pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Holding On

Reading: Genesis 32: 22-31

Verse 28: You have struggled with God and men and have overcome.

In a time of need, God once again comes to Jacob.  Even when Jacob cannot quite put into words the things he is feeling and needing, God enters the situation because that is what Jacob needs God to do.  God and Jacob wrestle and Jacob shows his inner grit and determination.  This time of physical testing leaves him changed.  He will always walk with a limp and he will have a new name.

As they wrestled, Jacob’s hip was touched and was wrenched.  Even this painful injury that would result in Jacob limping for the rest of his life could not force him to let go or to give up.  He held on.  He continued to wrestle with God.  Jacob passed this test.  The limp he carried forth will always remind him of when “You have struggled with God and men and have overcome”.

Jacob also walks away with a new name.  God has deemed him worthy to carry on the covenant.  This is the result of Jacob demanding a blessing from God.  He held on and would not let go of God until he received it.  Jacob demonstrates boldness and confidence by holding on until his answer is given.  He asks God for something big and holds on, expecting God to answer his request.

In our relationship with God, do we wrestle with God and stick with it so that we also overcome?  In our prayers, do we demonstrate Jacob’s boldness and determination?  When we need God – whether for an answer to prayer or for some other involvement in our lives – we should expect God to come through.  We should be open and honest with God.  At times that means we will be demanding.  Like Jacob, our prayers should be big enough that they demand an answer.  We should pray with the expectation of our answer and we should wrestle with God until the answer comes.  God desires good for us.  Do we wrestle with God like we trust this promise?  May we, like Jacob, cling to God, holding on to Him for all we need.

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Hope and Promise

Reading: Genesis 25: 19-34

Verses 22 and 23: The babies jostled each other within her… two nations are in your womb.

In our passage from Genesis 25, there is a lot going on.  Isaac gets married but Rebekah is barren.  Isaac prays about this and she becomes pregnant.  Turns out Rebekah is carrying twins, which fight a lot in the womb.  Two very distinct boys are born and each parent develops a favorite.  Verses 22 and 23 speak of this: “The babies jostled each other within her… two nations are in your womb”.  This would be an ongoing relationship for Jacob and Esau.  In the end, the younger ‘buys’ the older’s birth rite with a bowl of stew because the older was hungry.

In the early part of our passage, Isaac turns to God in prayer for the solution to a problem.  Isaac has experienced God’s faithfulness in his own past.  He himself was an answer to a similar prayer by his father.  Isaac also experienced God’s answer to a problem personally.  First, it was he who was laid on the altar to be a sacrifice to God.  But in response to Abraham’s faithfulness, God provided a different solution.  Second, in needing a wife for his son, Abraham trusted his servant, who also trusted God fully.  The solution to this was Rebekah.  So when Isaac goes to God, he expects God to work.  Like Isaac, we too have experiences with God working in our lives.  So, like Isaac, may we pray believing God will answer.

Between Esau and Jacob, the unlikely one comes to have the inheritance.  This is the opposite of how it should be.  As a general rule, the Israelite people would be upset with this story on principle.  But they love this story because clearly God is at work on behalf of His chosen people.  In it they see their story.  In many ways, this is a common story.  God often chooses the unlikely, the least, the outcast, the underdog.  Over much of their history the people of Israel have been the little guy, the weak nation, the underdog.  Even for the New Testament, Jesus came from the small town, from insignificant parents.  Paul was the greatest enemy of the new church yet came to be its greatest champion.  God chooses the unlikely, the unexpected, the unknown.

When taken together, these two elements of the story bring us hope and promise.  In times of honest and genuine prayer, we know that God can and will answer.  He is faithful and this brings us hope.  In terms of our lives as followers of Jesus Christ, we know that God can and will use anyone.  Even you and me.  This is God’s promise.  This day, may our prayers seeks to live into these two elements – hope and promise – as we love and serve the Lord today.


