pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Here I Am!

Reading: Isaiah 6: 1-8

Verse 5: “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips”.

As our passage opens, Isaiah finds himself in God’s presence. God is seated on the throne and seraphs are above God. These 6-winged creatures are calling out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory”. To add emphasis to this powerful scene, the building shakes and smoke fills the space. I cannot imagine all of what Isaiah felt in those moments – awe, terror, pure joy, amazement? It is a scene of absolute power and might.

There, in that moment, Isaiah realizes how out of place he is. He finds himself in the presence of God and all of heaven. He realizes how unworthy he is to be there. Isaiah utters this confession: “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips”. But instead of condemning him or removing him instantly, God sends a seraph to Isaiah with a burning coal in the tongs. With the coal, the seraph touches Isaiah’s unclean lips and takes away his guilt and atones for his sin. God redeems Isaiah. God prepares Isaiah for what comes next: hearing God’s call.

At times we experience God’s presence. Sometimes it is in the church – sometimes on a Sunday morning in worship, sometimes on a Tuesday afternoon in the stillness. Sometimes it is in the hospital – maybe with parents who have just brought a new life into the world, maybe with a family as they say goodbye and send a loved one on to their new life with God. We can and do experience God in many ways and in many settings. In some if these moments, we too can feel a little of what Isaiah felt – overwhelmed and in awe at the holy privilege that we are part of. I always feel blessed and am humbled by the experience. Once in a while, I can relate to Isaiah’s feeling of being unworthy to be in God’s holy presence that has settled on that place or situation. Yet God remains present to me as well.

No seraph comes with a hot coal, but the Holy Spirit surely leads and guides, assuring me of what I am a part of. Whether the prompting is to offer a scripture or a prayer or just to be present or maybe to give a hug, as the Spirit leads, I say in my heart as Isaiah said with his lips, “Here I am. Send me!”

When we accept our place in God’s presence and we allow God to work in and through us, the power of the Holy Spirit takes charge. When we find ourselves with an opportunity to be sent, to be in partnership with the Holy Spirit, may we trust fully in God’s call, joyously saying, “Here I am. Send me!”

Prayer: God, open my eyes and heart, encourage my mind and spirit today so that I may faithfully respond to each call you give. Amen.

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Love, Righteousness, Justice

Reading: Psalm 36: 5-10

Verse 5: “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies”.

Today’s passage is a song of praise. If you did not catch that – read it again. David is praising God for His presence, for His love, for His blessings. Verse 5 reads, “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies”. Perhaps you too can hear Mac Powell’s deep voice singing this verse and the next. They are the opening lines to the song, “Your Love, O Lord”.

When we consider the imagery that David used we begin to get an understanding of the size or quantity of God’s love… It is not an XL or even XXL kind of love… It is a love that stretched all the way up to the heavens. That is a long way. There are some stars that we can see at night that are really far away. The distance that we can see increases greatly with a huge telescope. Yet even with the biggest telescope ever built, there will still be heavens beyond what we can see. Think about that in thinking about how far God’s love reaches. Then we are just beginning to comprehend how big God’s love really is.

David compares God’s righteousness to the mighty mountains and God’s justice to the depths of the sea. The mountains are majestic and strong and beautiful and seem to stand forever. Such is the start of understanding God’s righteousness. The depth of the sea is in fact greater than the highest mountain on earth. To me this says that justice matters to God. A lot. Yet even then I can only start to comprehend God’s desire for justice.

I am awed by the power and might of God illustrated in these comparisons with the natural world. They are good visuals to begin to think about how wide and high and deep are God’s love, righteousness, and justice. It is a love, righteousness, and justice for you and for me. Wow.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for humbling me this morning. This day may I praise your name for your love, righteousness, and justice. Amen.


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A Simple Thanks

Reading: 2nd Kings 2: 8-12

Verse Eleven: “As they were walking along and talking together…”

In one devotional I read today, it referred to the term “outlier”. Immediately my mind went back to many years teaching 7th grade math. We identified outliers when we were studying mean, median, and mode. An outlier in math is a piece of data that stands out from the other data. Outliers can really impact the mean, or the average. In its original content in the book my devotional referenced, an outlier was a regular person who practiced a skill or talent or job thousands and thousands of times. The result was extraordinary skill or proficiency at their chosen pursuit.

