pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Saying “Yes”

Reading: 2 Corinthians 6: 1-13

Verse Two: “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation”.

In some ways, Paul’s view of ministry differs from ours today. He lists a handful of things that are commendable: trouble, hardship, distress, imprisonment, sleepless nights, hunger. While we are sometimes willing to endure these things for our faith, we do not often intentionally put ourselves out there to experience these things. Yet many people do endure these things. Today we journey home from a mission trip where we met lots of folks who experience these things on a daily basis.

Paul also gives us another list. He offers commendation for purity, patience, kindness, love, and truthful speech. These are characteristics that we all want to possess and share with others. These are the traits that we want to be known for. Yet, as Paul also acknowledges, we most often find ourselves between these two lists.

Paul shares that we usually find ourselves between bad and good reports, between being seen as genuine and as imposters, between dying and living, as sorrowful yet rejoicing, and as having nothing yet possessing everything. We often did find ourselves in the middle, tending towards one end or the other. We seek to be living for God, yet when we are honest, we spend a lot of time pursuing what we want and desire. It is a battle.

In verse two Paul writes, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation”. The key word is ‘now’. It is an important word. On our mission trips we usually end up centering on a phrase or expression that seems to encapsulate the trip. This year what became our central thought was saying “yes” to those opportunities that God gives us, to answer when He calls. Many of our youth and adults had opportunity to do so this week. Great blessings were poured out from heaven upon both us and those we worked with because of the yeses.

The time is now. Today God wants to bless you with His favor. Today God wants you to experience His salvation. Today and each day may we ever be open to the opportunity that God provides – whether in hardship or joy, whether in sorrow or kindness. May we too be willing to say yes to God. Amen.

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Walking Daily

Reading: Psalm 4:8

Verse Eight: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety”.

The Psalms are full of emotion. They range from deep and sorrowful laments to joyous songs of praise. In short, they cover the whole range of human emotion and represent well the ups and downs that life inevitably brings. Because life is such, it is hard to always do as today’s verse suggests.

What does it take to lie down each day to sleep in peace? How could we do this each day, no matter what life brings our way? I think if the deep and painful moments that come with the sudden loss of a loved one or the unexpected news of unemployment and wonder how this is always possible. The answer to these questions lies in what we do day in and day out. If our spiritual disciplines are daily and consistent, then we build a great relationship with God that allows us to live out this verse even when our hearts are filled with great hurt and deep sorrow. When our relationship with God is rock solid, then He will always be our solid rock.

On a Tuesday morning just over two years ago I was informed that my job was being eliminated. After being a part of that organization for 23 years, it felt like the end of the world. I prayed a lot that day and spent a lot of time in conversation with God. He was not a stranger but a dear friend. By the end of the day I had found peace. Yes, there were still more questions than answers, but I was able to lie down and sleep in peace because I knew that God was in control, that He loved me, and that He would lead the way.

His presence gave me the strength I needed and allowed me to trust in His plans. This came through years of walking daily with God. I had established a deep personal relationship that made me into someone who knew God would see me through. Yes, it was a difficult process and there were hard days yet ahead, but in all of them God was with me. May this be your relationship with God as well. May you walk daily, through the good and the bad, fully connected to the Lord our God.


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Thanksgiving

Reading: Psalm 100

Verse Four: “Give thanks to Him and praise His name”.

As we begin the day, the psalmist encourages us to “Give thanks to Him and praise His name”.  It is very appropriate for Thanksgiving Day.  This is the day when we will gather around the table and list off all of the things we are thankful for: family, friends, home, employment, time off, the food!  And in the midst of the holiday, let us not forget to be thankful for our God.

People will come into this day of thanks with a wide range of emotions and from different places in their lives.  Most will come into the day with the joy and praise called for by the psalmist.  But for some, this will be their first big holiday or their first thanksgiving without someone special.  May we be sensitive to and extra loving of them if this is the case.  Others will come to the gathering with different struggles or sorrows or burdens.  To each of these may we offer kindness and understanding and acceptance along with our love and welcome.

Maybe this is how we enter Thanksgiving today.  Then these words that open the Psalm are harder to live out.  we think: joyful songs when I feel this way?  Shouts of praise as I am going through this?  If so, perhaps just verse five matters today: “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness endured through all generations”.  Sometimes we must just cling to God’s love and His faithfulness.  Sometimes we must lean into God and His presence and know that it is enough.  As we turn to God in our need, He will surround us with His love.  And in time we will be grateful for this and we will thank Him for His love.

May our day today be filled with God, family, and  friends and with wonderful food and a joyous time of fellowship!  Amen!


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All of the Time

Reading: Psalm 8: 2

Even though God and His creation draw praise and worship from some, others do not see the beauty and majesty of His creation or acknowledge His power and might.  Instead of lives that steward and protect His world and all He has created, some choose to abuse the earth and its inhabitants for their own gain.  Some even go so far as to murder, to wage war, to pillage the land for its resources.  They ignore or deny God’s existence because it eases their consciences.

In nature we also find occurrences or events that seem to fly in the face of God and His love.  Tsunamis and earthquakes destroy property and kill scores if not hundreds of people.  Disease strikes and takes innocent lives, often too soon or too young.  Individuals or groups carry out heinous crimes or spew hate and we shake our heads.  There is much pain and death and sorrow in this world.  But God does not cause these things to happen.  Violent storms are part of nature; disease and death come to perishable and frail human bodies; and, at times, mental illness occurs or Satan’s plans occasionally win the day.

