Today’s Psalm 010621

Oh Lord my God…

When I in awesome wonder

Consider all thy hands have made….

I see the stars. I hear the rolling thunder,

Thy power throughout the universe displayed…

Lord, You are my God… and I am Your child. everything I have has been given to you by Your hand… everything I have done is by Your grace. I’ve seen Your power through miracles unfolded right before very eyes. You’ve forgiven me from unspeakable sin and found favor with me… as undeserving as I am. You’ve brought healing where it was believed impossible… provided paths through red seas of my life… You alone are worthy of my praise. I humbly lay myself down and ask You to use me.

Forgive me when I fail, and help me to seek Your righteousness… let Your light shine through me for others to swe

Guide and direct my steps and decisions, that I might be used to bring the Good news to others.

Protect me from evil, and from the wicked schemes of man, that your sovereign will prevails. Let us reach as many people as we can for Your glory and kingdom before Your wrath is poured out.

Prepare hearts to receive your salvation, and give me words and opportunity to share Your message.

You are preparing me. I feel it in my soul. Let me be obedient to Your calling. Reveal Your full calling and give me courage to follow wherever You are leading.

Truly Yours…

SB

Prepare

For the past two years, I have challenged myself to pick a word of the year to help focus my relationship with God. In 2019, I chose WAIT… as in “wait for the Lord”… ironically, that was a banner year for tremendous answers to long term prayers for me… along with tremendous spiritual growth and dependence on God.

In 2020, my word was PRAY, which turned out to be extremely important, and in some circumstances of 2020, was literally the only thing I COUlD do! My prayer life was literally transformed as I learned to spend hours in intentional prayer as well as plain and simple talks with Jesus throughout my whole day.

The word I choose for 2021 is PREPARE. I do believe God is cultivating warriors for His kingdom and we need to be prepared. I don’t yet fully know how to prepare, nor do I fully understand the mission for which I am preparing. I only know that God has a plan and a purpose for my life… and that His ultimate purpose is that we go and make disciples for Him. I am preparing to do that.

Below are a few phrases I thought of when the word prepare came to my mind… over the next few weeks I plan to explore those and others as I prepare for whatever God has planned.

Let every heart Prepare Him room

Prepare for battle

Prepare for visitors

Prepare for take-off

Prepare for landing

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary

I can think of no better way to begin preparing than spending time in His word. For the past 62 weeks, I have been using an ap on my phone to do a study of the Bible through Pastor John Stoper of the Christian Missionary Alliance church. It is called Mission 119. I spend time reading scripture each morning through a guided tour of the Bible, and then listen to a 10-15 minute sermonette by pastor Stoper. I have learned an incredible amount over the past year, particularly in the Old Testament, which I now find fascinating. It is an awesome way to start my day, focused on exactly the right thing…. my Lord and Savior.

My wish for all of you is that you would also begin preparing yourselves for whatever God has planned for you.

May you be blessed today, my friends.

Happy New Year!

SB

My grace

Paul, a servant of the Lord…

Paraphrasing…. In 2 Corinthians, Paul, arguably one of the most dedicated servants for the Lord writes about the thorn in his flesh…, “I’ve prayed three times that you’d remove the thorn from my side… You haven’t… Instead You say “my Grace is sufficient for you””.

What is sufficient? What is grace, that it would be sufficient to bear the thorn in Paul’s side?

Do you have a thorn that the lord hasn’t removed? Is His grace sufficient for you to keep going and doing what you believe He’s called you to do?

Will you trust Him no matter what? Paul did.

Be blessed today, my friends.

