pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Bow, Kneel

Reading: Psalm 95

Today’s Psalm is an encompassing passage.  It reminds us both of God’s gifts to us and of God’s power as well as reminding us of our human state – bowing to worship God at one moment, testing God at another.  The cycle of obedience and disobedience is common to the Israelites and it is common to us.

When the chosen people are being faithful and obedient, regular worship is at the core of their daily life.  They often walked in a close relationship with God.  God was their Rock and they came to offer their thanksgiving.  The people extolled God for creation and for the blessings in their lives.  In this place, they felt they were “the flock under his care”.  I feel the same way when my walk with God is faithful and obedient.  When I am daily in the Word and when I am praying prayers that offer my repentance and thanks and that seek God’s will for my life, then I too feel God’s love and care surrounding me.  When I am here, you’d think I’d stay forever.

Sheep tend to wander so they are a good choice.  In the Psalm, the author refers to one of the many, many times that the Israelites tested God, one of the many times they were not obedient and faithful.  This too is my pattern.  Although living within God’s presence and protection is where the Israelites wanted to be and where I want to be, sin creeps in.  We find ourselves testing and trying God.  As Paul wrote in Romans 7:15, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do”.  The power of the flesh is strong.  It is a daily, and often hourly or minute by minute, battle to be obedient and faithful.  It is a battle that we cannot win on our own.  It is a battle that never ends.

Thanks be to God that He is faithful and that His love and mercy never fail.  “Come, let us bow down in worship”.  Let us confess our sins with our lips and find God’s forgiveness in our hearts.  Let us offer our praise and thanksgiving!  “Let us kneel before the Lord our maker”.  In humble submission we bow, admitting our weakness, calling on God’s strength.  We kneel before our God, grateful to be in God’s love and care, for we too are the sheep of His pasture.

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Foundation

Reading: 1 Corinthians 3: 10-11

In the Old Testament, God was the foundation of the Israelites’ faith.  God drew near to them in the pillars of fire and cloud, in the fall of Jericho, in the fire that fell from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice, and in other silimar events.  God also drew near through the voice of the prophets – sharing the Law and other instructions, plus blessings and warnings.  God spoke through Moses and Abraham and Samuel and Nathan and many other people.

As we move into the New Testament, the foundation becomes Jesus, God incarnate.  In Jesus, God draws nearer than ever before.  In Jesus, humanity could see and touch and talk to God.  In taking on the flesh, God chooses to accept human limitations and ultimately suffering and death – all to draw near to us so that we could draw nearer to Him.  In this, God demonstrates the depth of His love for us.  In this, we see a God who loves us so much that there is nothing He wouldn’t do to bring healing and hope to the world.

Paul came to know Jesus as the only way to salvation and, eventually, to eternal life.  While here in the flesh, God said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.  After Paul encountered the risen Christ, his life was radically altered.  For the rest of his life, Paul worked tirelessly to proclaim faith in Christ alone.  In today’s passage, Paul writes of the one foundation being Jesus Christ.  For Paul, and for us, there can be no other foundation.

When we claim Jesus as our foundation, we choose to stand upon the Rock.  Jesus becomes for us the source of all of our strength and peace and the filter for all of our decisions.  In Him alone we find contentment, hope, peace, comfort, mercy, forgiveness, healing, and love.  Out of this great love for us, God dwells in our hearts so that we can be bearers of all this, bringing Christ to a world in need.  Like Paul, we too may lay a foundation of Jesus Christ in other people’s lives through our words, actions, and deeds.  May we also strive to be expert builders, sharing our Lord and Savior with all we meet.


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God’s Ways

Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31

God’s ways and the world’s ways are often at odds.  In our daily lives we are constantly pulled in both directions.  God calls us to be loving and kind while the world fills our screens and airwaves with shows and songs that show selfishness and having fun at the expense of others.  God calls us to be generous and giving while the world touts the latest gadget, the newest car, the next best thing.  God calls us to live as servants to others while the world says do what it takes to get to the top.  These are but a few of the many ways that God’s ways and the world’s ways are at odds.

When Paul writes, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing”, we have many examples.  When we take the message of the cross out into the world, when we love and serve people radically, as Jesus did, people often do not understand.  They wonder, ‘Why would you do this for me’?  ‘Why would you come here and bring food, water, blankets’?  ‘Why would you…’?  When we respond with “Because God loves you”, it sounds like foolishness to those who are perishing.

Paul also writes of how when we “preach Christ crucified”, it is a stumbling block, it seems foolish.  In our culture, it is a stumbling block to ask someone to love God more than they love themselves.  It is a stumbling block to ask someone to genuinely love all of their neighbors.  It becomes foolishness when we explain what it really means to love others as Jesus first loved us.  Why would Jesus do that?  And then there is the ‘cost’ of following Jesus that is a big stumbling block to many.  Sacrifice seems foolish.  Until they themselves have felt God’s radical love, it does seem a foolish step for a non-believer to take.

For those who believe and call on Jesus Christ as Lord, Christ is the power and the wisdom of God.  In Christ our weakness is great strength, our foolishness is much wisdom.  “Christ Jesus… our righteousness, holiness and redemption”.  Christ alone can save.  He is no stumbling block but is the rock upon which we stand.  Christ Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only life worth living.  May the Lord our God bless our living in His ways this day, always sharing the way to life eternal with a world that is perishing.