We can ask where is God in the midst of all this.  We can ask why God doesn’t intervene to keep all harm from His children.  These are hard questions.  But we know the rain falls on the just and on the unjust.  God loves the sinner just as much as the saint.  God does plan good for our lives.  He blesses us with gifts and talents and often with many resources.  He seeks to be in a personal relationship with us.  In the midst of our trials, God sheds tears right along with us.  He seeks to be our rock in the storm, our comforter in the pain.  Simply put, God seeks to be present to us all of the time, in the good and in the bad, not just on some days.  May we too do the same.


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Being Fruitful

Reading Luke 13: 1-9

The world is sometimes filled with tragedy and sorrow.  You do not have to watch the news too long to feel the urge to turn off the television.  In today’s passage the people come to Jesus with a story of death and tragedy and are seeking help to make sense of it.  Jesus instead bring sup another story of loss and sorrow.  He warns us that tragedy can strike us all and that we must therefore repent, lest we will perish.  Jesus is implying that death will come to us all; it is up to us how we choose to live our lives between now and then.  Will our lives lead us to perish to hell or to rise to eternal life?

Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the fig tree.  The owner comes for a third year and again finds no fruit on the tree.  He instructs the gardener to cut it down.  The gardener asks for one more year.  He will tend to it and water it and fertilize it in an effort to help the tree bear fruit.  In this parable we are the fig tree.  Year after year Jesus pours into us through the Word, in worship, in small groups, …  He yearns to see us bear fruit.  The Holy Spirit works on us also, pruning and fertilizing and guiding us along so that we are more able to bear fruit.

As we continue to grow in our faith, we will bear fruit as we mature, just as the tree will.  As we touch the lives of others, bearing fruit and shining the light and love of Jesus, we will bring hope and comfort amidst the darkness and tragedies of this world.  It is through our witness and love that others will come to know Jesus, the only source of strength, healing, and understanding in the midst of pain and sorrow.  As we are fruitful and faithful witnesses, we are living for and pointing others toward the one and only way to true, eternal life: Jesus Christ.

 


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Prayers and Promises

At times we wrestle with a deep ache inside.  Sorrow and dreams that never come to be are two of the things in life that we all face at times.  It can be that moment we realize we are not going to make the team or get that position or promotion.  It can be when a relationship ends or when one we love passes on.  The deep ache inside is very real.

Hannah longed for a child.  Peninnah, the other wife, had borne Elkanah children and was more than willing to point this out to Hannah.  Elkanah loves Hannah more.  Peninnah’s unfulfilled dreams was to be the love of Elkanah’s life, but she was second in his heart.  To soothe her ache she lashed out.  But the ache remained.  Human solutions and efforts do not heal such aches.

Hannah chose instead to bring her ache to God.  In prayer she poured out her heart to God.  In faith she turned to the only one who can truly bring us the healing we need.  God heard the prayers of His faithful servant.  God’s response filled Hannah’s ache and brought her hope.

God may not bring us the job or the child or the spot on the team.  He may not restore the relationship and seeing our loved one who has gone on waits for us to join them in eternity.  But God does respond to the prayers of the faithful servant.  If we allow How to, He will restore, heal, and pour His love into us.  The promise is not to give us all the desires of our heart.  The promise is to be present, to dwell in us, to fill us with His love, to give us what we need.  For this great love, thank you God.

Scripture reference: 1 Samuel 1: 4-8


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In Our Moments

Have you had someone suddenly mad at you or suddenly lost a friend and had no idea why?  In that moment, you were probably stunned, sad, angry, hurt.  Sometimes you figure it out and become friends again, sometimes you do not.  Sometimes you just never know.

Hagar was Sarah’s maidservant.  Sarah was barren and advanced in years, but desperately wanted a family.  So Sarah convinced Hagar to sleep with her husband Abraham to bear them a child.  I imagine it was hard to  bear a child for a man who would never love her, who already had a wife he loved.  But she did.  I imagine that Hagar felt like she had done something special for Sarah and Abraham.

Fast forward a few years and now Sarah is pregnant and bears Abraham a son named Isaac.  Sarah becomes jealous and protective and wants Hagar and her son Ishmael sent away into the wilderness.  Abraham is unwilling but God reassures him of he plan and he sends Hagar and son out into the desert with some bread and water – presumably to die.  As this happens, can you imagine what is going through Hagar’s mind?  Do you hear her thinking, “But after what I did for you…?”

After they run out of water, Hagar walks off a little way from Ishmael and resigns herself to death.  She cannot bear to be near him and to hear his cries for water.  Hagar is in anguish.  But then suddenly a strange thing happens.  God sends an angel who asks her, “What is the matter?”  What a question!  God provides water, reassures her, and continues to watch over them as the boy grows up.  It all turns out OK for them.

Has God ever asked you, “What is the mattter?”  Has God ever entered into your brokenness?  You and I are blessed – always just a prayer away from God’s presence.  Yet sometimes we too are like Hagar – too broken and distraught to even offer up a prayer.  In these moments God will seek us out too.  Our God is a God of love.  A God who will seek out to lost and the broken.  Praise be to our God!!