SB

The Crooked Perspective

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”   C.S. Lewis

Throughout my life, I’ve had wonderful opportunities to develop my own thinking and sharpen my skills to defend my beliefs.  Some of these occurred in classroom setting in various honors English, History and Science classes.  Others occurred more naturally between friends and intellectuals with whom I’ve had the pleasure to interact.  I’m not certain everyone gets (or takes) this opportunity in life, which sometimes leads to people simply following blind religion, or not having any beliefs at all.   In my humble opinion, this is dangerous, and perhaps one reason why the Bible refers to humanity as “sheep” (which truly are not very intelligent creatures who simply follow their shepherd).  I much rather believe it important to understand not only what you believe, but why you believe it. By that same token, I respect the fact that intellectuals can search their own beliefs and arrive at difference conclusions yet still respect one another. 

To that end, I also believe that those who are still searching and not quite sure what to believe about God and/or the Bible should continue to wrestle with it, to study, and to challenge their thoughts about it. Through critical thinking, God will bring about His truth for your life.

CS Lewis has long been one of my favorite authors.  As a child, I was mesmerized by The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and fell in love with the magical kingdom of Narnia.  As I grew older, I realized that his writing is much, much deeper, and, in fact, contains much symbolism.  Heralded as one of the foremost apologetic’s of our century, the writings of C. S. Lewis make me search deep in my own mind to understand why I believe what I believe.

In my tenth grade honors English class, I sat in front of Sergio. He had a full black beard and crazy hair and resembled Wolfman Jack. He was kind of a “wierd” loner and most students thought he was rather creepy. My friend, Bruce, sat beside me – Bruce would remind you of Hermie, the meek and mild dentist from Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer. (Sergio earned a degree in Physics from Pitt and Bruce went on to Princeton University where he earned degrees in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, so both were rather intelligent). One day our class engaged in discussion of whether or not life existed after death, and whether Heaven and Hell were real places. As the students passionately debated the existence of Heaven and Hell and/or whether or not everyone automatically went to Heaven, Sergio piped up and said matter-of-factly, “If there is no hell and we all go to heaven no matter what, then I’m going to out and start hacking people up because there will be no consequences for my actions.” This was long before schools and other public places became war zones for mass attacks. The whole room fell silent and Bruce and I exchanged glances as if to say, “why do we have to be the ones sitting closest to him?”

Although the way he made his point was frightening to those around, his point was actually valid… if there are no eternal consequences for our actions on earth, why have any law at all?

Although everyone shuddered at his ghoulish statement, his point was actually a valid one.   If, in fact, there are no negative consequences of our actions, either in this life or the next, anarchy would reign supreme.

There are some wonderful Christians who believe a loving Creator could never send His beings to hell. While this is certainly a pretty picture, my opinion is that it’s not consistent with scripture. If you believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God (which I do), it is impossible to subscribe to some verses and dismiss others.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority.

2 Peter 2:4-10a | NIV

5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

Luke 12:5 | NIV

For me, I believe the Bible shows us that both Heaven and Hell are real.  I’d say, also, that there are plenty of other verses that, for me, indicate Hell is real. I believe too, that for me to fully understand the depravity of my sin, I need to understand Hell.

The good news is that God has created a way for us to be forgiven of our sins to spend eternity with Him. He can take the foulest of the foul and make them clean when we accept Him as our Savior and allow Him to be Lord of our Lives…. no matter how crooked our perspective is. I don’t encourage you to go out and start hacking people up, but I do believe that Gods grace is sufficient to extend to those who have done things they believe are unforgivable… with a broken and contrite heart, He can forgive you and clean up your past to live your future with Him.

Be blessed today, my friends

SB

Jenny

Sometimes God moments come in unexpected ways…. at times when you need them most.

This morning, I brushed the snow off of my car that accumulated on our white Christmas Day. The day itself brought mixed emotions for a variety of reasons, and I found myself a bit down today.

