pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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God Reality

Reading: Genesis 18:9-15 & 21:1-7

Verses 18:14 and 21:7 – Is anything too hard for the Lord?…. Yet I have born him a son in his old age.

Most of us live a very patterned life.  Sunday morning we go to church.  Wednesday night is youth group or a Bible study.  Monday through Friday morning we go to work.  Third Friday of the month is date night.  Football in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring.  Even within all of our routines are routines.  Worship is in the same order every Sunday.  First thing each morning is prayer time with a cup of coffee on the couch in the living room.

Within all of this we are called to live by faith.  But here too we like patterned or at least predictable.  Sure, we love for God to show up big on Sunday mornings in worship and we hope for His presence in our small group this Wednesday night.  We may even pray “your will be done” but hope it fits within our boxes.  We’d rather not have God show up unexpectedly as a coworker unburdens themselves at lunch.  We’d rather not have the Holy Spirit lead us to engage and love on that person we really don’t like so much.  All in all, even in our faith we prefer to stay well within our comfort zones.

Now we enter Abraham and Sarah’s story.  They are very old.  Her barrenness has caused much hurt and pain.  Years and years ago God promised Abraham descendant as numerous as the stars in the sky.  But it never came to be.  Now, as they near 100 years old, God again appears and says now is the time!  Sarah laughs.  You can’t blame her.  Her laugh is partly an expression of her deep sadness and her unrealized dream of a child.  It is also part honesty – really, a baby at 100?  Funny God, very funny.

God responds with a question: “Is anything too hard for the Lord”?  We all know the answer.  Nothing is impossible with God.  We know this to be true.  Yet most of the time we still prefer God in our boxes.  As Sarah becomes pregnant and begins to live into the reality of God, her mindset shifts.  She is experiencing the almost impossible through God’s power.  She is well outside her box.  You can picture her musing out loud as she asks the “who woulda thought” question.  Our passage closes with the reality, God’s reality: “Yet I have born him a son in his old age”.  Sarah fully understands now that nothing is impossible with God.  She knows this God reality.  May we live it each day as well.


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Bear Witness

Reading: Acts 7: 55-60

Verse 55: Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Stephen is certainly one filled with the Holy Spirit.  He has taught and performed miracles.  He stood in the Sanhedrin and successfully defended and explained the faith he professes.  He is so filled with the Holy Spirit that he even condemns the most powerful body of Jewish leaders for their role in the death of Christ.  This so outrages them that they are furious and gnash their teeth.  What happens next is today’s reading.

Stephen is a man who will stand up for his faith and belief in God no matter what.  He is a man who will speak the truth, even if it offends others a bit.  He is a man living life fully under the control of the Holy Spirit.  He is a man who trusts his very life to God’s plans and purposes.  All I can say is, “Wow”.  To look in the mirror and to see a slight reflection of who Stephen was would give me pause.

Who do you know that lives like Stephen?  Is there someone in your life that lives fully trusting God and fully obedient to God’s will?  These men and women are few and far between.  Most Christians, myself included, dabble with this type of faith.  We may step outside our routine or our comfort zones every once in a while to make an impact for God.  We may show a depth of faith that at times pleases God.

Just as they are preparing to drag him out to stone him, Stephen “full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God”.  God blesses him with this vision and the one to come next.  It strengthens Stephen.  It reassures him.  It affirms what he has spent his last years preaching and doing.  As they stone him, he calls for Jesus to receive his spirit and prays for those killing him.  He dies just as he lived – bearing witness to his God to the very end.  In doing so, Stephen continues to bring much glory to God.  May we go and do likewise today.


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Trust

Reading: Matthew 11: 7-11

At times, we all go through what John the Baptist’s followers are going through.  Someone who has been a leader in our church or community or organization is no longer present.  They have moved on to another place or they have passed on.  To be filled with questions and doubts and fears is a normal reaction.  We wonder who will fill the void.  We wonder how the void will be filled.

John has been put in prison.  He had led a powerful ministry out in the desert and had positively changed many people’s lives.  So instead of trusting in God and expecting God to do something amazing next, the followers worry and fret.  So Jesus asks them, in essence, why they followed John and why people came out to see him.  What drew you and others to John?

Jesus begins by asking if they went out to see a reed swayed by the wind.  Well, no, John was rock solid in his beliefs and in his mission.  His message did not change no matter who came out into the desert: repent for the kingdom of God is near.  Jesus asked if John’s attire and other refinements drew them.  No, of course not – it was about the message and about personally drawing closer to God.  Jesus then harkens the people back to a passage from Malachi.  John was there for a purpose: as a messenger sent to prepare the way.  Jesus has come, John’s work is done.  God’s plan continues.  Jesus ends the section by stating that although John was indeed a great gift from God, in heaven John will be just like everyone else.

In our lives, we too experience people God is using to do kingdom work.  It may be for just a short time or the work may last decades.  The person may be you or I.  But at some point, the work of God in that time and place draws to a close.  There is naturally sadness and often doubt or fear.  Yet in the midst of this, may we allow our faith to move forward, trusting fully in God’s plan and will.  May we be thankful for what God has done while remaining confident that it is all part of God’s plan.  God alone is in control.  Trust God.


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Bold Trust

Reading: Jeremiah 32: 6-15

Shelter is one of our most basic needs.  To have a place to call home provides stability and a sense of well-being.  Your day is different when you know you have a place of refuge and a place to lay your head down at the end of the day.  As the Babylonians assaulted the city, the words of Jeremiah’s prophecy echo in their heads.  They know they will be defeated and carried off into exile in Babylon.  The Israelites future is scary and full of unknowns.

