pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Trusting

Reading: Psalm 17: 1-7

Verse One: Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea, listen to my cry.

The psalmist cries out to God for an answer to his prayer: “Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea, listen to my cry”.  He asks God to “give ear” to what he requests.  Then he adds a reminder to “see what is right”.  He wants God to not only listen and to pay attention but to see it his way as well.  This is a familiar prayer pattern for most of us today.  We want God to hear our prayers and to answer as we have requested because, as you can see God, we are right and correct in what we are asking for.

To back up his case and to help God act on his behalf and in the way that he desires, the psalmist builds his case.  He invites God to examine him and to test him.  He is confident that God will not find any sin in his life.  He reminds God that he has kept “the words of your lips” and has not followed the ways of the violent.  The psalmist reminds God that he has “held to your paths”.  Some of the time we also add similar reminders to our prayers.  We add things like: went to church each Sunday, read Bible every day, served at the rescue mission last month… We remind God that we have not gossiped or caroused too much.  We also build our case and on occasion we may even pray the “if You’ll only…” prayer.

The psalmist closes this section by again asking God to hear and answer.  He requests that God would “show the wonder of your great love”.  It’s almost as if he were reminding God of how much God loves us as a way to prompt God to show it by answering his prayers.  It is an “if you really love me” kind of prayer.  We too go here once in a while.  We too imply that because God loves us, He should answer as we desire.

All of this seems to both bring God down to our level and to elevate our needs above God’s understanding.  God knows our needs.  God has plans to prosper us.  May we bring our humble and honest prayers simply to God, trusting that He will hear and trusting that He will act according to His will and to His plans for us.


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Big Plan

Reading: Genesis 21: 8-21

Verse 12: It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.

God’s big plan is at work.  Sometimes it is hard to see the big plan from our own limited vantage point.  From our small view sometimes we cannot see very far.  In today’s passage, God knows the big plan.  He says to Abraham, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned”.  This is the big plan.  The nation of Israel will come through Isaac – his child with wife Sarah.  It fulfills the promise made long ago.  The covenant involves divine guidance and blessing.

The big picture even influences the writers of Genesis.  Notice that in our passage the name ‘Ishmael’ is not used.  The writers instead use ‘son’ and ‘boy’.  Maybe the story is less personal that way.  Yet when we look at Abraham, we see that this is very personal.  It is his son Ishmael that must be cast out.  It is his first born son that he must send out into the desert.  Even though it is part of God’s big plan, this is a hard thing that Abraham is being asked to do.  He is stuck in his small view.

As Abraham teeters in the balance, God gives him some reassurance.  In a way, God is saying, ‘truth’ me’.  Abraham has had lots of experience trusting God when he could not see the big plan, so he trusts once again in God and follows obediently.  At times we find ourselves in a situation similar to Abraham’s.  The things that we need to ‘send out’ are often sins or other things that we can see we need to let go.  Once in a while, though, we find ourselves in a spot like Abraham, having to make the “more right” choice.  We have to let go of something we kind of love to remain obedient to God’s big plan for our lives.  In these moments, may we recall God’s faithfulness in our lives and trust in Him to be faithful once again.


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He Died for Us

Reading: Romans 5: 6-8

Verse Six: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

To me, today’s three verses speak to the depth of God’s love for all of humanity.  The key words are ‘love’ and ‘all’.  It is an amazing, mighty, almost unfathomable love that would send His Son, knowing He would die a painful death.  And speaking of unfathomable – Jesus died for sinners, for you and me, plus all those who hate God and those who deny God and those who refuse to acknowledge God’s existence…  To die for the sinners we all are is one thing.  To die for the haters, the atheists, the non-believers… is a whole other level of ‘all’.

Verse six reads, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”.  In His infinite wisdom, God initiated His plan to save us at ‘just the right time’.  God’s hand is often at work in the world.  Sometimes it happens in big ways, like this, and at other times God’s hand is at work in smaller ways, like the time that person said that thing to you at that time in your life.  There is another truth in this verse.  We are powerless.  Before the cross humanity was trapped in our sin and held captive by death.  But through the cross we find forgiveness and hope.  As Christ conquered sin and death, He opened the way for us too.  Through a personal relationship with Jesus we can claim salvation and eternal life.

In the next two verses, Paul returns to the idea of just who Christ died for.  He notes that maybe some would die for a good man.  I think some are even willing to die for a good cause.  But no one would be willing to die for an enemy or for a cause they do not believe in.  Jesus died for both.  “While we were sinners” – separated from God – He died for us.  That’s amazing, but it goes farther.  Jesus knew we would continue to sin.  He knew His death would not end sinning.  But He died anyway.  We, by our imperfect nature, are prone to sin.  And Jesus died for each and every one of us anyway.  Thanks be to God.


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Rejoice, Be Glad

Reading: Psalm 32

The confession of our sin is an essential part of our faith.  It always has been the key to restoring our relationship to God and to finding renewal in our innermost being.  When we fail to confess our sins, we carry around within us a weight or a shame or guilt that inhibits us from truly living life.  The psalmist calls us blessed when our transgressions are forgiven.  The writer contrasts this with his experience when he did not confess – his bones wasted away and he groaned day and night.  We to experience similar consequences when we hold onto our sin.

