pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Flourish

Reading: Psalm 52

Verse 8: “I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God”.

The first seven verses of the Psalm are like the tempest of life. For David, Saul is creating the storms that rage around him. Sometimes for us it can be a person or a single situation that is creating the swirl that feels very consuming. Sometimes it is a combination of factors. We can become overwhelmed, especially when we are running at or beyond capacity.

This week we have VBS at the church. It makes a full schedule a little fuller, adding about 5 hours to most days. I love cooking and I love hanging out with middle school youth, so I was looking forward to the week. And then a wicked head cold settled in on Saturday and was going strong until this morning. Just that one little thing was enough to make the first three days extra hard.

David’s struggle lasted a lot longer. He was pursued by Saul for days on end. The constant pressure of moving and hiding again to avoid confrontation was draining. It was very hard. This is revealed in verses 1-7. But then comes verse 8. David pauses, takes a breath, and writes, “I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God”. He stops and pauses and then reminds himself that above all else, above all that is happening with Saul, that God is his refuge and his shelter and his strength.

An olive tree sinks down deep roots. These roots can draw nourishment from the soil. Olive trees are tough looking and are gnarly – they stand strong. David’s faith parallels these trees. He is deeply rooted in God. The connections that he has to God nourish him and allow him to even flourish in the midst of this struggle.

At times we too must pause and stop all of the busyness. At times we too must take a breath, pause, and reconnect through the roots that we have deep down in our relationship with God. Maybe it’s just an extra 15 minutes of quiet time after lunch. Maybe it is sleeping in just a bit to refresh the body. Maybe it is pausing at your desk to offer up a little extra prayer and praise. When we are pressed may we too take a little time, pausing to remind ourselves of our connection to God. In those moments, soak up the nourishment for the soul that time with God provides. Then we too will flourish.

Prayer: Dear Father, when I try and become or do too much, when I just try to push through on my own, slow me down, draw me back in, fill me with your love. Thank you, Father God. Amen.


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18″ Journey

Reading: Job 42: 1-6

Verse 5: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you”.

In our passage today, for Job, God has made that 18″ journey. Previous to his great trials, Job was a righteous man. He was obedient in following the Law. He worshipped God on the Sabbath, he gave to his local synagogue, he spoke to God daily. In life, Job was an honest man, a hard worker, a person who could be counted on. Job lived a blessed life – a wife, lots of children, large herds and flocks, many servants, good friends. Job was blessed and saw God as the source of his blessings.

Then one horrible day the storm hit and Job’s world was rocked. It was not a doctor saying they had found cancer. It was not a spouse saying they were done with the marriage. It was not a boss handing him a pink slip. These are horrible things that we and those we love experience. For Job, it was losing all of his kids, flocks, herds, and servants. And then being covered in painful sores.

Job succeeded in two things during his trial: he knew that God was still with him and he knew that God was ultimately in control. Yes, Job questioned why all this was happening to him – much like we do in our trials. But Job held onto God. In the wrestling with and questioning of God, Job was transformed. Verse 5 speaks of this: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you”. Job knew who God was and he followed all His rules – because that is what you do. He knew who God was and he followed out of obedience. But then Job experienced God up close and personal. He got to know God because of and through the trial. God made that 18″ journey from head to heart. Job now had a personal relationship with God.

If God exists in your head, may the Lord bless you with a season of wrestling and questioning, drawing you into relationship. If God dwells in your heart, join me in rejoicing as we shout “thanks be to God”!

Lord, I thank you for dwelling in my heart. I thank you for such a great love that loves even me. I pray for my fellow brothers and sisters who have begun their journey but gave yet to surrender their heart. Move in them, Lord, to become the king of the throne of their heart as well. May it be so. Amen.


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Keep My Eyes

Reading: Mark 4: 35-41

Verse 41: “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him”!

One of the things Jesus taught about just before getting into the boat was about the lamp on a stand. He reminded the crowd (and the disciples) that faith was something that was put on a stand to bring out whatever was hidden in the dark corners and to open what is concealed there. Jesus concludes this teaching with the statement that whoever has faith will be given more and that whoever does not have faith, even what little they have will be lost.

As the seas got choppy and the water level in the boat began to rise, the disciples had a choice to make. They could turn their focus to God to seek His protection and help. Or they could keep their eyes on the storm and the wind and the rising water level in the boat. Often in our lives we come to the same point. Our decision is the same: do we turn to our own powers or do we allow fear to take over or do we simply give up?

He was right there in the boat. I can envision sone of the disciples looking to Jesus and then to the waves, looking to Jesus asleep in the stern and then looking to the rising waves. With each glance away a bit of their faith ebbed away. With each longer gaze upon the rising waters, a bit more of their faith ebbed away. Again, so it is with us. If only we could look to Jesus at the first hint of rain and then keep our eyes on Him alone. If only we could choose to allow Him to be our all in all.

With just a few words Jesus banishes the fear and doubt and worry that had been building with each wave. An absence of faith, a moment of doubt – they allow the deceiver room to bring in thoughts of doubt and fear and worry. After being awakened and calming the storm, Jesus asks, “Do you still have no faith”? Instead of grasping the moment and allowing their faith to grow, the disciples ask, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him”! It can be easy to do. They are caught up in the miracle and not in the miracle-maker. It can be so easy to do. So we pray, Lord, keep my eyes focused on you and you alone. Help me to see you and not just the amazing things you do. Ground my faith in your love and care. Be my all in all today and each day. Amen.


