pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Connection

Reading: Isaiah 61:10 to 62:3

Verse Three: “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand”.

Today’s passage from Isaiah has both personal and corporate aspects of righteousness.  It begins on the personal level with Isaiah praising God for his “garments of salvation” and his “robe of righteousness”.  God has blessed Isaiah with these things because Isaiah has been faithful to God’s word and because he has been true in his calling to be the voice of God for the nation of Israel.  Isaiah also sees signs that God is at work in the lives of the people.  In verse eleven Isaiah speaks of God preparing the people Israel, like a farmer prepares the soil for a new crop, so that “righteousness and praise will spring up” leading Israel to be restored or to be born anew.

In our passage, the transition from chapter 61 to 62 is where the melding of personal and corporate righteousness begins to take place.  Isaiah writes of Zion – the people of God.  He also writes of Jerusalem – the city of God.  The people are in exile.  As a people of God they seem to have lost some of their connection to God, to being God’s chosen people.  Being in exile can make one question who you are.  After these many years in exile, they long to return to their home land and to Jerusalem, the center of their nation.  Isaiah is speaking of a restoration of both Zion and Jerusalem as he writes, “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand”.  What words of hope!

In our lives and in our churches today we can experience times like Zion and the nation of Israel are feeling.  There can be times or even seasons when we seem to have lost our way or feel like we are in exile.  God desires to speak into these times or seasons as well.  God still desires to see His people clothed in salvation and righteousness.  If we delve into the scriptures, we will find a connection between living a holy life and being invested in the disciplines of our faith – reading and meditating on the Word, spending regular time in prayer and worship, serving those in need.  It is when we participate in these habits of the faith that we are preparing our soil for righteousness and praise to sprout up.  It is through these disciplines that we come to lead a holy life.  Then God will indeed clothe us in a robe of righteousness that will lead to salvation.

When we get away from being who and what God calls us to be – whether personally or as a community of faith – we lose our connection to God.  Just as He did with Zion and Jerusalem, God remains faithful and continues to call us back to faith and back into relationship with Him.  God promises to be near to us when we draw near to Him.  May we always seek to be faithful to our call to live as God desires, investing our time and hearts in the things of God.  Through the faithful practice of our faith habits, our connection to God will remain strong.  May it be so for you and for me!


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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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The Gate

Reading: John 10: 7-10

Verse 9: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.

Jesus desires to be our gate in life.  He desires to be present in our going out and in our coming in.  In the sheep analogy, the sheep would go out of the gate during the day.  The shepherd would rise from being the literal gate and would lead the sheep to food and water.  In our lives, Jesus leads us to the things we need for our daily lives.  This does include the basic needs but also includes our work, our schooling, and our other activities.  Then at the end of the day, the shepherd leads the sheep back into the fold at night.  The shepherd again became the gate, guarding the sheep.  In our lives, Jesus wants to also give us safe and good rest each day.  As we pass through His gate, He invites us to lay down our burdens and anxieties so that we are free of them.

We notice in this scenario, when it really plays out as intended, that Jesus the Good Shepherd is always with us, the sheep.  That is how God wants it to be.  That is how our relationship with Jesus is intended to be.  As we go out into the world, Jesus goes out with us, leading and guiding us through life.  Each day Jesus leads us back home and protects us during our rest as well.  But we, like sheep, occasionally wander and we get lost.  It is part of who we are.  In spite of our overall desires to stay in the flock, at times we do not.  The good news for us is that Jesus is like the shepherd in the analogy – always watching over us, always working to gather us back in, always guiding us back home.

Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved”.  May we ever enter in through Jesus, He who leads to salvation and our eternal rest.


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Faithful Sheep

Reading: Jeremiah 23: 1-6

Jeremiah expresses God’s anger towards those who have allowed the people to wander from God and to be scattered.  There is the implication that the leaders have acted in ways that lessened the peoples’ faith.  “Destroyed” is the term used in one translation.  If we look back just one chapter, we find the story of evil kings who have lived far from God’s ways.  Not only did they not tend to the flock, but they led them astray, through idol worship and godless living.

