pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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God’s Promises

Reading: Exodus 32: 11-14

Verse 13: Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self.

The Lord’s anger with His people is mighty big.  Once again they have turned away and questioned and doubted.  Once again the people think Moses has abandoned then or has died, leaving them leaderless. Once again they turn to something other than the Lord.  Yet Moses asks, “Why should your anger burn against your people”?  Moses is a great advocate and prayer warrior for the Israelites, the people he leads under God’s direction and guidance.

Moses continues to convince God not to wipe these stiff-necked people off the face of the earth.  He begins his request with a reminder of God’s promises.  Moses says, “Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self”.  Moses is reminding God of the covenant promise that God himself made to each of these great men.  In essence, Moses is calling God out using God’s promises.  By bringing God’s focus to the love, the care, the relationships that led to the promises to make their descendants into a great nation, Moses defuses God’s wrath.

The pattern Moses uses is a pattern we too can use in our prayer life.  Many are the promises of God.  God promises to be our guide, our healer, our protector, our light, our love, our salvation…  We are promised that He will never leave or forsake us.  We are promised that His mercies never end and that we can be made new every morning.  These are but a sampling of what God offers to all who believe.  So when we find ourselves in the midst of trial or suffering, we too can call on the promises of God.  Our prayers for our lives and for others can be like Moses’ request.  We may not always see the answer right away, but we know that God is faithful and that He will respond.  We may not get the answer we want some of the time, but we are promised that God has good plans for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11).  At times, we trust into this as well.

“In everything, with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”. – Philippians 4:6

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The Blood

Reading: Exodus 12: 1-11

Verse Seven: Take some of the blood and put it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses…

After many years of slavery in Egypt, God is about to free His chosen people.  He has heard their cries and has sent Moses to free them.  Nine plagues have hardened Pharaoh’s heart but the tenth will set them free.  It will become a touchstone moment for the Israelites.  This event is so important that God resets the calendar to zero to begin the next stage in the history of His people.  It is an event that continues to be celebrated yearly in Jewish homes.

God gives specific instructions for this night – select a lamb or goat without defect and care for it for four days in your home.  Slaughter it at twilight and roast the meat over a fire.  Do not boil it or eat it raw.  Eat or burn all of it.  Eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.  Eat it in haste – with your cloak tucked in and sandals on your feet and staff in hand.  Be ready when Pharaoh relents.  And the blood.  “Take some of the blood and put it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses”.  Take the blood from the sacrifice and use it to mark yourself as mine, says God.  Celebrate the meal exactly this way.  Trust in God and the plan He has laid out.  Trust and follow the plan.  Know that God is with you and will go with you wherever you will go.  Every year Jews celebrate the Passover, remember God’s promises, and look forward to continuing to live in His promises.

The same imagery and message come on the cross.  Remember the blood of the Lamb.  Remember how Jesus bled for you and for me.  Celebrate the blood that washes away our sin and marks us as holy and pure in God’s sight.  And remember the promises: the cross is because I love you.  I will be with you always.  I will never leave you or forsake you.  I love you.  Thanks be to God for His everlasting promises of love and grace.  We are and always will be His.  Thanks be to God.


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Assurances and Promises

Reading: Genesis 12: 1-4

At the age of 75, God asks Abram to move.  Abram has been living in Haran with his wife Sarai, his father Terah, and with Terah’s grandson Lot.  Over the course of his time there, Abram and his family have established themselves, accumulating land and livestock.  They are comfortable and secure.  In addition, at this time people were not mobile.  Almost everyone was born, lived, and died in a small geographic area.  Labor was manual, many hands were required, and land was passed down from one generation to the next.  It would be very odd and very hard for someone to just pack up and head off to someplace.  For Abram, it would have been a tough concept for him to wrap his head around.

God’s request comes with some promises to Abram.  God will bless Abram and make him into a great nation.  God will bless those who Abram blessed and will curse those he curses.  God will bless all the people of the earth through him.  This is quite a list of promises.  There is much for Abram to ponder.  Perhaps.  Maybe Abram would have gone simply because God asked.  Maybe God did not need to offer the promised.  Maybe Abram’s trust and faith in God was sufficient to follow the request.  Maybe the hope of a better future enabled Abram to follow God’s direction.

If I were Abram, I too would want assurances and promises if God asked me to do something that required so much trust and faith.  I want them each day as I simply journey through life.  When God leads or the Holy Spirit nudges or whispers, there is a moment of choice.  Do I follow and respond or do I deny and refuse?  Often there is an unknown to God’s requests.  But we too have promised to rely on.  We also have experiences where we have trusted God and had faith in His lead, times when we have been blessed because God was at work through us.  These assurances and promises enable us to boldly step forward as God leads and directs.  May it be so today.


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Servant

Reading: Isaiah 49: 1-4

We are each chosen by God to be God’s servant.  We are each identified before birth: “before I was born the Lord called me”.  The Lord has followed that call with preparation.  God has planted His Word within us as we have grown and matured in our faith.  God has prepared us for service by making us a ‘polished arrow’.  God has equipped us with the Word so that our mouth is like a ‘sharpened sword’.  All of this so that we may live into verse four: “You are my servant… in whom I will display my splendor”.

Chosen by God, created for a purpose, equipped to fulfill that purpose.  Yes, this is what it says in Isaiah and throughout the Bible.  Yes, it can be hard to live into our call to serve God.  But it is what God desires for us, what God has planned for us.  So what is it that keeps us from living into what God created us to be?  I believe there are two culprits: us and Satan.

