pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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The Way

Reading: Psalm 50: 1-8 & 22-23

Verse 7: “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God”.

Within the 150 Psalms we find a variety of types or styles. Psalm 50 is a Psalm of judgment. We prefer the Psalms that praise God, that remind us of God’s love and care, that bring us comfort. Psalm 50 is a testimony against the people. Their sins have angered God and judgment is upon God’s lips. Verses one through six remind the people of who and what God is. God is in charge, God will gather the people, a fire is before and a tempest is around God. God summons the people to judge them.

In verse seven God opens the case against Israel. In this verse we read, “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God”. Prepare yourselves, Israel. It is about to begin. In verses eight through 21, which we did not read today, God lays out the case. In the first half, God addresses the sacrifices. Thank offerings are good, but otherwise – well, God has no need of animal flesh and blood. In fact, God owns all the animals, birds, cattle… anyway. Starting in verse sixteen God addresses the sins: the people ignore God’s words, they are thieves and adulterers, they speak evil. This section ends with, “But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face”. Judgment is coming.

When one looks at the list of sins in the middle verses of our Psalm, our first thought is ‘phew’! We think we are okay. But look a little deeper, search a bit more. You or I may not be thieves or adulterers and we may not ignore God’s words all the time and we do not offer meaningless sacrifices on the altar. But we are certainly not without sin. We are not without harsh words, gossip, maybe even slander. We struggle with pride and ego and selfishness… If we were Israel, we could not stand innocently before the Lord our God either. Thankfully, our story does not end here though.

Verse 23 speaks of “the salvation of God”. For the early readers of Psalm 50, this was a promise yet to come. Not so for us. Jesus Christ offers us the way of salvation. Through his gift on the cross we no longer stand condemned. Through his life we follow a Savior who shows us the way to live righteously in our world. In Christ we find forgiveness. In Christ we see the way. In all things may we bring honor and glory to his name.

Prayer: God, the judgment that we read about in Psalm 50 is so deserving. So too are my sins. Thank you so much for Jesus, the sacrifice for me and my sins. May all I do and say and think today bring honor and glory to you, my God. Amen.


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Praise God

Reading: Psalm 148

Verse 13: “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone in exalted”.

Today’s Psalm is all about praising God. We praise God not for God’s sake but for ours. Yes, scripture calls us to praise God and doing what we’re supposed to do can feel good. But that is not the only reason to praise God.

We praise God because that is where we can express our thanks. We can thank God for the blessings in our lives, for the guidance God gives, for the ways God protects us. When we are thankful we fight our natural tendency to center on self. Being thankful focuses us upon God and upon others.

When we praise God we are connecting with God. The intentional act of praise draws us into God’s presence. In those moments when we commune with God we are reminded of the love, peace, grace, mercy,… that flows from God into our lives. To be present with the living God also renews and refreshes us.

When we praise God we also share God with others. In the house of worship on Sunday morning or Saturday evening or whenever, when we praise God in community, we are sharing and building up one another’s faith. In the world, when we praise God in less formal ways, it can also be a testimony that builds up and encourages others. Whether an indirect or direct chance to evangelize, it exposes the world to God and to our faith.

Lastly, when we praise God we are reminded of who and what God is. Whether in song or scripture or prayer or message, when we praise God we are reminded of God’s attributes: omnipresent, omnipresent, good, just… We are also reminded of what God is: loving parent, wonderful Creator, strong protector, generous provider… Like expressing our thanks, this also leads to exalting God while we humble ourselves.

Each day may we find time and opportunity to praise the Lord our God. May it be so today and every day.

Prayer: God of all, this day I bring you my praise. You are in the beauty of the songbirds and in the sway of the breeze. Help me to connect to you all day long, being drawn closer to you in this way. Amen.


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Testify

Reading: 1st John 5: 6-13

Verse Eleven: “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son”.