As I ran some errands, i realized there was an annoying little piece of ice stuck in my windshield wiper blade, and as luck would have it, it was just above my line of sight. At a red light, while stopped in traffic on a busy road, I put my window down and grabbed the wiper blade as it swooped over. I’ve done it many times before just to smack it off the windshield and dislodge the ice. Today, with temps around 18 degrees F, the plastic on the blade broke. I thought, “goodness, what now?” as the light turned green. I drove about a quarter of a mile and glanced to my right and saw Advanced Auto Parts… so I pulled in. I parked right in front of the window which had a sign that read “we sell and install wipers”. Perfect.

I parked the car and went inside. There was a man at the counter in front of me, and mid sale, he left the register to get something else. “Can I help you?” A female voice asked from the next register over. Immediately I recognized the voice, and the eyes beyond her mask.

“Jenny!?” I said, behind my mask. A bit surprised, I pulled my mask down so she could see my face as I said my name. A huge grin came over her face as she stepped out from behind the counter and gave me a big old bear hug. Tears welled up in my eyes. I hadn’t seen Jenny for years. She came briefly to the church I attended, while trying to get her life back together.

She quickly introduced me to her coworker, who gave me the store discount on a new wiper and installed it for me while Jenny and I exchanged pleasantries.

Jenny and I grew up in the same neighborhood and hung out together as early teens. She came from a rather large but somewhat dysfunctional family and got herself into drugs and alcohol at a young age.

“How are you??” I asked, knowing that the last time I had seen her she wasn’t doing great. “Eighteen years sober!” She said, confidently. “And I never miss a meeting.. (referring to AA). My mom asked me why I still go to them and I tell her I love them. I see people there who are skittish, just like I was when I first went…. and they need me… they need to know they can do it. It was AA meetings and God that got me sober.”

Tears flowed freely as I told her how proud I was of her. We talked a bit more about where she was living and our families, etc before we said goodbye. I was always fond of Jenny.

On my way out, she came to the door to tell me to tell our Pastor she said Hello.

I will indeed.

Good is good. All the time.

Be blessed,

Thank you, Lord, for showing me a ray of sunshine in a gloomy day. There IS hope for tomorrow.

SB

Keep praying

2020… my word of the year is pray… could not have been a more appropriate word for a world so turned upside down by pandemic and fear, deceit and corruption. God is present in all of it, and His Sovereign plan will unfold, exactly as he intended.

As we prepare for a Christmas, a time to celebrate the Saviors birth, let us not forget to prepare our hearts and make room for Him in our lives.

Be blessed my friends.

SB

Stand too close?

“If you stand too close to Christ, those who hate Him will also hate you” Pastor Stoper

Matthew 10: Whoever acknowledges me before my Father in Heaven

The lines will be drawn between good and evil, God and Godlessness. You and I will have to decide where we will be.

I’ve been doing a study with Pastor Stoper for the past year and have learned a tremendous amount, deepened my faith and my knowledge of the Bible.

I would think it’s not possible to stand too close to God…. but truthfully, Pastor Stoper is right… there will be people who hate you just because of the Christ for whom you stand.

When Christ returns, I want to be found faithful to His calling. I want to stand as close as I can. How about you?

I dare say that most bible believing people want the comfort of knowing Christ but aren’t willing to take the pressure when the persecution gets tough. I pray the Holy Spirit will continue to guide and strengthen those that He is calling to be warriors for His Names sake.

Be blessed today, my friends.

SB

Joey…

My heart is breaking… my oldest daughter is a kindergarten teacher… and one of her functions is to facilitate online teaching in our district which employs a hybrid model (some on line and some in classroom teaching due to the pandemic)

Yesterday, she was helping a student well call “Joey” with his online work and then a test. As they began to take the test, his mother came to help him. Not realizing his mic had not been muted, his mother began to hurl four letter words at him, exasperated with having to help him read words he was struggling to read. My heart was broken as my daughter recounted the events, and I just wanted to run to Joey and hug him and tell him God has a plan for his life.