We doubt.  We worry.  We think ourselves not up to the task.  We think our faith or knowledge too limited to serve God.  We think our time has not yet come.  We remember past failures.  We fear rejection or criticism.  Then Satan partners with us and whispers lies into our minds.  Man, that is too much for you.  Woman, you could never do that.  Son, what if they ask you this question?  Daughter, remember the last time you tried to share your faith?  Satan, the great deceiver, fears that we will believe and cling to the truths and promises we find in the Word.  The devil fears that we will trust in God and will call upon God for all we need.  Satan knows the truth: nothing is impossible with God.

To our doubt and worry, God promises: I will be with you.  To our poor self-confidence, God promises: I will never leave or foresake you.  To our lack of felt knowledge, God promises: I will send the Holy Spirit to remind you of all things.  To our past failures, God promises: I have plans to prosper you.

Today’s passage ends with, “my reward is with God”.  This day may we trust fully into the promises of God, looking forward to the promise of life eternal.  This day may we may we embrace our role as servant of the most high God, knowing that God is with us, living our lives to bring glory to God.


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The King

Reading: Jeremiah 23: 1-6

Bad kings have been the norm.  They have been unfaithful to God and have not insured justice and fair treatment for the people.  These bad kings instead have lived extravagant lives and have exploited the people to do so.  Having a king was the people’s idea.  Previously God had been their king, but they wanted a human king.  They wanted to be just like all the pagan nations around them.  Put that way it sounds like such a bad idea.  But the people would not quit asking so God finally relented and allowed them to have a human king.

As ever the God of second chances, instead of allowing the people (and later us) to suffer for their poor request, God brings news of a different king.  God does not punish the nation – the poor lambs have suffered enough already.  Instead God promises them a king who will “reign wisely”, a king who will do what is “just and right in the land”.  For a people who have been suffering for quite a while, this promise brings hope.

Today we do not have kings so much as systems.  True, we will soon have a new President, but he can only do so much on his own.  The President must work with Congress and within the confines of many systems already in place.  Yes, the systems can be changed, but this is very often a long and slow process.  Many people live within systems – medicare, social security, health care, prisons, education, foster care, reservations.  Many long for equality and justice and for things to be made right again.  Many long to be freed from the system in which they feel trapped.  Many need to see and experience hope.

The same king that was promised in Jeremiah 23 is the king who can bring hope to all people.  With hope, Jesus brings peace, compassion, and love.  Jesus may not directly fix these broken systems, but He can fix broken people.  May we, as the people of God, bring Jesus’ light and love and hope into the world, ever seeking to build the kingdom of God here on earth.


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Run to God

Reading: 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-5 and 13-17

Paul is writing into a situation where there is some sense of urgency or anxiety.  He encourages this church to “not become easily unsettled or alarmed” by the false prophets.  Paul must be writing about this because it has begun to happen.  The church looks at the world around them and wonders if the end is at hand.  We can relate well to this at times in our modern world. At times we too look at the world and wonder.

On a smaller scale I think we do this at times, in our own lives.  Traumatic and sudden events can cause us to question and think the end is near.  The loss of a child, the sudden death of a spouse in middle age, the unexpected pink slip at work – all can put us into a mode of anxiety or fear or doubt. All of these things can shake us too and can almost paralyze us.

The words Paul speaks to the church speak to us as well: “from the beginning God chose you to be saved”.  In essence, Paul is saying, trust in God and the plan God has for you.  Trust that God alone is fully in control, that no matter what happens here, we are in God’s hands.  Paul goes on to encourage them to “stand firm and hold onto the teachings”.  Remember what is in God’s Word.  Stand on your faith, hold fast to the promises – “I will never leave you or forsake you”.

When fear or anxiety rise up, Paul says to run to God.  When the world seems to be falling apart, run to God.  When we feel like we cannot make it on our own, run to God.  Why?  As Paul wrote, “May our Lord Jesus Christ, who by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your heart and strengthen you for every good deed and word”.  Run to God, the promises are true.


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For I am with You

Reading: Haggai 1:15b to 2:9

Remember when America was great?  A TV in every living room and a car in every driveway…  This was the ‘land of opportunity’, the place where hundreds of thousands came to make a better life for themselves.  Every parent’s dream was for their children to be better off than they themselves were.  It was a significant event when that first child from a family went off to college.  Remember the good old days?!

Haggai speaks to the people in a time just after the Babylonian exile has ended.  The people returning to Jerusalem and other communities remembered their homes and the temple in an idealized way.  All was beautiful and perfect in their mind’s eye.  But they return to a temple in ruins, to homes that show decades of neglect.  There is such a disconnect between what they envisioned and their reality that it is depressing and causes them to question all that matters, especially their faith.

We too can experience this remembering of a glorified past.  It can be physical – like when one returns to the old family home and thinks, “My this bedroom is small, I remember it being bigger”.  This can also happen in our faith.  Like those returning to Jerusalem, we too can return to our faith after a time of exile.  After we have been away from God for a while, we come to return and expect God’s magnificent presence to be there all the time.  We recall our ‘mountaintop’ faith moment and want to reclaim that feeling.  But our reality is that often times our faith must be rebuilt, just like the homes and temple that the people of Haggis’s had to rebuild.

The Lord speaks to Haggai as this large task has deflated the people.  “Be strong all you people of the land and work.  For I am with you…  I will fill this house with glory”.  These are our promises too.  Be strong, stay true to our faith, work at it.  God is with us.  God loves us.  God will fill each of us, all of us, with God’s glory.  God is faithful.  May we be too.