pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Our Great God

Reading: Psalm 86: 1-10 & 16-17

Verse 16: Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant strength to your servant.

We often cry out to God.  We often feel as if we are hard-pressed and God alone can intervene.  Then we are grateful and offer up our praises to God.  Such is the content of today’s Psalm.  David is writing intimately about the experiences we can all have with God.  For ages this Psalm had been read by Jews and then by Christians in times of trial and suffering because it connects us so well to the relationship we have with God.

The psalmist opens with a request to be heard by God.  David reminds God of his devotion to God and seeks mercy and joy from God. From time to time it is good to remind ourselves of our devotion to God – it recalls for us our part in the relationship.  David next reminds God of who He is: “forgiving and good” and “abounding in love”.  We come to God for mercy and help because of God’s nature and because of God’s great love for us.  It is good to remember this in times when we have allowed the cares and troubles to crowd out our connection to God.

David then turns to the omnipotent nature of God.  “There is none like you” establishes God as the one true God.  David envisions all nations coming to worship and bring glory to God.  God is over all.  The evidence of God’s power: marvelous deeds.  In the works of His hands we see the greatness of God.  The Psalm ends by returning to the request for help: “Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant strength to your servant”.  Be with me, give me strength, grant mercy to me.  These are familiar refrains.  They always have been and they always will be.  David closes we a great reminder for us: “for you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me”.  Our great God of love remains steadfast and true.  God is our help in all ways.  Thanks be to God.


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Big Plan

Reading: Genesis 21: 8-21

Verse 12: It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.

God’s big plan is at work.  Sometimes it is hard to see the big plan from our own limited vantage point.  From our small view sometimes we cannot see very far.  In today’s passage, God knows the big plan.  He says to Abraham, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned”.  This is the big plan.  The nation of Israel will come through Isaac – his child with wife Sarah.  It fulfills the promise made long ago.  The covenant involves divine guidance and blessing.

The big picture even influences the writers of Genesis.  Notice that in our passage the name ‘Ishmael’ is not used.  The writers instead use ‘son’ and ‘boy’.  Maybe the story is less personal that way.  Yet when we look at Abraham, we see that this is very personal.  It is his son Ishmael that must be cast out.  It is his first born son that he must send out into the desert.  Even though it is part of God’s big plan, this is a hard thing that Abraham is being asked to do.  He is stuck in his small view.

As Abraham teeters in the balance, God gives him some reassurance.  In a way, God is saying, ‘truth’ me’.  Abraham has had lots of experience trusting God when he could not see the big plan, so he trusts once again in God and follows obediently.  At times we find ourselves in a situation similar to Abraham’s.  The things that we need to ‘send out’ are often sins or other things that we can see we need to let go.  Once in a while, though, we find ourselves in a spot like Abraham, having to make the “more right” choice.  We have to let go of something we kind of love to remain obedient to God’s big plan for our lives.  In these moments, may we recall God’s faithfulness in our lives and trust in Him to be faithful once again.


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Hope

Reading: Roman 5: 1-5

Verse Five: God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Chapter Five opens with Paul’s declaration that we can claim peace with God through Jesus Christ because we are made right through our faith.  It is a bold statement but one we live into every day as Christians.  Our faith in Jesus Christ brings us into God’s grace, the unmerited gift of forgiveness that washes away our sins so that we can stand before God holy and pure.  It is an amazing love that makes us righteous day after day after day, sin after sin after sin.  It is a love without limit.  It is indeed the hope of the glory of God which leads Paul to rejoice.  May we rejoice as well!

In verse three Paul shifts directions but not end results.  Not only do we enjoy a peace with God that leads us to rejoice, but Paul also encourages us to rejoice in our sufferings as well.  Being made right through God’s grace allows us to have hope in our future.  For Paul, he saw this same hope as the end result of our suffering.  For Paul, suffering was a necessary part of our Christian journey.  As Saul the Pharisee he certainly had inflicted much suffering on Christians and as Paul the Apostle he definitely endured his share of suffering and persecution.

For Paul, he rejoiced in the sufferings because he knew it would lead to a deepening of his faith.  Paul had learned that in suffering righteously one learns perseverance.  When we lean into God and endure with the power and hope that Jesus Christ offers, then through the power of the Holy Spirit we can persevere.  As we trust in God and live within His presence, that develops our Christian character.  Our hope in God’s glory grows as we experience the power and strength of God carrying us through our trials.  We begin to see these earthly troubles as bumps along the way to experiencing God’s eternal glory.  This in turns leads to an ever growing hope.  It is a hope that is everlasting.  It is the hope that will not disappoint or fade.  It is the hope that thieves cannot steal and moths cannot destroy.  It is the hope we come to know beyond the shadow of a doubt because we come to fully know that “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit”.

As Christians we face each new day with God’s love deep in our hearts.  May we walk in faith and hope this day and every day, trusting in the God who loves us beyond all measure.


