pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Flourish

Reading: Psalm 52

Verse 8: “I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God”.

The first seven verses of the Psalm are like the tempest of life. For David, Saul is creating the storms that rage around him. Sometimes for us it can be a person or a single situation that is creating the swirl that feels very consuming. Sometimes it is a combination of factors. We can become overwhelmed, especially when we are running at or beyond capacity.

This week we have VBS at the church. It makes a full schedule a little fuller, adding about 5 hours to most days. I love cooking and I love hanging out with middle school youth, so I was looking forward to the week. And then a wicked head cold settled in on Saturday and was going strong until this morning. Just that one little thing was enough to make the first three days extra hard.

David’s struggle lasted a lot longer. He was pursued by Saul for days on end. The constant pressure of moving and hiding again to avoid confrontation was draining. It was very hard. This is revealed in verses 1-7. But then comes verse 8. David pauses, takes a breath, and writes, “I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God”. He stops and pauses and then reminds himself that above all else, above all that is happening with Saul, that God is his refuge and his shelter and his strength.

An olive tree sinks down deep roots. These roots can draw nourishment from the soil. Olive trees are tough looking and are gnarly – they stand strong. David’s faith parallels these trees. He is deeply rooted in God. The connections that he has to God nourish him and allow him to even flourish in the midst of this struggle.

At times we too must pause and stop all of the busyness. At times we too must take a breath, pause, and reconnect through the roots that we have deep down in our relationship with God. Maybe it’s just an extra 15 minutes of quiet time after lunch. Maybe it is sleeping in just a bit to refresh the body. Maybe it is pausing at your desk to offer up a little extra prayer and praise. When we are pressed may we too take a little time, pausing to remind ourselves of our connection to God. In those moments, soak up the nourishment for the soul that time with God provides. Then we too will flourish.

Prayer: Dear Father, when I try and become or do too much, when I just try to push through on my own, slow me down, draw me back in, fill me with your love. Thank you, Father God. Amen.


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Do Not…

Reading: Matthew 5: 21-26

In this section of Matthew, Jesus deals with three of the ten commandments.  As always, Jesus seeks to get at the root of the Law instead of just the surface letters.  Today’s segment of this section deals with “do not murder”.  For most people in Jesus’ audience and for most of us reading it today, we hear this commandment and think, ‘no problem’ – we would never think of actually murdering someone.  It is one of the commandments you read and move right by because it seems so easy to abide by.

But Jesus says, not so fast.  He dives right into the heart of this commandment.  He first addresses the root that can cause murder.  Jesus focuses in on anger.  He states that if we are angry with our brother (or sister) then we are subject to judgment.  First, He says, in essence, do not come to the altar seeking God’s forgiveness or blessing if you are harboring anger or if you have wronged someone else.  Jesus advises us to make things right with our human relationships before trying to right our relationship with God.  Second, Jesus advises us to settle disputes quickly and personally – long before it ever gets to the judge.  Jesus is telling us to be personally accountable for our relationships.

On the surface, Jesus is speaking to our relationships with each other.  But there is also an inner layer.  Anger is something that can burn and smolder within us.  Think of the deepest grudge you have ever held or have heard about.  In the original text, the word translated ‘anger’ carried the idea of seething or underlying rage.  If we allow our anger to fester and to feed upon itself, our anger soon comes to match this idea of rage bubbling just below the surface.  It can build pressure until it erupts in a verbal tirade or even in violence.  Suddenly murder may not seem too far away in an extreme case.  In most cases, the words spew forth and much damage is done to our relationship.

It is relatively easy to obey “do not murder”.  The concept of “do not be angry” is much harder to master.  The battle must begin early – we must be honest and open and deal humbly with one another.  We must seek to love first, to listen carefully, and to be quick to reconcile when we wrong another.  May the Lord our God strengthen and encourage us in our walk.


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Good and Bad

Reading: Psalm 29

Our Psalm today begins by reminding us to give God the glory and to worship the Lord “in the splendor of His holiness”.  The Psalm continues and shares how God’s voice is powerful and majestic.  God’s voice thunders, flashes, and shakes and breaks the earth.  There is indeed much power in the voice of God – much like a huge thunderstorm that rolls in.  In the rolls of thunder that shake the house and in the flashes of lightning that illuminates everything, I gain a sense of God’s power.  It is unavoidable.  Even in the rains that fall, one sees God’s blessing and provision.

For me, it is easy to see God in the powerful thunderstorm.  But when the storms of life settle in, I can find it difficult to sense God is near.  I find this to be particularly true when the storm seems to rage for a period of time.  I feel a sense of being alone and I struggle to hear the powerful and majestic voice of God.  I allow the worries of the world to wash over my faith and to obscure the voice and presence of God.  And then I near the point of breaking, of drowning in the storm, and I cry out and reach out to the Lord our God.  And God is right there.  Has been all along.  I wonder why I didn’t seek God sooner.  God is always present – it was I who was absent.

After such storms, I am more aware of my constant need for God.  But as life returns to normal, I can drift again.  For me, prayer is the key to staying connected.  God desires a relationship that is 24-7-365.  God desires to be my God in the good and in the bad.  There is a song from the O.C. Supertones that reminds me of this.  The song is called Jury Duty.  The pre-chorus sings, “You know I haven’t had the best of days, but I want to stop and thank you anyway”.  Even on a bad day, God blesses us.  The chorus goes on to sing, “Cuz every single moment, whether sleeping or awake, is your creation, and what you’ve made is good.  I don’t always thank you for the rough days and the hard times in my life, even though I should”.  Even on those ‘jury duty’ days, we need to be in connection to God.  On those days especially!

O Lord, when I am tempted to just get on with the busyness of the day, slow me down and center me in prayer.  On those stormy days, help me to remember to bow to you and to worship in the splendor of your holiness.  And at the end of each day, whether good or bad, always draw me back to you, offering you my thanksgiving and praise.  May it be so each day.  Amen.


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To God

Reading: Psalm 137: 1-9

In our lives we all have experienced loss and suffering to some degree.  Sometimes our loss leaves us questioning God and sometimes a tough loss can leave us angry.  This is especially true when our loss seems unjust or when we struggle to find any explanation at all.

The Israelites understood the root cause of their defeat at the hands of the Babylonians.  They knew their sin and disobedience had brought this upon themselves.  Being defeated and carried off into exile was suffering enough.  But to have Jerusalem, their beautiful city and the home of God, destroyed was too much.  Add to this their local adversaries cheering on the destruction and it was simply too much to bear.  Their tears of sorrow turn into tears of rage and vengeance.  We too can relate to times of suffering in our lives when that ‘one more thing’ pushes us beyond what we can bear.

In the midst of our own suffering, our grief and sorrow can also turn to anger and rage.  It is a natural part of the grieving process to be mad at God.  Our lesson from the Israelites is to bring these emotions to God.  Into God’s presence is the right place to bring our anger and rage.  God expects our honesty and can “handle” anything we bring before the throne.  It is only in God that we find the compassion and comfort that can begin to heal what is heavy upon our heart.  May we lay all of our burdens and sufferings at the feet of God and enter into God’s loving embrace.