pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Faithful Servant

Reading: Deuteronomy 34: 1-12

Verse Four: I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.

In today’s passage, we come to the end of Moses’ life.  It is a quiet end to the life of a faithful servant.  The time in the basket, floating in the river, is 120 years ago.  It seems almost like another lifetime.  But as we find Moses at 120, he is still strong and is still of good mind.  As Moses heads up the mountain, he must sense it is for the last time.  Knowing this, the experience must have been bittersweet for him.  Yet this humble servant of God continues to walk by faith, right to the end.  It is one more testament to Moses’ close personal relationship with God.

Moses has spent the last 40+ years of his life first leading the chosen people to freedom and then through their desert wanderings.  It has been a hard life at times.  It has also been wonderful at times.  First Moses had to deal with Pharaoh’s hard heart and then he spent forty years with a stiff-necked, complaining bunch.  There seemed to always be a crisis or an issue to deal with.  Moses had made frequent trips up the mountain to meet with God.  On occasion Moses even had to deal with God, standing on behalf of this people.  Moses has given much of himself to these people and all of himself to God.

Once up the mountain, God once again blesses Moses.  The divine judgment stands, yet this day love and grace rule.  God says to Moses, “I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it”.  In a vision, God allows Moses to see the whole Promised Land.  Although he will not enter into it, God gives Moses a great virtual tour.  Yes, the judgment stands, but God offers one last blessing to His faithful servant.  Moses sees the fruit of his many years of service – the Promised Land.

A lesser man would have come down the mountain disappointed.  But Moses has no regrets.  He has lived a life of service to the God and people he loves.  Moses returns to his people one last time and quietly passes on to eternal life with God.  May we too strive to live such a life.  May it be so.


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God’s Promises

Reading: Exodus 32: 11-14

Verse 13: Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self.

The Lord’s anger with His people is mighty big.  Once again they have turned away and questioned and doubted.  Once again the people think Moses has abandoned then or has died, leaving them leaderless. Once again they turn to something other than the Lord.  Yet Moses asks, “Why should your anger burn against your people”?  Moses is a great advocate and prayer warrior for the Israelites, the people he leads under God’s direction and guidance.

Moses continues to convince God not to wipe these stiff-necked people off the face of the earth.  He begins his request with a reminder of God’s promises.  Moses says, “Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self”.  Moses is reminding God of the covenant promise that God himself made to each of these great men.  In essence, Moses is calling God out using God’s promises.  By bringing God’s focus to the love, the care, the relationships that led to the promises to make their descendants into a great nation, Moses defuses God’s wrath.

The pattern Moses uses is a pattern we too can use in our prayer life.  Many are the promises of God.  God promises to be our guide, our healer, our protector, our light, our love, our salvation…  We are promised that He will never leave or forsake us.  We are promised that His mercies never end and that we can be made new every morning.  These are but a sampling of what God offers to all who believe.  So when we find ourselves in the midst of trial or suffering, we too can call on the promises of God.  Our prayers for our lives and for others can be like Moses’ request.  We may not always see the answer right away, but we know that God is faithful and that He will respond.  We may not get the answer we want some of the time, but we are promised that God has good plans for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11).  At times, we trust into this as well.

“In everything, with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”. – Philippians 4:6


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Endless Pursuit

Reading: Exodus 20: 18-20

Verse 18: When the people saw the thunder and lightning… they trembled in fear.

Moses has come full circle.  It was on this mountain that God gave Moses his call to go to Pharaoh to free the Israelites.  The Lord God had “heard their cries” and responded.  The plagues in Egypt were powerful displays of God’s might, but they were directed at someone else.  Since they have been freed, the Israelites have grumbled and complained, questioning both Moses and God all along the way.  And now Moses calls them to this mountain.  We hear the people’s reaction: “When the people saw the thunder and lightning… they trembled in fear”.  This God who passed over their first born, who parted the sea, who brought quail and manna and water – now He looks a bit angry stop that mountain.  They have grumbled and questioned all along.  It is not surprising that they are afraid and want to keep their distance.

