pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Step Out

Reading: Matthew 14: 26-33

Verse 28: Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.

In the midst of a storm, Jesus comes to the disciples, walking across the water.  Already a bit on the edge from the storm, the disciples see Jesus coming and they think He is a ghost.  This terrifies them further and they cry out in fear.  Sometimes I find myself in a storm.  As Jesus draws near, at times it scares me too.  I sense Him drawing near and wonder what will be prune away or changed in me to keep me out of the storm the next time.

Jesus responds to the disciples’ cries and fears saying, “Take courage!  It is I.  Do not fear”.  It is a familiar line to me.  I can picture Jesus with a slight smile on His face as He says it.  This is what I picture as He comes to me in my storm.  The smile says, “This may hurt a bit but it’ll be good for you”.  Again those words: Take courage!  It is I.  Do not fear.  I have plans to prosper you, to bring you good.

Peter’s response is interesting.  Immediately he says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water”.  He asks to step out into the rough water, out into the danger.  He doesn’t wait for Jesus to finish coming to the boat, but instead wants to meet Jesus someplace out there in the tumult.  For most of us it is an odd choice.  We like to hunker down where we are at and wait for Jesus to come to us.  Peter does not consider the risks – he just wants to be closer to Jesus sooner.  If only that we’re our default choice.  If only we would be so eager to step into the risky and unknown and unfamiliar just to come closer to Jesus sooner.  If only we sought Jesus as much as Peter did.  If only.

When we are willing to step out for Jesus, we too will hear those words echo: “Take courage!  It is I.  Do not fear”.  May we trust in the Lord and respond faithfully to His call: “Come”.

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Faithful Servant

Reading: Genesis 24: 34-38

Verse 37: My master made me swear an oath…

Abraham’s servant has been tasked with a very important job.  He is to go back to Abraham’s homeland to find a wife for Isaac.  Abraham and Sarah were well beyond child-bearing years when Isaac was born and Sarah has died.  The precious gift of a child must be cared for.  The line must extend beyond Isaac and no Canaanite woman will do.  The wife for Isaac must come from Abraham’s own clan.  This will become a common practice as Israel becomes more defined as God’s chosen people and God directs them not to intermarry with the peoples around them lest they be led astray.

The servant begins today’s passage by explaining why he is there.  In the previous verses the servant has met Rebekah and has discerned that God’s hand is at work in leading him to this very person and to this very house.  After a prayer of thanksgiving, the servant proceeded to Laban’s home.  But the task is not done.  It is not time to relax.  The faithful servant puts off food until he has spoken with Laban.  He is faithful to the task his master Abraham gave him.

At times we too have tasks to carry out that involve God’s larger plan or our commitment to follow Jesus as Master.  We feel as this servant felt – there is something God has placed on our hearts that must be accomplished.  We must talk to this person about such and such or maybe we feel led to volunteer for or take on something at church or in the community.  For some, maybe they are wrestling with a call to ministry or with a call to serve God in some way.  Taking that first step can be so hard.  Being willing to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and to go where it leads requires a deep and abiding trust in God.

When we sense God’s hand at work in our lives may we be like this faithful servant, trusting fully in God, stepping out boldly in faith to accomplish or respond to whatever God places on our heart today.


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Steps

Reading: Psalm 23: 1-2

Verse 2: He makes me like down in green pastures… He restores my soul.

David opens the Psalm by declaring God to be his shepherd.  Because of this, David knows he shall not be in want.  Above all else, he has learned that God provides for him.  Whether dealing with a bear while tending sheep or facing a giant on the battle field or avoiding the insane king, God has provided for way more than David’s basic needs.  But God has provided for them as well, so David has a deep and abiding trust in God.  It is a trust that had grown with experience and practice.  It is one we can enjoy too if we are willing to “let go and let God”.  But it is sort of a two-edged sword you see.  If we never trust God enough to face our giants, then we never truly understand just how great our God can be.  Deep and abiding trust requires us to take another step.

David goes on in verse two to another way that God cares for him and us: rest.  God knew since the beginning how important it was for us to rest.  God himself rested on the seventh day and made Sabbath rest one of the ten commandments.  It is a practice that is deeply ingrained in the lives of Orthodox Jews to this day.  David writes, “He makes me like down in green pastures… He restores my soul”.  David is so in tune with God that he feels God leads him to a place of rest.  David’s place is out in nature, the place of his youth.  The green pastures and quiet waters are calling and David finds restoration for his soul in this place.  It is a place that God invites us to as well.  It is a space that requires deep and abiding trust as well.  It requires that we trust God enough to rest.  This means that we trust God can and will take care of tomorrow – with all of it’s requisite work and worries.  This is also a “let go and let God” practice.  It is also a means of trusting all that we have and all that we are into God’s hands.  To trust in this way also requires another step – another step towards God and away from the world.

This day may we step a little further in our trust in God, entering deeper into His love.


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Assurances and Promises

Reading: Genesis 12: 1-4

At the age of 75, God asks Abram to move.  Abram has been living in Haran with his wife Sarai, his father Terah, and with Terah’s grandson Lot.  Over the course of his time there, Abram and his family have established themselves, accumulating land and livestock.  They are comfortable and secure.  In addition, at this time people were not mobile.  Almost everyone was born, lived, and died in a small geographic area.  Labor was manual, many hands were required, and land was passed down from one generation to the next.  It would be very odd and very hard for someone to just pack up and head off to someplace.  For Abram, it would have been a tough concept for him to wrap his head around.