Using both of these understandings of outlier, the term pertains much to our faith. In today’s passage, Elijah is an outlier. He was a prophet who stood far outside the norm. At times, he was practically the last one standing for God. He spoke the truth no matter the risk, always being obedient to God. Accordingly, Elijah is widely accepted as the greatest Old Testament prophet. In our passage, Elisha shows the dogged persistence required to become an outlier. He has personally witnessed Elijah’s absolute faith in God and his total trust to go where God sent and to say what God said to say. It is something he wants for himself, so he follows closely as Elijah’s end draws near. Elisha’s persistence pays off as he sees Elijah taken, thus receiving the reward: a double portion of his spirit.

It is interesting to me that Elijah is taken not in some suspenseful moment but simply as they are “walking along and talking together…”. Elijah had just nonchalantly yet miraculously parted the Jordan so they could cross, allowing them to continue to simply walk and talk. These ideas remind me of our faith journey. We too walk and talk through life alongside God. Much of the time life is routine or normal. Yet by walking close and talking consistently, we grow deep in our relationship with God. And we do have moments, times God parts the waters, allowing us to safely pass through. Some of the time we do not even know God has intervened. Other times, it is right there for us to see. At times God gives us these moments that awe and uplift us. These too build our relationship.

As I ponder my daily walk with God, blessed here and there with those “God moments”, I am humbled and awed. I simply say: thank you God!


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His Presence

Have you ever had an experience or a moment where you felt God’s presence unexpectedly?  Most of our encounters tend to be either in worship during a song or sometimes during an intense time of prayer.  But have you ever had a visit from God outside of these cases?

At times maybe you have been moved by God from something in nature – a beautiful sunset or a powerful thunderstorm.  Maybe it was in a moment of tragedy or in an experience with an act of heroism where you could sense His presence.

In all of these cases where suddenly God is in our midst, how do we respond?  Are we like Peter, scrambling for something to do, or do we move on quickly, made uncomfortable by the unfamiliar?  Or is yours a different reaction?

When God is present in a song or time of prayer during worship, I hope the moment never ends, that the song or prayer just goes on forever.  I find the same desire to extend His presence during a storm or other event in nature, but that too always ends.  Although all of these experiences come to an end, there is no denying that God has been intimately present.

And what is our repsonse?  What do we do with this amazing divine encounter?  Immediately after the expereience, our common feeling is awe – sometimes we are hardly able to express what we feel in words and sometimes we feel as if we cannot believe what we just experienced.  As the feeling of awe passes we usually move to thanksgiving and often to praise.  It is the natural response of a grateful heart.  It is essential that we always offer our thanksgiving and praise, for we have been directly blessed by the living God.  Today, may you be blessed by our living God!

Scripture reference: Mark 9: 2-9


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Connecting to God

When the storm clouds begin to build I like to sit on the front steps or out back on the deck.  As the storm builds I can sense God’s energy and presence.  When the lightning flashes and the thunder claps, God’s power is at hand.  Sometimes when it is raining, I like to open the window or sliding door and just listen to the raindrops landing.  It reminds me that God is watering and nourishing the earth.

At other times I like to go out in the sun in the quiet of midday and listen to the birds singing.  Late at night I like to go out in the stillness and stare at the stars.  Sometimes He even treats me to a shooting star.  God can be found in many way sin our created world.

In all these things I sense God’s presence still working in our world.  The voice that created all we know with just a word continues to be involved in our world.  I awe at the sense of God’s power, majesty, and strength in the world all around us.

And what is my response?  Experiencing God in the world around me often leads me to pray a prayer of thanksgiving and love.  Sometimes it causes me to lift my voice in song.  Sometimes I simply stand amazed and take it in, allowing His presence to envelop and fill me.  Connecting to God in such ways renews and refreshes me.  Take some time to be in connection.  Allow His majesty and power to awe you.  Feel His presence.

Scripture reference: Psalm 29