pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Refuge and Strength

Reading: Psalm 91: 1-6

Verse 2: “He is my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust”.

The psalmist compares God to a home for those who “dwell in the shelter of the Most High”. A sense of home is important to us. It is where we can go for safety and security when life rages about us. It is where we can go when we feel alone or cast aside – home is where we feel loved and where we belong. When we become frazzled at work or school and near our tipping point, home is where we can go to slow down and find renewal.

In verse two we read, “He is my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust”. When we are living within a relationship with God, we do find that God is our refuge and is a fortress about us. In God we find all the things that are good about a home: safety, security, love, belonging, relief, renewal. As the Psalm unfolds, we read images of how God protects us and cares for us. As I think back over my life, I can recall times when I was kept under God’s wing and times when the arrow flew close, but passed by. In these experiences, I rejoice in the Lord my God.

The experiences when God is near and when God does shield or protect or guide us build up our faith and our trust in God. In turn, this brings us hope when the storms rise or when the cold wind blows. With confidence we can call on the Lord our God, our refuge and strength. Thanks be to God!

Prayer: Lord God, you are always there for me. I just have to turn to you and seek your presence. I thank you this day for the many times that you have rescued me, guided me, protected me, and on and on. You are an awesome and loving God! Amen.


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A Woman and a Foreigner

Reading: Ruth 4: 13-16

Verse 15: “For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth”.

Our nice story continues. The woman who left her homeland to be with her mother-in-law has found a husband. Ruth and Naomi, the two widows, have found happiness and security. It gets even better as Ruth gives birth to a son. Naomi is a grandmother!

As the women gather around to gawk at the baby and to celebrate with Naomi, they make a profound statement. They note the blessings that Ruth has been and will continue be to Naomi: “For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth”. This is quite the statement. It is quite an acknowledgement to Ruth. Sons were valued much more than daughters. Sons were labor. Sons got the inheritance. Sons carried on the family name and the family business. Women were clearly seen as inferior. Yet these women recognize Ruth as being better than seven sons!

On top of this gender reversal, Ruth is also a foreigner. In a nation that often prohibited foreign wives and who usually viewed themselves as isolationists, Ruth is viewed as a great blessing. Ruth did not bring with her the religion of her youth but has instead become a part of God’s family. The quality of the person far overshadows the normal tendency against outsiders. As our passage concludes, the story gets even better.

The child Ruth bears is a boy. That is good news. But the best news is the lineage. The boy is Obed. His son will be Jesse. One of Jesse’s sons will be a Shepherd named David. David will become Israel’s greatest king for the longest time. Then, generations later, a forever king will be born. From the line of Ruth, the Savior will be born in the city of David. Ruth’s name will be found in the list of Jesus’ relatives. A woman and a foreigner – imagine that!

Lord, thank you for the awesome example of Ruth. She placed love and devotion to another far above her own wants and desires. Help me to be a humble servant each day, loving you and others more than myself. Amen.


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Dwell

Reading: Psalm 91: 1-6

The psalmist finds great refuge in God and wants us to do the same as well.  The pestilence, disease, evils that creep in the night, the snares – so much that the psalmist faced!  Our reality is that we too face much.  Children too often grow up on their own, young adults enter the ‘reap world’ often with a huge debt load or without the education necessary to earn a living wage, and our elderly are too often housed in a facility, largely forgotten by family.  It is no wonder people are longing for love, hope, mercy, justice, and a sense of security and belonging.  Life can be hard.  But into this challenging scene the Lord our God tries to make a way.  God desires to bring us thelove, hope, mercy, justice, and a sense of security and belonging that we all seek.

The psalmist reminds us that God seeks to be our refuge and our shelter.  But God will not force us into choosing to receive these things.  “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High” is how the Psalm begins.  He who dwells.  We have a role to play in experiencing rest, cover, a shield about us, and an absence of fear.  We must choose to dwell each day in God’s presence.  To dwell in another’s presence implies a long-term relationship, one with some commitment.  To dwell in God’s presence does not involve flitting in and out as it suits our needs.

When we dwell in God’s presence we are constantly in contact with God.  We turn to God in prayer throughout the day.  We spend time each day reading and meditating upon the Word.  Through these disciplines we come to know and trust in God.  It is then that we begin to find thelove, hope, mercy, justice, and a sense of security and belonging that we so desire.  May we each dwell in God’s presence this day and every day.


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A Mighty Fortress

In general we live in a very secure world.  For the most part our homes are safe and we have emergency personnel that will respond quickly if we need them.  The writer of today’s psalm did not live this life.  Vulnerability and powerlessness typified the psalmist’s world.  For most of Israel’s existence another, greater power ruled over them.  In times when they ruled themselves, threats from all around were always present.  So the psalmist turns to God as the only source of true strength.  The writer sees God’s steadfast love as the only secure constant.  God is his or her fortress.

How many of us try to build our own fortress?  We build ourselves up walls with all of our degrees, with all of our wealth, with all of our possessions, with all of our positions or titles.  In these things we think we find security.  But all of these things are fleeting.  All are temporary.  Despite our best efforts, loss will come.   It may be a job or a loved one or a home.  In these moments and events we come to realize that we do not really control too much.  One higher is in control.

When we choose to surrender our illusion of being in control, we gain freedom.  When we choose to acknowledge that God alone has the power, we gain liberation.  When we choose to trust His leading, we find peace.  When we choose to surrender our worry and anxiety, we find rest.  As we give ourselves up more and more to God, we find what t he psalmist found.

We find that God is a mighty fortress.  We find great security in His unfailing love, in His steadfast mercy, and in His unending forgiveness.  With God as our stronghold we find rest, peace, joy, contentment, love, and so much more.  The God of the ages is our God in every moment, in every situation, and in every way.

Scripture reference: Psalm 48


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Change

Change is hard and forced change is even harder.  In times of change we feel uncertain and emotions can rule the day.  Sometimes we wish we could just go back to the way thing were or we wish we could just disappear.  When it gets bad and we realize that we cannot handle it anymore on our own, we turn to God.

Change feels threatening and makes our world feel unstable.  We like routine and to feel secure.  All of us like someone by our side in times of stress and God fits the bill perfectly.  He wants to bring us peace, comfort, strength, presence.

In the midst of change we often seek someone else to blame.  (It is like this when we sin too!)  When our situation doesn’t improve, we can really blame God and others.  It is hard to point the finger in the mirror.  Yet when we can manage to step away for a moment and to draw a breath in, then we can begin to trust into our God who so desires to be in relationship, who so desires to pour love and guidance into our lives.  Change can be big and scary, but God is bigger and stronger.

Scripture reference: Isaiah 64: 1-9