Similarly, one of our piano instructors let me know she had to reschedule lessons because she was dealing with a crisis. She is a counselor in the day, and teaches in the evening. One of the kid she counsels attacked his foster parent and she was involved in trying to calm the aituation

At the beginning g of this pandemic, I expressed that my concern for the societal effects of this situation far exceed the effects of the disease itself. This is a reality that many people are blind to… while we’re masking up and sanitizing our hands, we’re beginning to look at others with one eyebrow raised, judging by them for the way in which they are dealing (or not) with the risk of virus. With our masks on, we no longer “look” people in their eye… and move coldly through the market, picking up only that which is essential.

Advertisements flood our minds with slogans like “be home, be safe”, which assumes everyone’s home is as safe as those making the mandates. Sadly, however, this is not necessarily the case.

Suicide rate in Japan has quadrupled…. anxiety is through the roof. We are living in unprecedented times but times of darkness.

In this Christmas season. I want to share the reason for my hope. It’s not in a vaccine, or in a new president. It’s not in my security. It’s in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who came to this earth to bring hope and light to a dark world. It is through Him throat we can find peace amid chaos.

I prayed for Joey this morning, and for his mom… that they would find peace this Christmas… the peace that comes from the Father. I pray for all of the Joeys out there today, struggling with the stresses of this day.

Christ has been born! Alleluia and amen. He has come to heal the broken.

Broken and yours,

SB

Therefore Encourage one another…

Over twelve years ago, I had a ” God” sized (and I believe God-given) idea to open a “coffee shop / music studio.” The dream stayed in the recesses of my mind for the most part, and in a journal I kept where I captured my “random” thoughts of programs and events that might someday happen in the studio. Along the way, I shared my dream with just a few of my closest confidantes, one of whom introduced me to author Erwin MacManaus, in the book, “Seizing Your Divine Moment”, and Mark Batterson, “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day”. Both books literally transformed my thinking and my life and I literally have read every single book both of those author’s have written.

Several years ago I had the privilege to worship with Erwin MacManus at his church Mosaic, in Los Angeles, and he signed his book, Warriors. I follow him on Instagram. Yesterday, he posted this…

As I read his post, I was struck by several things… first, he is human, and experienced the same emotions that I experience. Sometimes, I think we consider people like authors and pastors (especially “famous” ones) to be exempt from feelings like discouragement. It is such an encouragement to me, though, that Erwin is willing to share his own vulnerability.

Second, he been criticized for what he is doing. As much as I would love to live in a world where people didn’t criticize one another, it seems, especially this year, people are more critical than ever before.

“Still there is that 1% that feels they must let me know that what I am doing is wrong”…. as much as I want everyone to like me and love what I do, that is not a reality… for me… or even Erwin MacManus, as blessed as he is. It is true that not everyone will share my vision. Some will come and others will go. This is true in my regular career as well as my studio. I must learn to accept that what I do may not be for everyone, and there will be those who walk away.

“It’s terrifying to put yourself out”. As I write this blog, I have shared my most vulnerable moments… it is indeed terrifying putting yourself out there. “If I can set one artist free to create with courage, then it will be worth it”

In the end, his post addresses the negativity, and conveys that he is going to continue to live his faith out loud, and continue to work to inspire others to become all they can become. I admire his strength.. I admire his conviction.

Oh, did I mention he is fighting cancer? Just before his book, The Last Arrow, was published, he was diagnosed. He has not let that slow his mission or his purpose.

We all have battles, including thoughts we brought about by other people. We must continue to encourage one another to hold to our convictions and keep pushing through our purpose, even when the hate comes, even when people quit us, even when we’re not sure we’re on the right path… we must let others know it’s okay to be human and need to be encouraged… and we must continue to encourage one another…to push others to be their best.

I will keep pushing, myself and others, to be the best that they can possibly be. I will do my best to continually strive to connect deeply with people, to help them see what’s possible beyond what is… I will try to overcome discouragement with hope, continue to try to encourage those who need it.

Be blessed today, my friends.

SB