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Trust in Him

Reading: Psalm 62: 5-8

Verse Eight: “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge”.

The psalmist calls out from a place we find ourselves from time to time.  With all that life can bring, at times we too turn to God for rest from the storms and trials.  We do so precisely for the same reason the psalmist does: our hope comes from God.  We can find true rest in God alone.

The psalmist uses words to describe God that build our confidence in Him as our source of hope.  God is our mighty rock, our refuge, our fortress.  These words bring us images of power and security – in this God we can indeed find a place where we can rest.  The psalmist also adds, “I will not be shaken”.  In this place of rest our God holds us secure.

The psalmist closes this section of Psalm 62 with these words: “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge”.  It is a clear call to always trust in the Lord.  In the good and the bad we are to pour out all that is within us to God – our joys and our sorrows.  It is an intimate relationship that God seeks.  We are to hold nothing back from God.  In all times, God is our refuge.  May we make time each day to connect deeply to our rock, our refuge, our fortress, our salvation.


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His Love and Care

Reading: Isaiah 40: 3-11

Verse Three: “Make straight in the wilderness a highway for the Lord”.

Have you ever been lost, either physically or spiritually?  Have you ever lost your way because of a storm?  Maybe it was an actual storm – a good blizzard perhaps – that you can remember being lost in.  Before long you lose your sense of direction and the safest thing to do is to hunker down and wait it out.  At some point the snow and wind subside and, more often than not, the white-covered world that is revealed is beautiful to behold.

Sometimes our storm is not a physical one, but what we feel is very similar.  The storm could be the loss of a loved one or of a job; it could be the loss of a special relationship or the loss of a home.  It can be depression or anxiety or stress that rises up to an all-new level.  Many things can rise up and swirl around us to the point of feeling lost and not able to see where to go or how to proceed forward.  Often we want to hunker down at these times as well.

In these stormy times in our lives, Isaiah calls out to us as well: “In the desert, prepare the way for the Lord”.  He invites us to open our hearts and minds for God’s presence and activity in our lives.  In the midst of the storm, Isaiah encourages us to “Make straight in the wilderness a highway for the Lord”.  He is encouraging us to allow what God desires to do: to lead us out of whatever we are in, out of our proverbial wilderness.

Our passage closes with these words: “He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart”.  It is both a beautiful image and a promise from God.  God loves us dearly and so desires to let us know and feel that love.  This day may we open ourselves up to His love and care, resting in our good shepherd, trusting Him to guide us through all that life brings our way this day and every day.


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God’s Promises

Reading: Jeremiah 32: 1-3a and 6-15

Many are the promises of God. “I will never leave you or forsake you”.  “I will be with you until the end of this age”.  “My mercies are new every morning”.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.  “The Holy Spirit will teach you and remind you of everything I told you”.  “Trust in me alone”.  These are but a few.

In our text, Jeremiah is under house arrest in a city besieged by the mighty Babylonians.  He had warned the King about the danger of relying on Egypt and had prophesied about Israel’s impending doom.  The time had come.  In the midst of this scene of doom and destruction, Jeremiah’s cousin visits him to sell him some land.  To all but Jeremiah this seems like a foolish investment.  This would be like a football coach calling a timeout with one second left on the clock when their team is down 50 points.  Yet Jeremiah buys the land.  It makes no sense.  Except to Jeremiah.  He was trusting in God’s promise.  God had told him that one day, even though hard to believe at this point, that one day God would restore and redeem Israel.

At times life will besiege us as well.  The storm may come in the form of a broken relationship, a health crisis, an unexpected loss, or ….  In these moments, we feel lost and alone and like we are about to go under.  Into these moments, God will speak.  If we are open to God’s Spirit, we will be reminded of God’s promises.  God never stops loving us, never stops reaching out to us, never gives up on us.  In life’s trials, may we turn to the promises of God, our rock and redeemer, our Savior and hope.


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Might and Power

Reading: Psalm 77: 1-2 and 11-20

As our reading opens, the psalmist feels stress and worry and fear.  The writer feels all alone – isolated from people and from God.  It is a hard place to be.  At points in life our problems can seem to mount up like a wall around us.  We cannot see over the top and it seems as if others and God cannot see in.  In these moments we cry out to God and seem to get no response.  We want God or people to come to our aid or to at least bring comfort and it turns out as if all were oblivious to us.

As the song progresses, there is a shift.  The psalmist is perhaps in worship or maybe just the power of the raging storm reawakens his sense of God’s presence.  In either case, the psalmist realizes that God has always been present.  He recalls God’s mighty acts on behalf of the community of faith.  He remembers God’s good news and this lifts his spirit.  In the vastness and power of God the writer comes to see that he is not alone and that there is much more to God than just the personal relationship.

In our lives we too will feel all alone from time to time.  As our problems mount, may we look to the skies, to nature, to history to remind ourselves of God’s presence.  May we recall the story of Jesus and all that God incarnate offers to us.  May we find presence and comfort and strength in His power and majesty.