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Go Out

Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

Verses 17 and 21: I will pour out my Spirit… And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Come, stand in the disciples’ shoes for a few minutes.  You have gone from grief and despair to joy and courage in quick order.  Jesus has breathed the Holy Spirit into you and you are told once again to go out into the world to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.  You are being asked to trust your life to this Holy Spirit that you just met for the first time.  And then Pentecost comes and you experience the power of the Holy Spirit as God pours it out on all the believers gathered there that day.  It would have been like seeing Jesus perform His first miracle.  Back then you thought something like, ‘Now we’ve got something here’!  The scene of all the believers being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in a wide variety of languages reveals to you the power of this Holy Spirit.

And just as the crowd begins to question what is happening here, Peter stands up to address the crowd.  You’re one of the eleven so you stand up too.  But as Peter speaks you find that he isn’t just talking to the crowd that day – he’s talking right to you.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in him, Peter quotes from the prophet Joel.  You recognize the words, “I will pour out my Spirit…”.  You know that Joel was speaking of you.  You experienced Jesus pouring out the Spirit upon you as He breathed it into you.  You will prophesy and dream dreams and have visions.  You will see and feel God at work as the Holy Spirit leads and guides you.  But most of all you find a peace that passes understanding in the last line from Joel: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.  That’s you.  No matter what comes in this earthly life, the power of the Holy Spirit resides in you and your salvation is secure.  You are ready to go out and bring the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Now, come back to June 3, 2017.  The great commission remains in effect.  God still reigns.  The Holy Spirit dwells within you.  Go out and bring the gospel to the world!


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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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Ask

Reading: John 14: 1-14

Verse One: Do not let your heart’s be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.

Faith is a journey.  At times we feel our faith is strong and is mature.  We feel like we are well-connected to Jesus.  Our daily walk includes time in the Word and time in prayer.  Part of our week always includes worship and maybe even a small group time.  We clearly see how Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life”.  We have a quiet assurance that Jesus is leading our lives and we hold onto His promise of “a room prepared for us”.

And then we don’t.  Something happens.  Someone says or does something.  Satan exposes a crack and suddenly there is a chasm between us and our faith, between us and Jesus.  Satan uses lies, doubts, fears, anxiety, and much more to make us question our faith and to question Jesus.  Our mind becomes filled with questions like “Why?” and “How?”.  Soon that faith and assurance seems like a distant memory.  It can happen so fast.  We’ve all been there.

Passages like today’s speak into moments like these.  When we still our hearts and minds and really read Jesus’ words, our feet return to the path of our faith journey.  We hear Jesus’ voice saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me”.  Jesus has us.  He is there for us in the midst of our trial or suffering and He will be there again and again and again.  In His voice, we hear again that the room is prepared for us.  No one can cancel our reservation.

In the passage we also see that we are not alone in our meandering and lack of understanding.  Even the disciples don’t always remain steadfast and they don’t always get it.  Thomas and Philip voice the questions we have at times.  They ask Jesus to show them the way and to show them the Father.  Jesus is patient and loving in doing so.  We too seek Jesus’ guidance and direction often to know the way to go or to discern even the next step.  At other times we seek to encounter Jesus, to feel His power in our lives.  All of these things are things Jesus wants to do.  It is His promise: “I will do whatever you ask in my name”.  What do you need Jesus to do today?


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Trust

Reading: Psalm 31: 1-5 and 15-16

Verses 1 and 2: In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge… be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.

Today’s Psalm 31 verses really represent the best of King David, “a man after God’s own heart”.  It demonstrates for each of us the relationship we all should strive for with God.  It speaks of refuge, strength, redemption, and deliverance.  In the verses not in our reading, the Psalm recalls some of the trials and sufferings of David’s life.  It is good to balance out the verses we read with a reminder that even the great King David hadn’t his struggles as well.  As we too face trials, temptations, and struggles it is good to know that we are not alone.  To acknowledge this makes the verses for today all that much more relevant to each of us.

At times, life does seem to storm about us.  The Psalm opens with David taking refuge in God.  There is a trust in this action that we should emulate as well.  Seeking refuge in God signals our admission of our inability to handle it or solve it on our own.  It admits our absolute need for God.  David goes on to extend the place of refuge to be a place of leadership and guidance.  Once David feels the safety and protection of God’s refuge, then he begins to seek the next steps.  David asks God to lead and guide him.  He does not say, “The storm has calmed” and then step back out on his own.  David’s example maintains the trust in God and the dependence on God.  We would do well to follow his example.

The last two verses of our reading reiterate these points.  David writes, “my times are in your hands” and asks for God’s face to shine upon him.  He also seeks saving through God’s unfailing love.  All we have and are rests in God’s hands as well.  May we trust into this reality as we spend our days.  When we trust and love God with all of our being, His face shines upon us too and we will certainly walk each day in the light of His love.  Amen!