Even more important than avoiding the negative consequences of holding onto our sin, which we can do, is the forgiveness and grace we experience when we do come to God with our sins.  In verse five, the psalmist writes, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, you forgave the guilt of my sin”.  He speaks of the guilt being forgiven and of the protection he felt after being made right again with God.  The psalmist describes it as being surrounded with songs of deliverance.  When we confess our sins and allow Jesus to remove the guilt and the burden, we too feel both a sense of relief and also a sense of elation at once again being in a right relationship with the Lord our God.

Today in many of our churches we will celebrate communion.  It is our time to confess our sins, to repent, and to be forgiven as an individual and as a community of faith.  We trust God to hear the words of our confessions and to then restore us to holy and pure.  In verse ten the psalmist writes, “the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts Him”.  This day and each day, may we be people of confession and repentance, ever seeking to be in a right relationship with God, ever desiring to walk within God’s blessing and protection, so that we too, like the psalmist, may rejoice and be glad.


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Living Right

Reading: Psalm 119: 137-144

The psalmist declares that God’s righteousness lasts forever.  Because of this, all of God’s laws and ways are also righteous.  Since God’s laws and ways are always righteous, we should ever seek to understand and live out God’s statutes and precepts.  If we do so, then we draw near to loving them as the psalmist does.  Even in times of trouble and distress, the writer declares that God’s commands bring delight.

To this understanding from the Old Testament, we can apply our understanding of Jesus.  Jesus was the fuller revelation of God as He lived in the flesh.  Jesus allows us to see what it looks like to live out God’s laws and ways.  Even though Jesus was in the flesh, He was still divine and lived a life without sin.  In the life of Jesus, in the things He taught, and in how He lived, we have the example of what it means to live fully in God’s righteousness.  Jesus defined and lived out the essence of all of God’s laws and precepts that we find in the Old Testament.  He did so by loving God with all He was and by loving others as God loves them.  Jesus saw all as beloved children of God and treated each accordingly.

Jesus exemplified verse 142: “Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true”.  God does not change.  God’s love never ends.  God’s ways are true.  Within these truths we seek to live as Jesus lived.  Living out our faith us living right.  Living out the love that Jesus pours into us is living right.  Living out the truth of God so that God’s word spreads to those around us and so God’s love and light grows is living right.  Whether filled with joy because of God’s blessings or struggling through a trial, these truths do not change.  No matter what life may bring, God’s love and God’s ways remain true.  May we always follow Jesus’ example, seeking to be God’s love and truth lived out.


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Right Relationship

Reading: Jeremiah 31: 31-34

God promises a new covenant.  God promises a covenant in which God’s ways will be on our minds and written on our hearts.  The faith will become something personal.  It will become something we live.  In stead of going to worship to simply get our fill or to be tuned up, our faith will be instilled within us all of the time.  It will be a faith based upon God’s love.  It will be a faith that does not carry the guilt and shame that many of the Israelites have been hauling around for years and years.

Verse 34 promises that God will forgive our sins and remember them no more.  Instead of bearing the shame of one parent’s or grandparent’s sins or fearing how your sins will forever taint your children’s or grandchildren’s lives, one will be able to be freed from one’s own sins and their consequences.  Through the new covenant, made real in Jesus Christ, faith will become personal and be between just God and you.  What a new covenant!

While the idea of our sins being our sins alone and the idea that God will remember our sins no more is wonderful news, it is also scary.  A distant, lived out through others faith is much easier in many ways.  Having God’s ways in our minds and on our hearts ups the ante.  When God is constantly with us doesn’t that increase the expectations?  If God is always near, doesn’t  that mean we always live and act as God would act?

These things are indeed the goal.  Of course, being human and far less than God, we are not perfect.  But when God forgives and remembers our sins no more, we are made new and are right back on track.  To receive this forgiveness, all we need to do is repent and ask.  Through our personal relationship with Jesus, His blood makes us new again.  Then we return instantly to a right relationship with God, loving God and neighbor as we are called to, bringing glory to the name of Jesus.


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Ever Closer

Reading: John 14: 25-27

When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, we are made a new creation.  We are born again, not of flesh and bone but of the Spirit.  When we can claim this new birth, offered and paid for through Christ’s work on the cross, we are justified.  Being justified or made right with God means that the punishment we deserve for our sins is forgiven.  Once we are justified we are now part of God’s new creation.  Through the power of the cross, and out of God’s unending and unwavering love for us, His forgiveness is given over and over again.  Just as His mercy is new every morning, so too do we become new creations each day.

As our new selves we are freed from the chains of sin and death so that we can begin to grow into the new creation.  We are no longer tethered to the things of this world so we can begin to grow daily in our relationship with Christ.  We can start to become the person God created us to be.  We learn more and more who Christ is and who He calls us to be as we grow in our faith.  To do so we need to be taught and guided and redirected at times.  To help us on our journey, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives.  When we proclaim Jesus and Lord, the Spirit enters into our being and becomes our teacher.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would do two things.  It would first teach us all we need to know and that it would bring us peace.  On our journey to become more and more like Christ, there is much we need to learn.  The Holy Spirit is our constant companion, revealing, reminding, correcting, guiding, and teaching us as we move along the path to spiritual maturity.  On this journey we also come to understand better and better that God’s love for us never fails.  We come to know that we can do nothing to make Him love us more or to love us less.  This brings peace.  Peace to know that when we struggle and even when we fail, He still loves us.  His mercies never fail.  This day may the Spirit draw us ever closer to Jesus, the perfector of our faith, the one true way.