God proclaims punishment on the poor leadership.  At the same time, the loving God promises to gather up the flock.  God will return the poor sheep to the pasture they were intended to live in – to faith in God alone.  God states that here, back in a right relationship with God, they will prosper and be fruitful and will increase in number.  God will bless them.  In this way God seeks to return humanity to the original intent: created in God’s image, living in Union with God.

This is God’s desire for us as well.  As the new sheep of God, we too are prone to wander, to stray.  God continues to work to bring us back to our faith and to dwelling in the pasture of God.  In Jeremiah we see the promise of a future King, one of the line of David.  Unlike the Kings of Jeremiah’s days, this King will rule wisely and with justice and righteousness.  This King will be named Jesus.

In Jesus, our good shepherd, we have the image and love of God lived out in the flesh.  Through a personal relationship with Jesus, we come to live in union with God and to understand God’s love for us.  In Jesus, we have a king we can look up to.  In Jesus, we have a king whose example we can follow.  And through Jesus, the gift of the Holy Spirit comes to continually shepherd, guide, and protect us, drawing us ever closer to living a life worthy of our King, Jesus Christ.  Each day may we faithfully follow Christ and His example, ever seeking to bear witness to God’s love and mercy.


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Beautiful and Useful

Reading: Jeremiah 18: 1-11

When working with clay, the potter molds the clay into what he or she intended it to be.  At times it became marred or flawed or not exactly what the potter had planned.  So the potter reshapes the clay so that it becomes something beautiful and useful.

Imagine if the clay had a mind of its own.  What would happen if the potter was trying to form a serving platter and the clay wanted to be a vase?  As the potter tried to smooth and flatten out the clay, the clay kept rising up.  Soon enough the potter would give up or would allow the clay to become a vase.  But the clay is not becoming what the potter intended.  To the potter the creation will never be as beautiful or useful as it could have been.  Although it may function as a base and hold water, the potter will not see it as beautiful.

Growing up God often shapes us through the hands of parents, teachers, Sunday school leaders, youth group leaders…  We are molded and shaped as young Christians.  Before we move on to becoming mature Christians, we often seek our own way.  Whether in high school or college or young adulthood, we start to see ourselves as the center of all things.  We think we know do much and decide we will be the ones calling the shots.  We are like the clay that wanted to become a vase.  Over the course of a few years or maybe decades, we wander far from God.

Yet the Creator’s love for us never wains.  God continues to bring us back to the purposes that were laid out for our lives before we were born.  God does not give up.  It is a love so great.  In time, the seeds of faith begin to sprout again for most of us.  We come to know God again and we begin to walk in God’s ways again.  We begin to become the beautiful and useful creation we were meant to be.  Life just seems better again because we are in the palm of God’s hands.  For your faithfulness, O God, we say thank you.


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Mercy’s Promise

God promises to always be with us, to never leave us.  Yet at times we can question this as we feel all alone and seem to have lost touch with our creator.  But we must remember His promise as it is always us that creates the separation or the distance.

It can happen in big things and in little things.  In Exodus 32 Moses has been gone up the mountain just long enough for Aaron and the people to start worrying.  Moses is their connection to God.  The solution?  Gather up all the gold and make a new god to worship and be led by.  Seems crazy now but at the time I’m sure it make perfect sense.

It can happen in our lives too.  We can easily allow ourselves to be drawn into conversations and activities that have God nowhere in sight.  When we suddenly realize where we’ve wandered to we ask, “How’d we get here?!”  Thankfully we serve a merciful God.  He says, “Yup, I’m still here” and “Welcome back my child”.  And just like that we are back in a right relationship with our creator.  Praise be to God!!

Scripture reference: Exodus 32: 1-6