John writes of testimony today. He is not writing of the kind of testimony someone gives in court, but more of a testimony or accounting of an event that we would give our friends. Court is concerned with the hard, cold facts. John is writing about the testimony that we can “feel” and “know” in our hearts. In verse ten John writes of the testimony concerning Jesus: “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart”. Although we still have not gotten to the testimony itself, John makes an important point: we must believe in Jesus to have this truth.

Belief is an important part of faith. It is even an important part of receiving someone’s testimony in court. If, for whatever reason, we do not believe the testimony of a witness, it does not matter how many titles or accolades come attached to their name. Much of our life and decisions and relationships are based on a degree of how we “feel” it what we “sense” about something or someone.

In verse eleven, John reveals the testimony for us, writing, “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son”. God’s free gift is eternal life through the Son. It is a wonderful gift. One finds this eternal life in a relationship with Jesus. When one comes to faith in Jesus, this testimony is “known” in the heart. John goes on to write, “He who had the Son has life”. Belief in Jesus comes with trust that He conquered sin and death. Jesus’ victory over the grave allows us to claim eternal life, just as He did. Jesus’ victory over sin allows us to claim redemption and new life each day. In these claims we find courage to face each day and the hope that allows us to live without fear of death. We begin to truly live life when we know that Jesus leads us through this life and calls us to life beyond our earthly existence.

Once we know the Son, we too can testify to these truths so that all can live in Jesus’ light and love. May we share what we know in our hearts with those living in darkness and despair, so that all can know the hope of His Son.


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Layers, Ripples, and Depth

Reading: Exodus 20: 12-17

Verses 12-17: “Honor your mother and father… you shall not… murder… commit adultery… steal… give false testimony… covet…”

Today we look at the last section of the Ten Commandments. These six deal with our relationship with each other. They are not written in isolation but within the context of all ten. The covenant relationship that God establishes with us in the first four commandments influence our relationships with each other. Just as the first four revolve with loving God fully, so too do the last six center on loving each other completely.

On the surface level the last six are pretty straight forward and easy to understand. Yet each also has layers to it. For example, the command to “honor your mother and father” is generally about our relationship with our parents and the lifelong benefits of doing so. But this commandment can also extend to all who help parent us – grandparents, teachers, pastors, Sunday school teachers, and even some of our bosses.

The layers on some can come from the ripple affects they cause. For example, committing adultery is simply not an act that affects just the two people involved directly. It also impacts families and friends and self and maybe even employment or social standing. The same can be said of all of the other six. We never sin in isolation.

The depth or breadth of a couple are also amazing when we take time to really ponder them. The command to not give false testimony is about not lying. Simple enough, right? But is not telling the whole truth or not being fully honest the same sin? When we think of a few other ways that false testimony can play out we can see how deep and wide this sin can really be. Do we gossip? Do we slander? Do we compare others unfairly to elevate ourselves?

The last of the Ten Commandments fits all three of the above. When we covet it can begin as an attraction. But it can soon become an obsession. The layers or levels of covetousness can also create ripples. Who we use or what we are willing to do to get that “thing” can leave a wake of hurt and pain in our trail. The sin of coveting can also become widespread. While it certainly is in our society, it can also become contagious in our lives. Finding joy or pleasure in getting some “thing” can lead us to search for joy or pleasure in other things and in other ways.

But all is not lost! When we love others as God intended, all is good in our lives and in the world. May we love well today!


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Lead and Guide and Protec

Reading: John 20: 19-23

Verse 22: …He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

The disciples have been taught about the Holy Spirit.  Now, today in our passage, they receive the Holy Spirit themselves as Jesus breathed it into them.  Just as God breathes human life into each of us at birth, here Jesus breathes new life into His followers.  The disciples transition from living with Jesus to having Him live IN them in the person of the Holy Spirit.  This gift of constant presence within comes with the charge to go out into the world to continue Jesus’ work.  To do so, the disciples must first overcome their own fears and doubts and, second, must trust fully in the Spirit.

