pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Bold Trust

Reading: Jeremiah 32: 6-15

Shelter is one of our most basic needs.  To have a place to call home provides stability and a sense of well-being.  Your day is different when you know you have a place of refuge and a place to lay your head down at the end of the day.  As the Babylonians assaulted the city, the words of Jeremiah’s prophecy echo in their heads.  They know they will be defeated and carried off into exile in Babylon.  The Israelites future is scary and full of unknowns.

Into this scene steps Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel.  God has told Jeremiah that Hanamel is coming to sell him some family land in his hometown.  Buying land seems an odd choice when they about to be uprooted and carried off to a foreign land.  But God had told Jeremiah about Hanamel’s visit so he goes ahead and buys the land.  Most of us would have said, “Let’s just wait and see how this thing with the Babylonians turns out”.

But Jeremiah is banking on God’s promises.  He knows that the Israelites are God’s chosen people and always will be.  He knows God’s promise that one day “houses, fields, and vineyards will again be bought in the land”.  It may be ten years or four hundred years.  It does not matter because God’s word is good.  One day God will restore Israel.

At times God will ask us to step out into a place where we must trust what we know about God.  Perhaps God is asking you to do so right now in your life.  If not now, know that God will.  This is because trust is an essential element in our relationship with God.  In this place of trust we begin to say “your will” instead of “my will”.  As we sense God’s call to step out in faith may we each do so, boldly trusting in God alobe.


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God’s Promises

Reading: Jeremiah 32: 1-3a and 6-15

Many are the promises of God. “I will never leave you or forsake you”.  “I will be with you until the end of this age”.  “My mercies are new every morning”.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.  “The Holy Spirit will teach you and remind you of everything I told you”.  “Trust in me alone”.  These are but a few.

In our text, Jeremiah is under house arrest in a city besieged by the mighty Babylonians.  He had warned the King about the danger of relying on Egypt and had prophesied about Israel’s impending doom.  The time had come.  In the midst of this scene of doom and destruction, Jeremiah’s cousin visits him to sell him some land.  To all but Jeremiah this seems like a foolish investment.  This would be like a football coach calling a timeout with one second left on the clock when their team is down 50 points.  Yet Jeremiah buys the land.  It makes no sense.  Except to Jeremiah.  He was trusting in God’s promise.  God had told him that one day, even though hard to believe at this point, that one day God would restore and redeem Israel.

At times life will besiege us as well.  The storm may come in the form of a broken relationship, a health crisis, an unexpected loss, or ….  In these moments, we feel lost and alone and like we are about to go under.  Into these moments, God will speak.  If we are open to God’s Spirit, we will be reminded of God’s promises.  God never stops loving us, never stops reaching out to us, never gives up on us.  In life’s trials, may we turn to the promises of God, our rock and redeemer, our Savior and hope.


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Assurance 

Reading: Hebrews 11: 1-3

Anselm, a Benedictine monk, once said, “I believe in order that I may understand”.  This seems so backwards in the world of logic.  But in the world of faith it makes perfect sense.  God acts and is present in so many amazing ways.  We cannot deny this because of our own personal experience.  Yet we cannot always understand how or why.  A part of faith is always mystery.  Our faith is something we cannot prove scientifically, but one cannot deny that God exists.  We live with a conviction that God is all around us.

At times we have personal experiences with God’s presence.  These moments of divine presence in our own lives brings assurance to our belief.  In the Bible we find many accounts of God’s interaction with humanity.  In our lives we continue to hear and read testimonies of people who experienced God in their lives.  All of this builds our assurance and then our belief.

Our faith rests upon who God is.  Throughout the pages of scripture, in the lives and witness of all the saints who have gone before, and in our own lives we see a God who is always present, is always faithful, and is always just.  God does not slumber or sleep.  God does not go on vacation.  No matter when we call or where we are at, when we seek God or call on God’s presence, God is right there.  The promises God made to Adam, Abraham, Moses, … remain true to this day.  Because of who God is, we rest assured in our faith.  For this we say thanks be to God.


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Like Abraham 

Reading: Hebrews 11: 8-16

Too often we are deaf to God’s voice.  Like with Abraham, God is seeking to bless us and to do great things in our lives.  Throughout our day God seeks to connect to us, to draw us into relationship, to allow us to experience the presence of the Spirit in our life.  Too often we miss these chances.

Most of us have had significant encounters with God.  Maybe they were during a retreat or when we were at camp.  Maybe they were in a deep valley where our sense of God’s presence became very real at the low point of a trial or struggle.  Maybe it was during a special worship service or when we were on a mission project.  At certain times we are particularly open to hearing God’s voice or experiencing God in our midst.  But God desires this to be our frequent experience throughout our day.

The ‘God moments’ we have experienced are powerful and meaningful.  So this leads us to seek out why we do not have these times more often in our day to day living.  In Abraham’s story we find some clues.  First, he was open to hearing God.  At times God’s voice will boom into our lives.  But Abraham had his ear ever tuned to God and had his spirit focused on God.  We too can do this by being intentional in inviting God into our daily lives and by being cognizant of the opportunities God places in our lives.  These may come in the wise words of a friend, in the face of the one in need we encounter on the sidewalk, or in the still small voice of the Holy Spirit whispering into our heart.  Second, when Abraham felt God’s presence or heard the voice, he listened and was honest.  If he did not understand or felt doubt or fear, he was honest with God about these things.  God did not walk away, but responded.  Through faith Abraham heard and obeyed God and was credited as righteous.

