pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Love and Justice and Mercy

Reading: Genesis 37: 1-4 and 12-28

Verse Four: They hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph is clearly the father’s favorite.  Israel loves Joseph more than any of his other sons.  In today’s passage, Israel makes Joseph a “richly ornamented robe”.  For a second, recall Joseph and his dreams of his brothers and even his father and mother bowing down to him.  For a second, recall Joseph’s penchant for tattling on his brothers.  Now Joseph waltzes in, showing off his new coat.  Joseph certainly plays up his favored son status.  His brother’s reaction?  “They hated him and could not speak a kind word to him”.

Later in our passage, Israel decides to send Joseph out to check on the others sons and the flocks.  He tells Joseph to “bring word back to me”.  As the brothers see Joseph coming, they plot to kill him.  In our society today, does this still happen?  Do some who live without look at those who have much with hatred and envy?  Thanks without may desire to do away with the ones with privilege and power, especially the ones who flaunt it.  So, when we go to the city to serve in the rescue mission, do those in line look at us this way?  If we act as if we are stooping down to do something ‘good’ or if we act aloof, certainly we are seen this way.  If we are unwilling to sit and hear another’s story, to communicate that they are worthy of our time and attention, then we remain distant and privileged.

Reuben speaks up for Joseph and plans to come back later to rescue him.  When violence and injustice and hatred arise today, do we act as Reuben acted?  Do we try and lessen it and plan on coming back later to partially address the situation?  Or do we stand up for what is righteous and choose to stand in the gap, saying ‘no more’?  At times we will see prejudice or hatred, injustice or abuse.  Then and there, do we addresd it fully?  Do we stand for those in need of our voice and courage?  Do we love and care for all as God loves and cares for all?  Or do we leave them in the cistern and hope to come back later?

O God of love and justice and mercy, make me an instrument of Your love and justice and mercy.

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Know and Follow

Reading: John 10: 1-7

Verses 3 and 4: …the sheep listen to his voice… his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

In a devotional I read, there is a story about sheep following their shepherd.  As the writer sat and observed, a real shepherd walked along a very narrow and dangerous path along a steep ridge.  One after another, several dozen sheep dutifully followed along the path.  One after another they walked along a path that none would have taken on their own.

This little snippet reveals much about the typical shepherd-sheep relationship.  First, the shepherd was willing to lead his flock through dangerous placed because he knew greener pastures lay ahead.  Second, the sheep knew and trusted the shepherd.  The sheep know their shepherd’s voice and will follow him where he leads.  In fact, sheep will run from a voice they do not know.  Third, the shepherd cares for his sheep.  He is bringing them to a place with good food.  He will protect the sheep, both along the journey and once they arrive. He will keep them together and will defend them for wolves, robbers, …  He genuinely cares for the sheep.

In our passage, Jesus is using the shepherd-sheep analogy to illustrate our preferred relationship with Him.  Jesus wants to be our shepherd.  He wants to lead us to “green pastures” – to life in the full.  He wants to protect us from the dangers and temptations of the world.  He was even willing to lay down His life to do so.  For our part, we are the sheep.  We need to know His voice.  We study His voice in the Bible and we learn to recognize it when the Spirit nudges and whispers to us.  We come to be able to differentiate Jesus’ voice from the many voices of the world.  These other voices are voices we should run from.  Once we come to know Jesus’ voice, He wants us to follow.  He will lead us well.  For our part this means doing what Jesus did and loving as Jesus loved.

May we know the Good Shepherd’s voice and may we follow where He leads.


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Good and Bad

Reading: Psalm 29

Our Psalm today begins by reminding us to give God the glory and to worship the Lord “in the splendor of His holiness”.  The Psalm continues and shares how God’s voice is powerful and majestic.  God’s voice thunders, flashes, and shakes and breaks the earth.  There is indeed much power in the voice of God – much like a huge thunderstorm that rolls in.  In the rolls of thunder that shake the house and in the flashes of lightning that illuminates everything, I gain a sense of God’s power.  It is unavoidable.  Even in the rains that fall, one sees God’s blessing and provision.

For me, it is easy to see God in the powerful thunderstorm.  But when the storms of life settle in, I can find it difficult to sense God is near.  I find this to be particularly true when the storm seems to rage for a period of time.  I feel a sense of being alone and I struggle to hear the powerful and majestic voice of God.  I allow the worries of the world to wash over my faith and to obscure the voice and presence of God.  And then I near the point of breaking, of drowning in the storm, and I cry out and reach out to the Lord our God.  And God is right there.  Has been all along.  I wonder why I didn’t seek God sooner.  God is always present – it was I who was absent.

After such storms, I am more aware of my constant need for God.  But as life returns to normal, I can drift again.  For me, prayer is the key to staying connected.  God desires a relationship that is 24-7-365.  God desires to be my God in the good and in the bad.  There is a song from the O.C. Supertones that reminds me of this.  The song is called Jury Duty.  The pre-chorus sings, “You know I haven’t had the best of days, but I want to stop and thank you anyway”.  Even on a bad day, God blesses us.  The chorus goes on to sing, “Cuz every single moment, whether sleeping or awake, is your creation, and what you’ve made is good.  I don’t always thank you for the rough days and the hard times in my life, even though I should”.  Even on those ‘jury duty’ days, we need to be in connection to God.  On those days especially!

O Lord, when I am tempted to just get on with the busyness of the day, slow me down and center me in prayer.  On those stormy days, help me to remember to bow to you and to worship in the splendor of your holiness.  And at the end of each day, whether good or bad, always draw me back to you, offering you my thanksgiving and praise.  May it be so each day.  Amen.