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Refuge

Reading: Psalm 71: 1-6

The psalmist is experiencing a rough season.  The writer desires to seek refuge in God and to find a place away from their attackers.  There are pleas for God to rescue and deliver, to save.  The psalmist turns to God for help.

At times in life we may also feel like we are under assault.  We may feel like things are stacked against us or that life is a lot uphill lately.  When this is just a day or maybe a few days in a row, we can usually lean on God to help push us through.  Soon enough we see daylight and are thankful for God’s presence and strength that helped us endure and remain faithful.  But what about those times when a few days turns into a few weeks, maybe longer?  It is in this place that we find the psalmist.

We can relate to the psalmist.  It feels as if attackers and other negative people are all around us.  We think we are remaining faithful and obedient to serving God.  So why the conflict?  Why the opposition?  It seems unfair and unjust.  It becomes a tipping point.

Maybe we have stepped where we shouldn’t.  Maybe we have followed our own plans instead of God’s.  So maybe the opposition is calling us into check, back into alignment with God.  Maybe the trial is to refine or define or purify our faith.  When we are deep in a time of trial the temptation can be to turn away from God and to run to something else.  So maybe the discomfort forces us to really look at our faith, to define or refine our trust in God, or to deepen our faith.  It may be a season that yields growth.

There will be times of conflict and opposition when we serve God.  It is Satan’s best trick – doubt, questioning, fear.  It is his attempt to derail us.  The psalmist wrote, “Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go”.  May the Lord our God always be our rock of refuge.  In God we can trust.


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In Christ Alone

Reading: Colossians 2: 6-19

In order to both stay strong and to grow in our faith, we must be well connected to Christ.  We accomplish this by being in a close personal relationship with Him.  As God incarnate, Christ came to earth and lived among us so that we could better relate to Him and could better connect to His example and teachings.

Today’s reading gives us three ways to see our connection to Christ.  The first is that of a tree.  Christ is the soil that nourishes our faith and allows us to grow in Him.  We, like a tree, need to sink down deep roots.  The winds of life will try and blow us this way and that.  If we are not deeply rooted in Christ, we can be easily swayed and perhaps could even topple over.  When we are deeply rooted, we can pull from deep within ourselves to withstand what life brings.

The second metaphor is that of a house.  In this example, Christ is our strong foundation.  Christ and His teachings are the solid rock upon which we build our lives.  The solid foundation of our faith keeps us anchored when the storms of life come.  The trials and struggles will surely come.  But when we are rock solid in our faith and our foundation is built on Christ alone, then we can handle the things that happen that will test our faith.

Christ as the head is the third way we need to connect to Him.  In our own bodies the brain controls everything.  The brain controls all function and thought.  The brain is the complete control center.  We do not do anything without impulses, thoughts, and decisions passing through our brains.  In our lives, Christ needs to function in the same way.  All we do and say and think needs to come through Christ dwelling in us.  All must be filtered through the ‘what would Jesus do’ question.

Each day we need to be in the Word, to spend time in prayer, and to reflect on God’s will and direction for our lives.  Each day we need to take His teachings and go forth to be the light and love our world so needs.  Each day may we be firmly rooted in Christ, standing strong upon the foundation He provides, so that we may humbly and faithfully be His hands and feet in the world.


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Faithful Trust

Love and faith seem to conquer fear.  Isaiah writes, “I will trust and will not be afraid.”  There is an implication here that we can simply choose to not feel fear by placing our trust in God.  If you follow this logic out, we get to a place where fear and faith are almost opposites.  For some, this raises the question: does having fear exhibit a lack of faith?

To me fear is an emotion.  It is our natural reaction to coming upon a snake in the tall grass.  But it is also our concern or worry about having enough money or whether or not we will get into the ‘right’ school.  Like all emotions, we cannot banish fear or worry.  But we can choose what to do with them and how much power we will allow them to have.

In this discussion then, faith is an action or a verb.  When we feel fear or worry we can choose to engage or employ our faith.  Like the Israelites in exile, they could place their trust in God and live this way, or they could allow fear to rule.  In faith we too can choose the saving power and authority of God.

When we choose to be faithful, we can see and experience the Spirit’s power and presence in our lives.  In faith we can face our fears or even the unknown and know that God is our hope, our salvation, our rock.  In belief and with faith, we know that no matter what, God is for us and will remain present to us.  We can live with His promise: fear not, I am with you.

Scripture reference: Isaiah 12: 2-6


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On Solid Ground

The psalmist cried out for vindication from his enemies.  He asks God to test him and to try him as a means of proving he is worthy of God’s rescuing hand.  In the midst of a trial or unpleasant experience we often have similar thoughts – I have followed your ways God, I have been faithful in worship, I have given my gifts –  so why is this happening to me?

The psalmist also uses the company he keeps as leverage point.  He makes his case that he does not hang out with the evil doers, with the wicked.  He reminds God that he loves God’s home, that he loves to spend time in the sanctuary.  Our arguments fall along the same lines.

In the psalm we also find our true strength in the midst of the storms.  He proclaims praise for God and tells of God’s wonderful deeds.  In doing so he remembers a God who loves and cares for His people.  He reminds himself and God that he leads a blameless life.  Our God too is a loving God, a God who cares for us in the midst of our trials.

The psalm ends with “my feet stand on solid ground.”  When we are in a relationship with God we too stand on solid ground.  Even when life is storming all around us, we stand firm on the solid rock of Jesus.  Despite all that life throws at us, we can stand assured that in the end whether the trial or life itself, we will be triumphant because we stand upon our faith.

Scripture reference: Psalm 26