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Intimately Connected

Reading: Psalm 86: 1-10 and 16-17

Verse One: Hear me, O Lord, and answer me.
This Psalm is personal.  It is built upon a relationship that has grown and developed over years.  It is not a shallow relationship or a ‘foxhole prayer’ – a prayer of desperation thrown up by one who regularly lives outside a relationship with God.  David is intimate with God.  Verses two through four bear witness to this.  He is devoted to God, calls out all day long, and lifts his soul to God.  Verse one reads, “Hear me, O Lord, and answer me”.  David is confident in his right to seek God.  Not only that, one can sense the solid belief that God will answer.  We too can have such a relationship with God.  We grow and develop our relationship with God through worship, daily time in the Bible, and by regular conversations with God.

As the Psalm unfolds, we see that David’s intimate connection to God is built upon God’s faithfulness and love.  David describes God as forgiving, good, and abundant in love.  He acknowledges God’s greatness and the miraculous deeds that God has done in caring for His servant David.  David can look back and see how God was active and present over the course of his life.  It reminds him of the covenant promise that God extends to all who trust in the Lord.

We too can choose to walk each day intimately connected to God.  When this is our daily choice, we too will be able to look back and see God’s faithfulness and love at work in our lives.  Each day may we choose to walk intimately with God, so that we too can pray, “Turn to me and have mercy on me, grant your strength to your servant”.


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Ask

Reading: John 14: 1-14

Verse One: Do not let your heart’s be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.

Faith is a journey.  At times we feel our faith is strong and is mature.  We feel like we are well-connected to Jesus.  Our daily walk includes time in the Word and time in prayer.  Part of our week always includes worship and maybe even a small group time.  We clearly see how Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life”.  We have a quiet assurance that Jesus is leading our lives and we hold onto His promise of “a room prepared for us”.

And then we don’t.  Something happens.  Someone says or does something.  Satan exposes a crack and suddenly there is a chasm between us and our faith, between us and Jesus.  Satan uses lies, doubts, fears, anxiety, and much more to make us question our faith and to question Jesus.  Our mind becomes filled with questions like “Why?” and “How?”.  Soon that faith and assurance seems like a distant memory.  It can happen so fast.  We’ve all been there.

Passages like today’s speak into moments like these.  When we still our hearts and minds and really read Jesus’ words, our feet return to the path of our faith journey.  We hear Jesus’ voice saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me”.  Jesus has us.  He is there for us in the midst of our trial or suffering and He will be there again and again and again.  In His voice, we hear again that the room is prepared for us.  No one can cancel our reservation.

In the passage we also see that we are not alone in our meandering and lack of understanding.  Even the disciples don’t always remain steadfast and they don’t always get it.  Thomas and Philip voice the questions we have at times.  They ask Jesus to show them the way and to show them the Father.  Jesus is patient and loving in doing so.  We too seek Jesus’ guidance and direction often to know the way to go or to discern even the next step.  At other times we seek to encounter Jesus, to feel His power in our lives.  All of these things are things Jesus wants to do.  It is His promise: “I will do whatever you ask in my name”.  What do you need Jesus to do today?


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Fruitful Practices

Reading: Acts 2: 42-47

Verse 42: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.

The early church practiced some things that made it a strong and vibrant church.  These practices helped those in the community of faith to grow stronger in their own faith and they also attracted others into the community.  They first devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.  In this the people got to know Jesus more and more.  They deepened their understanding of Christ and His call upon their lives.  We continue this practice to this day.  We gather in our places of worship to hear the Word proclaimed.  We also study our Bibles and read devotionals and books to deepen our personal relationship with Christ.

The early church also devoted themselves to fellowship.  They spent lots of time together discussing their faith and sharing their lives with one another.  It was a way to build relationships with each other and to support and encourage each other.  It was also a way to talk about their faith – both the challenges and what God was doing in their lives.  We continue these practices today as we gather after worship, as we meet together for coffee or lunch, as we come together in small groups to study and serve God.

