pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Natural Tendency

Reading: 2 Samuel 11: 1-5

Verse One: “But David remained in Jerusalem”.

Today’s passage is the beginning of a very familiar story. Simply saying the name “Bathsheba” recalls the whole story. It is a story about power and satisfying the desires of the flesh. Power and lust – two things that many of us struggle with. On that level this story is uncomfortable. But we do not willingly go there, to the uncomfortable place.

In verse one Joab and the whole army head off into battle. This was the norm for the springtime. It was the time for heading off to war. “But David remained in Jerusalem”. Here is where our story really begins. Here is where it goes astray. Kings always lead the troops out in battle. That is just one of their roles as king. They lead. “But David remained in Jerusalem”.

When we consider this decision, we do not ordinarily look at it as a sin. Choosing to stay home instead of going off to war is a decision we could easily rationalize or “what if…” and move on to the rest of the story. Yet let us not go there. Let us stay with this decision. The choice to stay home indicates something askew in David. It is a way to say that he is larger than the average guy. He does not have to do what kings traditionally do. He can break the mold. He can do his own thing. He is in charge.

Here is where I connect to the story. Here is where most of us enter the story. Yes, most of us struggle with the desire for power and with lusting after the things of this world. But the decision to do his own thing is what got David in trouble. If we are honest – and this is where it gets uncomfortable – it is what causes us to sin most often too. Our natural tendency is to want to be in control, to make our own decisions, to be in charge. Here is the danger though: there is only room for one on the throne of my heart. And if it is me, it is not God. This is the danger. It is what caught David. It is what catches me.

Lord God, strengthen my faith so that I can become weak, fully yielding control of my life to you. Come, be Lord of my life. Amen.


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Present

Reading: Psalm 139: 13-18

Verse Eighteen: “When I awake, I am still with you”.

Each of us are unique creations of God’s mighty hand. We are all “fearfully and wonderfully made”. Each of our days are ordained or blessed by God. Sounds pretty wonderful, doesn’t it?!

The Psalm gives us a feeling of being intimately known by God. On our good days this does feel like a blessing. To know and to feel like God is present is reassuring and comforting. But on our days when we wrestle with the things of this world and when we sin, that presence can feel a little uncomfortable. When we stumble because our flesh is weak, it is disconcerting to know that God is present for those moments too. Yes, God is right there then too.

And then there are those times when life happens – when there is a cancer diagnosis or when someone dear passes or when our job suddenly comes to and end or… We are not the cause and we are not caught up in sin or evil, but these days come too. And in the midst of all this, God too remains present. Sometimes God even enlists helpers. Friends drop by with a meal or just to visit. The church seems to become a little closer too as people check in on you. Phone calls and texts and cards arrive from folks you forgot you knew. God’s love and care comes in many ways. The Holy Spirit even joins in, reminding us of those passages that we need to hear again. We think, along with the psalmist, “How prescious to me are your thoughts, O God”!

In our days of faithful obedience, in our days of rebellion, and in our days of trial and suffering, our one constant is God’s presence. God brings us hope and strength and reassurance and comfort and … God has been present since we were knit together and God will ever be present to us – in this life and in the life to come. Each and every day we can offer up this praise: “When I awake, I am still with you”. Thanks be to God for always being present! Amen.


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Covenant Love and Grace

Reading: Genesis 17: 1-7 and 15-16

Verse 7: “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant… to be your God and the God of your descendants after you”.

Our God is the God of covenants. A covenant establishes a relationship between two parties. In today’s covenant with Abraham and Sarah, God establishes the covenant to be our God. As the descendants of Abraham and Sarah, we are certainly included in this covenant. Just as it was with each of us as the Holy Spirit wooed us into a relationship with God, so too did God take the initiative to start a covenant relationship with Abraham and Sarah. Abraham had trusted and obeyed God and had lived a righteous life. God, in turn, chose to bless Abraham and Sarah (and us) with His covenant promise.