Life can consume us.  Life can swirl around us.  The noise and busyness can obscure God’s voice and the encounters sent our way.  When we allow these things to occur, our relationship with God suffers.  Our soul is poorer for having missed out.  Our faith is not as strong as it could have been had we experienced God’s presence.  We, like Abraham, can hear God’s voice often.  We, like Abraham, can become attuned to that voice, lifting it above the daily hum.  The more we hear the voice, the better we listen. And we, like Abraham, can and will experience God’s presence and blessings when we slow down and focus on our faith.  May we learn to be like Abraham so that we can receive the promises, blessings, and power of God in our lives, daily and often. 


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Unconditionally

Reading: Galatians 3: 23-29

Paul’s message to the Galatians is first and foremost that they are “Christians” – heirs to the promises of God.  Paul in implying that they are heirs to all of God’s promises.  He does not delineate to just a few of them but he implicitly states that as those baptized into Christ they are blessed with all of His promises.  This too is our view as contemporary readers of the Bible.  We see all of the promises made to Abraham, Moses, … as promises that apply to us as well.  Christians are not just a New Testament people, but a people of the whole Bible.

The people of Paul’s day felt a little conflicted about the full application of the Law.  We too walk this middle ground today.  We read and apply some of the Old Testament and the Law, such as tithing and most of the Ten Commandments, but we certainly do not follow all of the Old Testament.  For example we do not follow most of the dietary restrictions or the Sabbath laws and we do not celebrate the festival’s such as Passover.  We hold onto many of the promises and some of the Law however.  Those things that Jesus emphasized or instituted are followed – baptism, communion, serving the needy, and the two great commands.

At times our churches and we as individuals can function much like the faithful Jews of Paul’s day.  We can exclude or be non-welcoming to people who do not fit into our boxes or who do not conform to all of our expectations.  For some that’s how they dress and for others it is what part of town you’re from.  For some it is your ethnicity and for others it is your style of worship.  Our bottom line, though, is still the same: we are all children of God and therefore heirs to His promises of forgiveness of sins, eternal life, … and all are called to love all as Jesus loves us: unconditionally.  May we come to see all as welcome in His kingdom and may we live and love accordingly.


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Eternal Yet Present

Reading: Revelation 22: 1-5

This final chapter of the Bible provides a beautiful image of heaven.  God and Jesus seated on the throne will be the center piece of the city.  All will serve and worship them and all will be marked as their children.  Out of the throne will flow a beautiful river, crystal clear, carrying the water of life.  Along the banks of this river will stand the tree of life.  The tree of life will bear twelve crops in the twelve months and the tree’s leaves will bring healing to all nations or peoples.  The light and warmth that basks this scene will come from God.

Revelation 22 indeed paints an amazing picture of the new heaven.  It is a place one is drawn to, a place one yearns to be present in.  The promises of complete healing, of being constantly in God’s presence, the beauty that will be the new Jerusalem – all draw one towards eternity.

Yet this idea of finally getting ‘there’ can distract us from this life.  While living with one eye on eternity can help keep us focused on how we are called to live in this world, all of our focus on eternity can cause us to look past what God has placed before us in this life.  On the other extreme, if life here is instead consumed by making the next step up the ladder of success, God has almost no role in our life.  When we are focused almost exclusively on the next promotion, the next new car or home, the next gadget, then the role of God in our life is minimal or nonexistent.

May we instead live life with the knowledge of our eternal home in mind while being fully present and attentive to God’s hand at work in this life.  May we trust in His plan and in His love both in this life and the next.


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Promises

Reading: Revelation 21: 1-6

Our world and sometimes our lives can be filled with pain and death and oppression and injustice.  Sometimes these are things we must endure and get through.  Sometimes they are things from afar that we may be able to alleviate through our engagement with the causes or by providing relief in some form.  And sometimes they are things we see from afar and are powerless to affect the pain, suffering…

In Revelation we read that in the new heaven and earth, all will be made new.  Coupled with the promise that there will be no more pain, tears, death, or mourning, the vision is for a place where all is good, where happiness and joy abound.  It will be a place where all are content and where God’s love fills everyone and everything.

Sometimes, when one is locked in a deep struggle where there seems to be no hope and where there seems to be no way out, this promise of all things being made new is all one has to hold onto.  We are reminded that God’s word is trustworthy and true.  One day all will be made new and right.  God also reminds us that He is the beginning and the end.  This also means that He created each one of us and that He longs for us to return to Him, to dwell with Him.

When these are our promises, we can always look to the future and find at least this sliver of hope.  In our lives we will draw on these promises from time to time.  We will also have opportunities to share these promises with others.  May we ever look to our everlasting God and ever seek to share His promises with the lost and hurting.