pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Rooted and Established

Reading: Ephesians 3: 14-21

Verses 17 & 19: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power… to know this love that surpasses knowledge”.

In this life we can pursue many things. Even for those who know God, the things of this world can call out in loud and enticing voices. We can act as if we were in love with the things of this world and our behaviors can indicate that we are smitten. Bright and shiny things that we chase are easier to identify: a new car, a bigger home, the latest iPhone. Non-physical things can draw us in too: the promotion, the recognition, the applause. No matter what we are pursuing, if it is not God, we find that ultimately self is at the core of the pursuit. We chase after things to try and satisfy self. And at the center of self we find pride.

Even though it looks like love as we pursue these things, none of these things can love us back. The new phone does not love us and the new title hanging outside the door does not love us. These things cannot make others love us. So we keep pursuing to find love. And if we dig down deep to the heart of the matter, we find that pride does not love us. Pride is willing to do much to elevate self but never finds love because the car or the title or whatever are never enough. Pride never rests because there is no final satisfaction.

To this endless cycle and for the rest of our souls, Paul offers this prayer: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power… to know this love that surpasses knowledge”. It begins with where we are rooted and established. Instead of being driving by pride, God invited us to be rooted and established in His love. Paul prays for us to have the power know God’s love because it is a love that brings peace and joy and contentment to our souls. It is not based on this world or on the things of this world. It is an eternal love. It is an unending love.

When we know and are rooted and established in God’s love, our focus shifts outward from self. We pursue God and the things of God as we reciprocate His great love. We begin to see as God sees, finding worth and value in all people. As this occurs, the things of this world grow dim. Relationships with God and each other become our pursuits. These have true value. Here we find a love that surpasses even knowledge. This day and every day may we be rooted and established in God’s love.


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Share His Love

Reading: Isaiah 40: 25-26

Verse 25: “Lift your eyes to the heavens: who created all these?”

When we look to the stars in heaven we begin to get a glimpse of God’s creativity and power. We can see stars so numerous that we cannot even begin to count them. With the aid of telescopes we have discovered that there are hundreds and hundreds of stars for each one we can see with the naked eye. The sheer number is hard to begin to understand. Our passage tells us that God “calls them each by name”. If God knows each by name and knows if one of them is missing, then God cares for His created order in an extraordinary way.

Then we bring our gaze a little lower, down to the earth. Here too we see the magnificent creative power of God as we consider the vast variety of plants and animals and sea creatures and so on. Each is created for a specific purpose and place in God’s world. Just like the stars, God knows them all. The care with which God created and ordered the world reveals not only power and might but it also reveals a deep love for His creation.

If we lift our gaze to the mirror, we see the crown jewel of God’s creation. You, I, and every person that has lived, is alive, and will ever live are created in God’s image. We are each uniquely and wonderfully made. We each have a spark of the divine in us that ever calls us to our creator God. This connection to God is what allows us see beauty and value and worth in creation and in each other. It is what calls us to care for creation and to love on another.

Our care and love are imperfect. Compared to God’s love and care, ours is limited and sometimes self-serving. Sometimes we love self far more than anything else. But God did not create us to be perfect. He created us to pursue perfection. In this pursuit, our model is Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. Jesus showed us what God’s love looked like lived out. This day, may we delve into Jesus’ love and go forth to share that love with our family, friends, and neighbors. It is a love that can change hearts and can change lives. May we share it well today.


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Deeper

Reading: Psalm 139: 1-12

Verse One: O Lord, you have searched me and know me.

Although the Psalm is centuries old, it still speaks powerfully of the relationship we can have with our God.  When David penned this Psalm, he had matured in his faith and his position in life was pretty secure.  But in his youth he had been through periods of trial and testing, through times of fleeing and rebellion.  Through these experiences he developed a very intimate relationship with God.  The Psalm is a celebration of that relationship.  It also calls out to us to each seek an intimate relationship with God.

Verse one begins with the basis of the relationship: “O Lord, you have searched me and know me”.  It is not a snoopy or creepy knowing – it is a lovely and caring knowing.  God is both all-knowing and ever-present.  But it is a sign of intimacy when we choose to live into these facts – it shows we are all in too.  The idea that God knows the words of our hearts and minds before they come to our tongue reveals that God is all in.  Just as much as we need God, God desires a deeply personal and intimate relationship as well.

Verse seven begins with “where can I go…” and “where can I flee…” questions.  David is not seeking to hide from God or to take a break from the relationship.  He is celebrating that God is everywhere.  David knows that no matter where he goes and no matter where life may bring him, God will be there.  God is in the heavens and in the depths and on the far side of the sea.  Even in the darkness God is fully present.  No matter where he goes, David finds that God is right there for him.

God invites us into an intimate, deeply personal relationship.  God seeks anf offers transparency and honesty and an all in commitment to the relationship.  Even though we may wander from time to time and drift to the edge on occasion, God is always pursuing us, always seeking to deepen our relationship.  May we each pursue this relationship with our God and King.  This day may we move deeper into the depths of God’s love.


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Reaping Good, Always

Reading: Galatians 6: 7-16

Paul opens this section if his letter to the Galatians with two key points.  The first is that we reap what we sow.  The second is that we must not grow weary of doing what is right.  While these two ideas are directly related, each point of emphasis has its own challenges.