Although a covenant is an “I’ll love you no matter what” promise, we do still like our rules and ways to measure our relationships. We like to know what we have to do, to know how we are doing, to know how we compare to others… But our covenant relationship with God is not about checking off boxes or measuring up to some standard. It is all about God’s grace. Grace is the “no matter what” part of our relationship with God. God loves us no matter what we do or do not do, no matter what we say or do not say, no matter how we act or do not act. Grace looks past all of this and says “I love you and will always be your God”.

God invites each of us into this relationship based upon love and grace no matter what. At times, this is uncomfortable and a bit awkward. It is unsettling. As a child and then later as a husband, I’ve had a time or two or more than I can count when I’ve felt a similar love and grace when I did not deserve it. These experiences with unconditional love and forgiveness give us an idea of God’s covenant love and grace. The idea of this much love is a little frightening or even intimidating. But more than that, it is inviting. Over and over and over God invites us to get back up and to walk once again in His grace and love. He invites us to trust in His love and grace, to give up our own need for control, and to surrender fully so that we can walk where He leads. Make me willing today and each day, O Lord.


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At the Table

Today’s text is a little troubling.  As a fellow pastor said at the lectionary study yesterday, “It makes me uncomfortable.”  In today’s text Jesus calls the woman who has come to beg for her daughter’s healing a “dog”.  It was not likely a racial insult in Jesus’ day.  We are used to Jesus sparring with the Pharisees and calling them ‘hypocrites’ but this seems different.  The loving Jesus who seems to accept all who come to him is trying to rudely dismiss this woman.  This version of Jesus makes me uncomfortable too.

Perhaps it makes me uncomfortable because at times I have thought less of another as well.  This is often a means to justify not helping them or to rationalize not taking the time to be present with them.  In essence I too am calling them a ‘dog’ in my mind and in my analysis of their worth.

Yet in this story I also find hope.  In my sin I come before God seeking healing and forgiveness much like a dog.  Slinking up to Him, head bowed low, I approach knowing I am unworthy to be in His presence.  Like this woman, I do not and cannot argue with my position because in my sin I am lowly.  So like her I approach humbly.  In her the hope I find, though, is also in her boldness.

This woman is bold in asking for her daughter’s healing.  She just asks for a ‘crumb’.  She knows that just a little bit of Jesus’ power is enough to heal her daughter.  And it does.  I too approach boldly.  Although made low in my sin, I too can boldly ask to be healed, to be made new, to be washed by His blood.  And just like that I too find healing and restoration.  And in God’s great love and mercy, I am no longer under the table.  As a child of God I am restored back to the table.  For this, I say thanks be to God!

Scripture reference: Mark 7: 24-30


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Listen and Be Present

Does our vision ever cloud what God wants us to see and experience?  Does our way of thinking how something should (or shouldn’t) be ever derail the wonderful thing that God is trying to unfold in front of us?  Yes and yes!

In Matthew 16, Jesus tells his disciples about his impending suffering and death.  Peter responds with “Never!”  Peter wants to hang onto the Jesus he has come to know and love over the last three years.  Peter cannot begin to see or understand what God will do through Jesus Christ.  How easy it is to get in the way of God’s plans.  We can be much the same way. We often cannot see the thing that God has in mind, so we try to limit God.

So often in life we want to avoid the uncomfortable when it is precisely where God wants us to be.  When one we know is in the midst of a loss, we want to help them move along and feel better instead of staying in that moment.  In that moment is where we find God’s comfort and hope.  In a difficult situation when one wants to talk about the struggle and the pain and the hurt, we try to move them along to recovery.  Sit, listen, feel where they are at and allow God to enter in and be present with those emotions and thoughts.  In time He will bring healing.  But we must resist our inclination to steer the bus.  Allow God to be in control.

In those times when God is asking us to listen and be present, do just that.  Just listen and be present.  Don’t try to fix things or make one feel better.Just be there and offer yourself to the one in need.  Remember, God is there too.

Scripture reference: Matthew 16: 21-28