Early followers of the Way often broke bread together.  The breaking of bread was partly meal, partly communion.  Only in the latter church would communion be separated out and come to resemble what we practice today.  The common meal together was like an old-fashioned pot luck.  All brought what they could to share with each other.  In this early setting, the church would also break bread to remember the gift of Jesus on the cross.  Many of us will do so today as well.

Lastly, the early followers prayed together regularly.  They would spend time together as a community in prayer.  They would know each other well from the times of worship and fellowship and meals.  So prayer time was intimately connected and very powerful.  We experience this at times in worship but most often experience it in our small groups that have developed a deeper level of care and trust.

“And daily the Lord added to their number those who were being saved”.  Through our practices of faith and because of our community of faith, may the Lord increase those who are being saved.


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Psalm Prayer

Reading: Psalm 130

Verse 5: I wait for the Lord, my souls waits, and in his word I put my hope.

Today’s Psalm is a great prayer.  It is a wonderful prayer because it lays out the mercy and love God has for us.  Within this we find forgiveness and hope – two of the greatest gifts that God gives to us. Upon these elements we build our relationship with God.

In the opening verses, the psalmist cries out from the depths.  He pleads for God to hear and be attentive to his prayers.  What depths do you need God to pull you up out of?  Go to God in prayer.

Verses three and four turn to the depths of God’s forgiveness.  The psalmist realizes where we would all stand if God kept track of our sins.  If we could only earn forgiveness or could only be acceptable to God based on our own efforts, we would utterly fail.  Lift up to God your thanks for His great mercy.

The next verse, verse five, is almost a response to the opening verses: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope”.  We too wait with hope, a hope built upon the truths we find in scripture.  What truths found in the Word of God do you cling to?  His promise never to forsake you?  His promise to give us what we need for the moment at hand?  His promise to dwell in us?  Another promise?  As we wait, we wait in the truths and promises of God.  Lift up your thanks for the truths that anchor your soul.

The closing two verses draw back to verses three and four.  We are reminded again of God’s unfailing love and full redemption.  It is a love that always forgives and always welcomes us back into a right relationship with God.  It is a redemption fully paid for by Jesus Christ’s blood on the cross.  Like the psalmist, the love and forgiveness are our hope as well.  Spend a few moments in praise and adoration for God’s great love and forgiveness.  May it be well with your soul.


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He Restores My Soul

Reading: Psalm 23: 1-3

Verses 2b and 3a – He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul.

Psalm 23 is well known.  At its core it speaks of resting in and trusting in the Lord.  The Psalm uses the common shepherd-sheep analogy to illustrate our relationship with God.  In a society that was highly agrarian, the original readers would have related well to this analogy.  Today many would have to google it to find a video that explained it.  Articles are just too much.  (I am only half joking.)

The relationship between a shepherd and their sheep is exclusive.  The shepherd will do anything to protect and care for the sheep.  The sheep will only follow the voice of their shepherd.  This very well parallels our ideal relationship with God.

Just as it did in David’s day, life gets busy for us too.  Just as it did back then, the voices of the world were loud and called often.  Just as it was back in the day, we need time to step away, to find some solitude, to reconnect deeply to God.  In the Psalm, this place of quiet and solitude was out in a meadow beside some still waters.  One can easily imagine birds singing as butterflies flutter around.  Just envisioning it brings a lot of peace.

I try and get out to walk each morning.  It is just around the streets of our small community.  As I walk past homes and businesses, there is time to think and pray.  As I walk past churches and the jail and the courthouse and the schools, there is opportunity for specific prayers.  My walk is definitely not through green pastures and the still waters are puddles from melting snow.  But I am outside in God’s creation, enjoying the sounds of the birds, connecting with God in a time of quiet prayer and reflection.  It is good for my soul.

This day may we all find a quiet time and space to be outside in God’s beautiful creation, allowing God’s presence to restore our soul.