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Worship the Lord

Reading: Psalm 145: 1-5 and 17-21

Psalm 145 is a song of praise to God.  In our worship we call out to God, singing to an “audience of one”, as the saying goes.  Verse 18 reads, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth”.  As we call out in worship, we offer God our thanksgiving and praise in song.  We also call out to draw near to God, to be in God’s presence.  When we call out to God, God draws near to us.

Some years in Youth group we are blessed to have a young man or woman who can play the guitar or piano and can sing.  These gifted young people bless us by leading our times of worship.  Other years we do not have such an individual and by default I lead.  Although I do not always maintain the same tempo and play an occasional wrong chord, I can provide the guitar to lead worship.  The vocals are another story.  I cannot count how many times on of the youth singers has looked at me with the “what are you singing?” look.  I smile and we keep on going.  I wish I could sing.  But I am simply not a good singer.  So I make a joyful noise to the Lord.

God does not require our perfection.  God desires our presence in worship.  God desires that our hearts be fully present in worship.  God would much rather have our off key singing with love and passion than our reverent silence.  God does bless many with the gift of a good voice.  Accordingly, they should lead the worship of the Lord whenever possible.  And even the best is not perfect.  This matters not either.  God desires our joyful worship.  God wants us to offer all of ourselves in worship.  Each time, as we seek to draw near the Lord, may we offer our audience of one all that we are and all that we have, for it is pleasing in God’s sight when we worship the Lord.


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Lived Out through Us

Reading: Psalm 146

God is steadfast and true.  God loves the righteous.  God seeks to lift up those who are bowed down.  His desire is to bring relief to their suffering and to put an end to the oppression and injustices they face.  How does our God of compassion and love lift up the bowed down?  He sends the righteous, those who have received His favor and blessing, to minister in His name.  He sends you and me.

It is God alone who can restore a person’s soul and who can make a new creation from within.  It is God who sends the righteous faithful to engage the bowed down, oppressed, and suffering.  It is God who has given us each gifts and talents and blessings to share with others to lift them up, to help them in their struggles.  We can be there to offer much, but it is God alone who can transform their lives and hearts.

God desires to use us in many ways.  We are each uniquely gifted and blessed as the body of Christ so that we can corporately minister to a wide variety of situations and needs.  Some are the feet of Christ who enter into brokenness to lift shame and guilt so that hope can begin to enter in.  Some of us are the hands of Christ, entering in and offering a hand up so that one can begin to be above water again.  Some of us are His eyes, restoring value and worth to someone who thought they had none.  Some of us are God’s voice, speaking out against injustice and oppression, seeking to make things right.  Some of us are His ears, listening to the stories that need heard and retold so that others may find or experience positive change in their lives.

God loves all of His children equally.  Some do not even know that they are a child of God.  This day may we collectively be His feet, hands, eyes, voice, and ears so that all may begin to experience His love, lived out through our witness, example, and presence.


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Don’t Be Afraid

Reading: 1 Kings 17: 8-24

Elijah tells the widow that her flour will not run out and that her oil will not run dry until God brings rain and ends the long famine that had struck the land.  His request for bread must have settled on her as a heavy weight when she first heard his request.  The culture was one that placed hospitality very high.  It was customary that even if your sworn enemy came knocking and asked for lodging for the night, then one would provide a place to stay.

All the widow had left was enough flour and oil to make one last meal for her son and herself.  When she encountered Elijah she was gathering some sticks so she bake the last meal they would ever eat.  The widow must have been at a very somber place in her heart and mind.  It is at this point that Elijah asks for some bread.  She has used up her every resource and is preparing to make one last meal and then to die with her son.  It is now that Elijah comes along and asks if he can have some bread too.

Have you ever been where the woman is at?  Totally spent and at the end of the rope?  She is there.  It is like going through a very hard loss of a dear loved one, finally heading home and feeling emotionally spent after the funeral, and a distant friend calls to tell you the news of their unexpected loss.  It is like spending a hot July day working outside all day long at the Habitat house when a friend of a friend calls asking if you can help them move out of their apartment.  Every fiber in your being wants to say ‘no’ but you feel compelled to talk a while or to go and help.

Elijah must sense the apprehension in the widow.  So her says to her, “Don’t be afraid”.  When the phone rings or the stranger appears at your door, asking when we feel totally depleted, hear His voice, saying “Do not be afraid.  Trust me”.  May we find the faith of the widow.  May we too experience His amazing blessings when we choose to trust and to answer His call.


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Listen to My Voice

Reading: John 10: 22-30

Ever since mankind has known God, it has been all about the relationship.  Adam and Eve walked in the Garden and talked with God.  Although His presence changed, God has continued to communicate with mankind.  Initially it was through prophets and angels.  Then God entered the world in the flesh.  Jesus lived, walked among, taught, and even performed some miracles.  In His earthly life Jesus revealed who and what God is.

With Abraham, God established a covenant with His chosen people.  Israel was to be God’s people and He was to be their God.  This covenant came with some guidelines.  Over time the Law  grew to be something cumbersome.  Yet the covenant relationship remains.  God’s chosen people, by and large, continue living in covenant relationship with Him.

In time though, it became necessary to establish a new covenant.  Jesus came to accomplish this.  He reminded God’s chosen people of parts of the old covenant: love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love neighbor as self.  He added to the second: love as I have first loved you.  This was a different kind of love.  It was a radical kind of love.  In His love there are no outcasts, no outsiders, no strangers.  Jesus loved all.  He loves you and me.  Through His body and blood, He established a new covenant and offers the gift of eternal life.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”.  The new covenant is about relationship too.  It is about hearing Jesus say, ” love as I have first loved you”.  It is about Jesus knowing each of us as a follower.  May we ever hear His voice.  May we ever follow.