pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Ever Before Me

Reading: Psalm 16

Verse 8: “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken”.

Psalm 16 is written by David and flows with confidence in God. For David, God is his refuge, his giver of good things, his counselor. David trusts that God is worthy of his praise and rejoicing. He also knows that God is always present. With confidence David writes, “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken”. He chooses a daily relationship with God and upon that relationship he can stand firm.

In today’s Psalm, David is affirming and positive. But life is not always good. David, like us, certainly had days and seasons when life was hard and had times when sin created separation from God. Some of David’s Psalms reflect these valleys. It was in those lows that David learned that God never leaves him. We too experience this if our first action in the valley is to reach out to God. The Lord is always there, always by our side. Verse 8 is a great verse to memorize or to put on a note card or to highlight in our Bibles.

Psalm 16 closes with another promise that can sustain us and help us through a trial or time of grief or suffering. God shows us the “path of life” – the way to eternal life. David knows that one day he will be in God’s presence, enjoying “eternal pleasures” at God’s right hand. What a joy it will be! This promise is ours too. Thanks be to God!

Prayer: Lord God, help me to daily walk with you. Keep me intimately connected so that I can stand firm in the trials and hard times. Thank you for always being present to me, O God. Amen.


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Good Gifts

Reading: James 1: 17-21

Verse 21: “Get rid of all the moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the Word planted in you”.

Our passage from James opens with a good reminder as we start our week. James reminds us that God gives us good and perfect gifts. The unchanging God who is from everlasting to everlasting has given us good gifts. When I think of the gifts that God has given us, I think of God himself. The greatest gifts that we have as human beings are God’s best attributes. “Created in His image” comes to mind. God loves us without fail, always forgives us, always reaches out to us, and always cares for us. These are the good gifts from above.

God uses the Word of truth, Jesus, to give us new birth. Through Jesus Christ we become new creations, born of the Spirit. It is through Jesus and His life that we truly see how to take these gifts of God – love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, compassion, empathy… – and to use them in our lives and in the lives of others. This is how we are the “first fruits” that James speaks of. We bear fruit both when we live out and when we share these good gifts with others. This is how we live out our faith.

In verse 19 we shift to some practical advise on how to best live in relationship with others. James tells us to listen, listen, listen. And, then, we are to listen some more. “Be quick to listen”. Why? So that we are slow to speak. Hear the other person. Really understand what they are saying and feeling. Being slow to speak begins with listening and then by not thinking of our reply or response until after the other is done speaking. When we practice these two ideas, it really is amazing how it affects James’ next piece of advice.

James advises us to also be slow to anger. When we have really listened to and understood the other, then anger is harder to muster up. When we do allow anger into our hearts, we are far from righteousness. To help with our anger management, James suggests that we first “get rid of all the moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent”. Thinking of myself, I easily think of ego, pride, the need to be in control, judging others as the filth and evil that must go. Perhaps you too struggle with these or maybe you have others. Whatever the case, may we also follow James advice in the second half of the verse too: “humbly accept the Word planted in you”. We do know how and why God wants us to live as first fruits of His grace, love, mercy, forgiveness… This is how we share the good news with others.

In humility, I bow and ask you, O Lord, to purge me of all evil and wickedness. Fill me with your good gifts and use me to share these with others. May I be a first fruit today, bringing you and your good gifts to all I meet today. Amen.


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Good Gifts

Reading: James 1: 17-21

Verse 21: “Get rid of all the moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the Word planted in you”.

Our passage from James opens with a good reminder as we start our week. James reminds us that God gives us good and perfect gifts. The unchanging God who is from everlasting to everlasting has given us good gifts. When I think of the gifts that God has given us, I think of God himself. The greatest gifts that we have as human beings are God’s best attributes. “Created in His image” comes to mind. God loves us without fail, always forgives us, always reaches out to us, and always cares for us. These are the good gifts from above.