We have all experienced the ‘reap what you sow’ concept both with the good we do and with the evil we allow into our lives.  When we sow good into the world, we so often receive good in return.  For example, when we serve a meal at the local mission, it is good but we are usually the ones mist blessed by it.  On a more basic level, when we are kind and loving towards our fellow man they tend to be loving in return.  On the other end of the spectrum, when we sow evil by allowing greed, anger, gossip, gluttony, … into our lives, then we hurt both others and ourselves.  It is a hard road to only sow good with Satan and his emissaries always working to tempt us.

Paul’s second point is to not weary of doing what is right.  As Christians our natural bent in life is to do what is right in the world.  It is the example set by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Our natural disposition as disciples is to be a servant to those in our lives.  Jesus calls for us to die to self so that we can better see the needs of others and to act accordingly.  For me this us easiest when the task is simple.  I could help an elderly woman to her car with her groceries all day long.  The challenge comes when there is risk to ourselves in serving another or in correcting a wrong that is occurring.  It can be hard to do what us right over and over.  Like Peter we ask, ‘how many times?’ – how many times must I forgive them?  How many times must I help the same person?  Jesus’answer was a simple ‘forever’ – just as long as God will forgive and love us.  Just as long.

May we find strength, grace, love, forgiveness, and encouragement in our saving relationship with Jesus Christ so that we may reap good to build His kingdom here and so that we may not grow weary in our own pursuit of His kingdom in our lives.


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Consuming Fire

Reading: 1 Kings 18: 20-39

What a contrast we have in today’s story.  One team builds their altar and places the sacrifice on it.  They dance about the sacrifice, they pray and shout to their god.  Then they resort to cutting themselves and crying out more urgently to gain their god’s attention.  Their god does not answer.  Their god does not satisfy their pleas.  All is done in vain.

We scrape together our dollars to buy a bigger house or a fancier car.  We work late every day as the announcement date for who will be promoted or made partner draws near.  We show up early with our neatly dressed little family and sit in the front pew so everyone can see we are there again this Sunday.

Then the other team steps to center stage.  But instead of a team of 450 it is a one man show.  He builds the altar and places the sacrifice on it.  The audience has seen this show before.  But then he digs a big trench around that altar.  Interest rises.  Then he has people dump bucket after bucket of water on the sacrifice and altar.  The trench fills with water.  The audience slides up to the edges of their seats.  Then he simply asks for his god to make it known that He is the Lord God, the one and only true God.  He trusts that God will answer.  He knows this God.  And fire falls from heaven and consumes it all – the sacrifice, the wood, the altar stones, the water.  The fire of God consumes everything.

Maybe the house is a little small but we are comfortable.  Maybe the car isn’t shiny and new anymore but it runs well and is reliable.  Maybe that project can get done tomorrow.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Maybe we could trust this God with all we have.  Maybe He really is able to do all things.  Maybe He loves us unconditionally.  When we pursue and place our trust in the one true Lord of life, then the gods of this world have no sway in our lives.  When we seek first the things of God, we do not have any desires left for the things of this world for His fire consumes us.  Consume us today, O Lord our God.


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Pure Love

Only God loves us purely.  Only God meets all our needs joyfully.  Only God wants the very best for us.  Only in His promises do we find forgiveness, peace, hope, and contentment.  Only through God’s selfless love.

For us, this should be the love we return and share with others.  But we lose focus on our true love.  Our eyes and our heart drift.  Soon we look to the world instead.  Our wants draw us to work more for the newer thing or the greater want.  Our pursuit of worldly pleasures leaves us hungry for more.  Our new position only drives us to seek a higher one with more power.  Back to work!

Like the Israelites we think this new ‘king’ is just what we need.  Sometimes we lose sight of our true King.  Often, those ‘kings’ we pursue don’t turn our so royal or altruistic.  What we see as a king can enslave us and trap us and make us see life and our priorities from an ungodly perspective.  We find ourselves always on the treadmill, always saying “just a little more”, but it never is enough.

Only God loves us purely.  One significant or tragic event or life change and we wonder how we got to where we are.  We question why the world seemed do important when all the really matters is God and His love.  But we don’t need to get there.  We can stop and anytime and focus back in on God.  Focus in on the only one whole loves us purely.  We are God’s priority; may He be ours as well.

Scripture reference: 1 Samuel 8: 10-20


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Relentless Love

Do miracles really happen?  Miracles really do happen.  Do they really still happen?  They really do still happen.  God and His Spirit are still active in the world.  They do not only work through miracles but they also work through people like you and me, making a difference in everyday life.  God still answers big audacious prayers (and small ones too), still heals people of ‘incurable’ and ‘terminal’ diseases, and still restores relationship that were long ago dead.

Why does God continue to do such works?  It is through our encounters with the divine that our faith grows and that we come to know the nature of God more and more.  When Peter healed the beggar at the gate to ‘perfect health’, it was great for the man.  But the higher purpose was to give Peter an audience to share the story of Jesus with.

Another reason we continue to experience God through a variety of means in real ways is to counter our doubt.  Doubt and questioning continue to pull at us and to creep into our lives.  Yet our God continues to and will continue to pursue us.  His longing for each of us is to form and mold us into just the person He created us to be.  He has a plan for our lives.

Sometimes we don’t always hear His voice and some of the time we make decisions or choices we shouldn’t.  We get off track.  We drift.  We lose touch with our faith.  But our God never gives up.  Another person comes along or we encounter God through an event or other experience.

In His relentless pursuit of us, God never, ever gives up.  Through whatever means necessary He continually works to shape and mold us into just who He created us to be.  That is just how much God loves us.

Scripture reference: Acts 3: 12-19