Jesus does little more than give them the basic charge.  He says, “I am sending you” and then ‘He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”‘.  Although the scope and range of the assignment is huge and vast, it does not come with detailed instructions or a handbook or a manual.  Any of this would have led to a trust in human things instead of the power of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide and protect.  And after all, the disciples have spent three solid years receiving on-the-job training from the Master.  From the results of their work going forward, we can see that they did indeed go out and preach the good news of Jesus Christ.

We too bear the same charge and we too have the presence of the same Spirit with us as we go forth.  And we have the Bible.  Within His word we can read and review and study how Jesus and His followers lived out their love of God in the world.  We can glean out how to pray and how to fully trust in God’s care and provision.  Through the witness and testimony we find in the Word we can come to see and understand the power of the Holy Spirit and can then trust in the Holy Spirit to lead and guide and protect us as well.  Filled with this knowledge and trust, may we also go out to share the good news of Jesus Christ.


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Controlled by God

Reading: Romans 8: 6-11

Verse 6: The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

Paul establishes an either/or situation in today’s reading.  Either we are controlled by the Spirit or we are controlled by the flesh.  Either we submit to God’s ways or we pursue our sinful nature.  Either we are alive as Christ dwells in us or we are destined for death.  Either we are filled with God’s peace or we are hostile to God.  Paul is drawing some clear distinctions.

For Paul, being a part of God’s family was a universal invitation.  He did not see any limitations on who could live in covenant relationship with God.  It was not by birth that one gains access.  This remains true today – some born into a “Christian home” never find a faith of their own and others raised in a secular home come to a deep faith.  Paul also saw no barriers in regards to race or ethnicity or nationality or status or anything else one could name.  We also see this today.  Jesus’ mandate to “make disciples of all people of all nations” has brought the gospel all around the world.

There are many, many people today who are active participants in fulfilling the great commission of Jesus.  While some are in far away places bringing the Word of God to every tribe and tongue, most of us operate in a much smaller, more local context.  While our prayers may go far and wide for the work of the church universal, our actions and words most often impact those close at hand.  Those affected can be family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and even strangers.

When our “mind is controlled by the Spirit”, we exhibit a life of peace and love and hope.  When we are filled with the Spirit, our lives are different than those whose live by the flesh.  We do not chase after the things of the world because the Spirit helps us and leads us to trust in and to rest in God.  We live life longing for and trusting in an eternal time when we will forever dwell in the light and love of Christ.  The day to day of this life is small change.  We are not held captive to but are set free from the power of sin and death that so easily entangles the world.  We follow God’s ways and offer love and hope and peace to the world.  This day may our lives be a living testimony to the power and presence of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit within us, drawing others into the kingdom of God.


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Tell the Story

Reading: Luke 17: 11-19

Ten lepers cry out to Jesus, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us”!  Ten lepers are healed as they head off to show themselves to the priests.  Ten lepers believed that Jesus could heal them.  Ten lepers went to the priests to be deemed “clean” so that they could re-enter the society they had been banned from.  What a joy they must have felt to hug family members, to see friends again, to be able to go to the temple!

We too have cried out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us”!  We cry out to Jesus for mercy, forgiveness, healing, relief from situations and circumstances.  We too cry out in hopes that Jesus will indeed grant us mercy, pour out forgiveness, bring us healing, …  We want to experience Jesus’ power in our lives.  Many times we do experience Jesus’ touch or restoration or intervention.

When we do experience Jesus responding to our cries, how do we respond?  Do we respond?  Are we so grateful that we are rid of that affliction or situation or circumstance that we leap back into living life?  Or are we so naive that we think it was something we did to change our plight?  Or are we simply ungrateful?

It is essential that we not only recognize that Jesus Christ has answered our cries, but that we also tell the story.  We must testify to God’s hand at work in our lives so that others can find hope in their lives.  We must add our story of healing or forgiveness or… to the bigger story of God at work in our world.  Others need to hear of how we experienced Jesus’ power in our lives.  Our testimony may be but a small part of God’s huge story, but someone needs to hear how God is at work in our life.  It may be many someones.  May we tell the story.