesus.  Many will choose to walk away from the faith of their childhood.  We may have family members and know close friends who do not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.  For many a parent it is a very painful experience to have a child choose to live without Jesus in their life.  For those we have a deep personal relationship with, it is indeed painful to think of one we love missing out on the joy and peace and mercy and forgiveness and all else we have, nevermind the eternal consequences.

In this many of us are like Paul.  We would give anything, even our own faith, to see ‘that’ person or persons accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  We pray for them, we try and share our faith with them, we do all we can.  Lord God, may our work be fruitful in bringing those we love into relationship with you.


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Intercessor One

Reading: Romans 8: 26-39

Verse 26: We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us.

Paul knew that we, as humans, are weak.  He knew from his own faith journey that living the life of faith cannot be done on our own.  Through his own life, Paul has discovered that the Holy Spirit is an essential part of one’s faith.  It is only through the power and presence of the Spirit in the life of a believer that one can overcome our human weaknesses.

A key role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives is that of intercessor.  The Spirit works as an advocate for us, coming before God with prayers on our behalf.  When we do not know what to pray for or how to put our mess into words, then the Spirit takes over.  Verse 26 speaks of this: “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us”.  In this way, the Holy Spirit is always bringing our needs before the throne of God.

The second way the Spirit prays for us begins with God searching our hearts.  In doing so, our weaknesses and shortcomings are revealed and the Spirit prays for these “in accordance with the will of God”.  In this way the Spirit helps to form and shape us into the person God created us to be.  Through this prayerful transformation process, we grow to become more like Jesus, the image of God.  As our faith grows and we become more mature in our faith, we become justified through the saving work of Jesus.  In our humanity we will always be weak.  Therefore we will stumble and fall now and then.  In these moments, the love of God again enters in and we are made righteous by His grace.  It is through Jesus that our weakness is made spiritually strong.  Through all of this the Holy Spirit continues to lift us up in prayer, to bring our needs before God, and to reveal in us what needs to conform more to the likeness of Christ.  Thank you God for the gift of the Holy Spirit.


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Faithful Servant

Reading: Genesis 24: 34-38

Verse 37: My master made me swear an oath…

Abraham’s servant has been tasked with a very important job.  He is to go back to Abraham’s homeland to find a wife for Isaac.  Abraham and Sarah were well beyond child-bearing years when Isaac was born and Sarah has died.  The precious gift of a child must be cared for.  The line must extend beyond Isaac and no Canaanite woman will do.  The wife for Isaac must come from Abraham’s own clan.  This will become a common practice as Israel becomes more defined as God’s chosen people and God directs them not to intermarry with the peoples around them lest they be led astray.

The servant begins today’s passage by explaining why he is there.  In the previous verses the servant has met Rebekah and has discerned that God’s hand is at work in leading him to this very person and to this very house.  After a prayer of thanksgiving, the servant proceeded to Laban’s home.  But the task is not done.  It is not time to relax.  The faithful servant puts off food until he has spoken with Laban.  He is faithful to the task his master Abraham gave him.

At times we too have tasks to carry out that involve God’s larger plan or our commitment to follow Jesus as Master.  We feel as this servant felt – there is something God has placed on our hearts that must be accomplished.  We must talk to this person about such and such or maybe we feel led to volunteer for or take on something at church or in the community.  For some, maybe they are wrestling with a call to ministry or with a call to serve God in some way.  Taking that first step can be so hard.  Being willing to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and to go where it leads requires a deep and abiding trust in God.

When we sense God’s hand at work in our lives may we be like this faithful servant, trusting fully in God, stepping out boldly in faith to accomplish or respond to whatever God places on our heart today.


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Suffering Servant

Reading: Isaiah 50: 4-9a

Verse 9a – It is the sovereign Lord who helps me.

Today’s reading is one of the four servant songs we find in the book of Isaiah.  It is a writing open to some interpretation in terms of who the suffering servant is.  In context, it could be Isaiah himself, whose life experiences certainly encompassed the content of this passage.  The words could also represent the people of Israel – off in exile in a far away land, living amongst pagan people.  Both Isaiah and the Israelites would feel weary and would desire to hear the word of the Lord to gain strength and courage.  Both would face trial and persecution and would choose to endure these things in order to stay true to their faith.  Both would hold onto hope in God to see them through and to vindicate them in the end.