God uses the Word of truth, Jesus, to give us new birth. Through Jesus Christ we become new creations, born of the Spirit. It is through Jesus and His life that we truly see how to take these gifts of God – love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, compassion, empathy… – and to use them in our lives and in the lives of others. This is how we are the “first fruits” that James speaks of. We bear fruit both when we live out and when we share these good gifts with others. This is how we live out our faith.

In verse 19 we shift to some practical advise on how to best live in relationship with others. James tells us to listen, listen, listen. And, then, we are to listen some more. “Be quick to listen”. Why? So that we are slow to speak. Hear the other person. Really understand what they are saying and feeling. Being slow to speak begins with listening and then by not thinking of our reply or response until after the other is done speaking. When we practice these two ideas, it really is amazing how it affects James’ next piece of advice.

James advises us to also be slow to anger. When we have really listened to and understood the other, then anger is harder to muster up. When we do allow anger into our hearts, we are far from righteousness. To help with our anger management, James suggests that we first “get rid of all the moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent”. Thinking of myself, I easily think of ego, pride, the need to be in control, judging others as the filth and evil that must go. Perhaps you too struggle with these or maybe you have others. Whatever the case, may we also follow James advice in the second half of the verse too: “humbly accept the Word planted in you”. We do know how and why God wants us to live as first fruits of His grace, love, mercy, forgiveness… This is how we share the good news with others.

In humility, I bow and ask you, O Lord, to purge me of all evil and wickedness. Fill me with your good gifts and use me to share these with others. May I be a first fruit today, bringing you and your good gifts to all I meet today. Amen.


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Presence

Reading: Psalm 77: 1-2 & 11-20

Psalm 77 begins with, “I cried out to God for help; I cried out for God to hear me”.  In this opening line we can feel connection.  Whether recent, long ago, or present, we have all had occasions to cry out to God and to lay out great need at His feet.  When we find ourselves at the end of our hope, we desperately reach out to God and beg Him to hear our prayer.

Then the psalmist goes on remind himself of all that God has done.  In this way we too can recall times we have been in God’s presence in our past and can again rejoice in the blessings we have and are currently experiencing.  Then he goes on to recount God’s goodness and the many miracles God has worked in the past.  In the midst of a difficult time it is important to think on God’s love, goodness, and power.

As the Psalm concludes, the writer recalls God’s leading of the people.  God still desires to lead us each day of our lives as well.  God seeks to be an active and engaged participant in our lives.  In times of stress or trial it can be easy to forget God’s role in our lives.  Even in those times that He seems to be absent, He is always ad near as our next prayer.

God’s desire is to heal and save the world.  The master plan is to make all things new again.  There is hope in our faith.  We do go through dark moments in our lives, but we also dance in God’s light and love.  May today be a day of dancing.  And even if the dance is slow and mournful, may it also be bathed in God’s presence.


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Mind on the Goal

Reading: Philippians 3: 13-14

Paul knew that forgetting was important.  He knew that if he were to continue to grow in his relationship with Christ, he must treat his failures like Christ treats our sin.  First, he must acknowledge that as we are human, we will sin and struggle with our sin.  Second, like Christ we must forget our stumbles and press on in our faith.  Mistakes so often teach us and we must be cognizant of what we can learn from our mistakes, but we cannot fall and remain down.  We must pick ourselves up, remember our guilt no more, and continue “on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Jesus Christ.”

Perfection is something only Christ attained.  So we can expect to have stumbles, setbacks, and even the occasional fall.  The way in which we choose to handle these inevitable occurrences is essential to a successful journey of faith.  One option is to collapse, to become paralyzed, to remain stuck.  We may have brief times here because of the enormity or sheer emotional weight of the trial.  But we cannot choose to remain here.  Even though sometimes this feels like the easy choice, it is not the best choice because in essence we are saying God cannot rescue us.

In the end we must make the choice to reach out, to take hold of His hand, and to begin to walk again.  We must lean into God and allow Him to carry us for a  bit.  We must walk with Him and share all of what we are going through and ask for what we need.  Above all else God loves us and seeks good for our lives.  Our bottom line is that we know the goal is assured because of Christ’s work on the cross.  No matter what life brings, may we always live with our mind on the goal to which we too are called heavenward.