God’s request comes with some promises to Abram.  God will bless Abram and make him into a great nation.  God will bless those who Abram blessed and will curse those he curses.  God will bless all the people of the earth through him.  This is quite a list of promises.  There is much for Abram to ponder.  Perhaps.  Maybe Abram would have gone simply because God asked.  Maybe God did not need to offer the promised.  Maybe Abram’s trust and faith in God was sufficient to follow the request.  Maybe the hope of a better future enabled Abram to follow God’s direction.

If I were Abram, I too would want assurances and promises if God asked me to do something that required so much trust and faith.  I want them each day as I simply journey through life.  When God leads or the Holy Spirit nudges or whispers, there is a moment of choice.  Do I follow and respond or do I deny and refuse?  Often there is an unknown to God’s requests.  But we too have promised to rely on.  We also have experiences where we have trusted God and had faith in His lead, times when we have been blessed because God was at work through us.  These assurances and promises enable us to boldly step forward as God leads and directs.  May it be so today.


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Into the Cloud

Reading: Exodus 24: 15-18

Many years ago my wife and I were in Switzerland.  One day we planned to go up into the Alps to see Jungfrau up close and personal.  Jungfrau is a rugged and beautiful mountain.  So we found the little mountain train and rode up the line.  It was a glorious summer day in June.  However, when we got to the small town nestled high up in the Alps, the clouds had settled in around Jungfrau.  I have a lovely picture of a very thick cloud to show what Jungfrau looked like that day.

In our passage today, Moses is not on vacation but is answering God’s call to ‘come up the mountain’.  Aaron and Hur are appointed to settle disputes while Moses and Joshua are gone.  The elders are told to wait for Moses to return.  A cloud descends on the mountain as Moses heads up.  On the seventh day God calls Moses into the cloud.  Stepping into the cloud, Moses enters into God’s presence.  Moses converses with God for a period of forty days and forty nights.  Moses emerges from the cloud filled with knowledge and empowered to lead.

There will be times in our lives when we feel as if God were in a cloud.  In the ordinary days of our faith, we can sense that God is near and in those sacred moments can feel as if we were in the palm of God’s hand.  But at times we feel as if God were distant or were shrouded in a cloud.  In these times, there is a scariness about stepping into the cloud, into the unknown or unseen.  But just as God called Moses, He too calls us to trust in Him and to faithfully walk forward in faith, knowing that God will guide our steps.  Of course, we know that God is never distant or gone.  It is only that at times we feel this way.  In those times of doubt and fear and uncertainty, may we step boldly into God’s presence, as Moses did, trusting God to transform and empower us as well.


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Faithful

Reading: Isaiah 49: 5-7

The servant realizes that God has called him to a role.  Although initially unsure of himself, the servant has come to understand that if God has called him, then God will insure success.  The servant says, “I am honored in the eyes of my Lord”.  In essence, if God has chosen me, then I am up to the task.  Then he goes on to acknowledge that God is his strength.  He recognizes that God has carried him through before and will certainly do so again and again.  The servant is embracing his role as a child of God.

God’s response to the servant’s faith?  Oh no – it is “too small a thing” to just bring salvation and restoration to Israel.  Oh no, the faithful servant will bring salvation and restoration to all people.  The servant will not only be a light to the Jews but to the Gentiles as well.  God’s response to the faithful servant?  God rewards the faith with expanded blessings and an expanded role.  This idea of he who does much with what he has been given will be given more is also found in the parable of the talents.  The servant who works five into ten talents is given even more by his master in turn for his faithful service.  God blesses those who are faithful servants.

So it is with the servant in Isaiah and so it is with us.  It is only when we are willing to trust God that God can and will reward our trust.  When we do trust and step out in faith, we are blessed to see God at work in our lives and in the world.  This allows us to step out quicker and further the next time.  The passage today ends with, “the Lord is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who had chosen you”.  May we be strong in our faith, trusting the Holy One who had chosen each of us.  God is faithful.  May we be so as well.


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Step Forth Boldly

Reading: Luke 10: 16-20

In a way Naaman and the 72 are opposites.  Naaman loads up the treasure to pay for his healing and heads off to find the man of God.  The 72 go out with nothing, taking the word of God, empowered by Jesus, to give away healing and hope.  In Naaman is healed, he may be drawn near to God.  The 72 are going out to bring the kingdom of God near to all people.  Even to those who reject the Prince of Peace, the disciples proclaim that He is near.  Too many of today’s Christians and too many of our churches today are more like Naaman, seeking to get something from God instead of striving to offer God to others.

Earlier in Luke 10 Jesus stated the reason for sending out the 72: “the harvest is plentiful”.  It is certainly plentiful today as well!  The disciples trusted in Jesus’ power and stepped out boldly to heal the sick and to proclaim that the kingdom of God was drawing near.  At first they must have been way outside their comfort zones.  Naaman too must have wondered a time or two what in the world he was doing as well.  But God rewarded their faithfulness.  Both the 72 and Naaman experienced firsthand the simple power of God to bring healing and to know personally how impactful the kingdom is in their lives.

Jesus calls on us today in the same ways.  Trust in Him and in His power to guide us.  Rely on Jesus alone.  Go forth and trust in the Lord of the Harvest.  May we too boldly step outside of our comfort zones, trusting that God will lead.  Through our simple faith, may we this day bring the kingdom of God near.