Years later we encounter another suffering servant: Jesus.  He too would live a life that included all of the things Isaiah wrote about.  So as the early church read this passage, they connected it to Jesus.  Jesus would rely on God alone for strength and courage; He would often face trial and persecution; and, He would maintain faith in His Father, who would, in the end, vindicate Him.  There are many parallels between the ‘characters’ that we can read into this Isaiah passage.

There are also people today who read this passage and connect to it themselves.  They can see their lives in the words of Isaiah.  There are also others who can look back over their faith journey and recall times when they were under a heavy load and God gave them strength.  They can look back and see how God led them through a trial or time of persecution.  We have all clung to God as we prayed for direction and courage and strength to face what lay ahead.  Wherever we are in the story – may we go to the Lord our God, trusting in the words of verse nine: “It is the sovereign Lord who helps me”.  Thank you God for your unfailing love.


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God’s Plan

Reading: 1 Samuel 16: 1-5

1 Samuel 16:4 – Samuel did what the Lord said.

As a prophet of God, at times Samuel has brought words that were tough for the person or people to hear.  The results of Samuel’s words are not often positive.  The Holy Spirit works much the same way in our lives.  When we sin the Spirit quickly convicts us and forces a change in us.  When the elders of Bethlehem see Samuel approaching, they are cautious and guarded.  They are straight forward in the conversation: “Do you come in peace?” is their opening line with Samuel.  ‘Yes and no’ would be the honest answer.

King Saul is not happy with Samuel.  Samuel has very recently told Saul that God has rejected him as king.  Initially, when God tells Samuel to go to Bethlehem, Samuel is fearful.  So too are the elders.  What might Samuel be doing in their town?  Will Saul punish them for having Samuel there?  Or worse?  At times we too are put to the test.  At times our faith leads us to follow God’s will into places and situations that bring up fear or doubt or that may have a cost to us.  Doing what is right or speaking the truth sometimes creates conflict or ruffles feathers.

God has a plan.  He answers Samuel’s fears and Samuel heads off to do God’s work.  Samuel voiced his concern to God and God responded.  This is what we are called to do as well.  God desires an open and honest relationship with us too.  So when we feel doubt or fear or lack of trust, we need to bring this to God.  When we are unsure of where to go or of how to proceed, we need to go to God in prayer, to seek God’s plan.  Like Samuel, God will lead us past our fear, our doubt, our concerns.  Like Samuel, we must call on God alone and we must fully rely on God’s plan, knowing that God is in control of all things and that God has good plans for us.

“Samuel did what the Lord said”.  May we follow Samuel’s example.


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This Day and Forevermore

Reading: Psalm 121

Today’s Psalm is one of my favorites.  To me it speaks of the encompassing nature of God.  In the opening lines we are reminded that God is the creator of all.  When I look up to or venture out into the Black Hills, I can see God’s fingerprints all over the place.  One does not have to live near the hills, however, to ‘see’ God’s hand.  One can look up to the stars, one can gaze out across the ocean, or one can even look at the beauty and intricacy of a flower or spider’s web.  And one can even ‘see’ God’s hand in the voice of the songbird or in the giggle of a small child.

The balance of the Psalm speaks to the ways in which the God who created all we know and see also pays attention to you and I.  God watches over where we tread and where we sleep.  God protects us from the harmful rays of the sun and moon.  God watches over us and keeps us from all harm – both now and forevermore.  His love and care for all of us is all-encompassing .

While God loves each and every one of us equally, we do not all know God’s love in the same way.  There are many who struggle through life trying to “do” life on their own.  There are even some regular church attenders who do not know how much God loves and cares for them.  To truly know just how all-encompassing God’s love and care is, one must know God in deep and meaningful ways.  To know God in this way requires a disciplined and obedient practice of the daily habits and exercises of the faith.  One cannot run to God only in the crisis.

To truly walk daily under the watch of the Lord, the Word had to be at our center.  Each day we must read and meditate on the Scriptures.  Each day we must spend time talking with God, both thanking God for our blessings and bringing Him our petitions as well.  In these ways we connect our heart to God.  And each day we must practice what God reveals to us in our time with the Bible and in our time talking with God.  We must love our neighbors, turn the other cheek, care for those in need, and lift one another in prayer.  The closer our daily walk is to God, the closer He walks with us.  May it be so this day and forevermore!