Into this scene steps Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel.  God has told Jeremiah that Hanamel is coming to sell him some family land in his hometown.  Buying land seems an odd choice when they about to be uprooted and carried off to a foreign land.  But God had told Jeremiah about Hanamel’s visit so he goes ahead and buys the land.  Most of us would have said, “Let’s just wait and see how this thing with the Babylonians turns out”.

But Jeremiah is banking on God’s promises.  He knows that the Israelites are God’s chosen people and always will be.  He knows God’s promise that one day “houses, fields, and vineyards will again be bought in the land”.  It may be ten years or four hundred years.  It does not matter because God’s word is good.  One day God will restore Israel.

At times God will ask us to step out into a place where we must trust what we know about God.  Perhaps God is asking you to do so right now in your life.  If not now, know that God will.  This is because trust is an essential element in our relationship with God.  In this place of trust we begin to say “your will” instead of “my will”.  As we sense God’s call to step out in faith may we each do so, boldly trusting in God alobe.


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Faithful Trust

Reading: Luke 16: 10-13

Trust is the key word in this passage.  Jesus begins by transitioning from talking about the shrewd manager to talking to the general audience, which now includes us.  In essence, Jesus is saying that if we prove trustworthy with the little things, then eventually we will be trusted with bigger things.  If we are trustworthy with another’s resources, then one day we will be trusted with resources of our own.  Jesus also ties this into our relationship with God.  He reminds us that if we cannot be trusted with earthly resources, then how would God ever trust us with heavenly riches?

To temper and reframe all this talk about wealth, Jesus shifts gears in verse thirteen.  He ties what we are trusted with into who we serve.  Jesus plainly states that we cannot serve two masters.  There is still the implication that the people of the world pursue only wealth, that wealth is their god.  At the end of the verse, Jesus clearly draws the line: “You cannot serve both God and money”.  Put another way, in a way that ties back into verses 10-12, you cannot trust both God and money.  But oh how we try!

Our trust must rest fully in God.  Too often we say we trust in God, but we act like we trust our money and other resources.  We allow our trust to waver and we rationalize our choices and priorities in life.  We cannot trust God in some areas and we can in others.  We compartmentalize.

Our trust must be fully and completely in God.  This means continually saying, “Your way” instead of “my way”.  It means giving without limit to the things God has placed upon our hearts.  It means allowing God to be in control.  It is terribly difficult to give up one’s will fully to God’s will.  Yet this day, may we begin.  As it is written, “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much”.


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Respect and Reliance

Reading: Psalm 4

In our Psalm for today we see what trust in God looks like.  David places God first and relies on God for relief from distress, for mercy for sins, for an ear in times of need, for joy in God’s presence, and for peace in his heart.  Looking at this list, who would not want these things?  All of us want joy, peace, and contentment in life.  When we allow God to be our guide, our defender, our redeemer, and our Savior then our life will be blessed.

Sometimes we get the relationship backwards though.  We set out on our own adengas and we try to be the one in control.  Our focus is on ourselves, we hunker down and move ahead with the plans we have laid.  We have a goal or a desired outcome and we try to work through or around any obstacles that come our way.  Culture reinforces our tendency towards individualism and self-centeredness.  If things get a little hard we may ask God to bless our plans or to make things work out for us.  We set ourselves up in the role of God and then ask the one true God to step in only when we need it.

But this is the reverse of how our relationship with God should be.  It is funny that at times we think we are smarter, more capable, more able … than the God who created the whole universe.  In David’s words we see the proper respect and reliance that God alone deserves.  David reminds us to pray because God hears us.  He reminds us to trust in God alone and to allow God’s light to shine upon our faces.  In verse seven, we begin to see the fruit of doing these things: “You have filled my heart with joy”.  At the end of each day, David lies down in peace.  When God is in control, David experiences blessing.  When we begin each day by submitting our will to God and by asking God to lead, we too will know joy, peace, and contentment.  May we choose each day to place all of our life in God’s hands.


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God’s Way

Reading: Jeremiah 2: 4-13

As we go through life, sometimes our focus becomes trained on something other than God.  It can lead us down our own path and off of God’s path.  We lose our connection to God.  This misdirection can even seem to have good intentions and maybe we can even think that it is of God.  But when we cut through it all, we can look back and see we were following our own ways and plans.  God was left saying, “What about me”?

Sometimes we start a new outreach or worship experience or church plant this way.  The idea is 100% human and it seems like something that will bring God glory so we plunge forward.  We forget to pray and to discern God’s hand in it.  We are too focused with getting on with it.  When this is the case, soon enough the ‘project’ becomes our new idol, our new god.  Working 80 hours a week ‘for God’s is easy to rationalize.  But time wears on us and soon our project is not sustainable.  As we look back on the ashes, if we are lucky, we realize God was not really the architect of our grand plan.

The people of Jeremiah’s time are in the midst of a similar scenario.  They have gone their own way and have turned to false idols other gods.  They had enjoyed God’s blessings but now view the success as their own and have assumed control of the ship.  Jeremiah warns them that soon enough there will be ashes.  Soon enough the ship will run aground and their way ward course will be revealed.

Praise be that our God is a gracious and forgiving God.  Praise be that the Holy Spirit continually whispers and nudges and pulls at our hearts.  Praise be for Jesus, who will pick us up from the ashes, will clean us off, and will say “welcome home my child”.  May we be cognizant and sensitive to God’s plans in our lives.  May we respond faithfully to the guiding of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom we find in the Word of God.  May we be so in tune with God that we know God’s will for our lives and quickly sense any missteps that we take on our own.  May we pray often and regularly for the revelation of God’s will in our lived.