Moses calls the people to the mountain to hear a word from God.  The people fear that they will die if God speaks directly to them, so they ask Moses to be the messenger.  Really, they are asking Moses to once again stand between them and God.  Through their fearful eyes all they can see is the smoke and thunder and lightning.  To them, the desert and even this mountain are a vast wasteland.  There is nothing there, yet they have survived.  Over and over and over again God has provided and led and protected them.  They have missed the lessons along the way: trust in God, keep the faith, live into being the chosen people, and, most importantly, God loves you.  Lost in their fear and negative attitude, they cannot see God for who and what God is.

At times we walk this road too.  We become so stuck in our situation or in the past that we cannot hear God’s word for us.  The word may be grace or love or forgiveness or peace or strength or hope.  Just as with the Israelites, though, God never gives up.  God keeps on pursuing us no matter what.  Thanks be to God for the endless pursuit of each of us, deeply rooted in His love.  Thanks be to God.


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Lead

Reading: Exodus 17: 1-4

Verse Two: Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you put the Lord to the test?

At times it can be difficult to lead.  But we are all called to lead our lives as a witness to Jesus Christ and His love.  In this case we are following one leader as we seek to lead others to a relationship with Jesus or deeper in their present relationship with Him.  To lead as Christ led can require us to make difficult decisions and, at times, to take stands that may be unpopular.

God chose Moses to lead the people out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land.  This has been and will be a difficult task, but Moses remains steadfast to his call.  The people have grumbled and even fallen into sin.  God has used Moses over and over to lead the people to freedom and to provide for them.  They grumbled about food and God brought quail and manna, validating Moses’ leadership along the way.  Today, once again, the people grumble.  Instead of praying and seeking God, they complain.  There is also an element of testing God.  Moses says to the people, “Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you put the Lord to the test”?  True, the people are thirsty and they do need water.  But they are certainly testing both God and Moses’ patience.

At times we will be called upon to lead and the Word of God will give us clear and direct guidance on how to proceed.  It is easier to lead when there is an obvious path.  But occasionally we must turn to the Holy Spirit and we must listen very closely to discern the will of God that gives us direction.  In both cases, there may still be grumbling and complaining.  Sometimes this is easy to dismiss and sometimes it is hard to do so.  To be sure in our decisions and leadership, we must spend much time with God.  The larger the decision, the more time we should spend.  Our time spent with God in prayer, reading and meditating on scripture, and discerning His will brings us increased assurances that we are leading in a Godly direction.  Then if grumbling comes, we know that God had left our decision and that God will continue to guide us through.  In this way, we can trust into God.

Moses was a great leader because of his solid connection to God.  May we lead in the same way, deeply rooted in God, leading in a way that brings God all the glory and honor.


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I Will Be with You

Reading: Exodus 3: 7-15

Verse 12: And God said, “I will be with you”.

Moses has been selected to go to God’s people to lead them to freedom.  God has heard their cry and has seen their suffering at the hands of their slave drivers.  The God of justice will use Moses to guide the people to a “land flowing with milk and honey”.  The plan all sounds great – except to Moses, who asks God,”Who am I…?”

In each of our communities there is certainly suffering.  It may be caused by difficult financial situations or by things such as drugs or alcohol addiction.  It might be caused by mental illness or by the past experiences caused by generational abuse of one type or another.  It might be caused by prejudices and bigotry that keep a segment of the community on the outside looking in.  There are people suffering due to events of nature and others suffer because of the actions and poor choices of individuals.  There is no shortage of things that cause suffering.  To some of us, God calls.

Just as Moses was called and sent by God, over the centuries God has called both prophets and ordinary people to speak words of hope and love and healing and, at time, hard words of truth.  God has seen and will continue to see the suffering in our world and He has and will continue to send those who will lead the people away from sin or out of the oppression and suffering that they are enduring.  Often the person has looked at the task ahead and questioned God and uttered some form of Moses’ “Who, me?”

Yet God reassures the doubtful and fearful Moses; Moses will not go alone.  When we sense a call from God to lead someone to freedom or to offer relief from suffering, we do not go alone either.  Just as God went with Moses, God will go with us as well.  This is a promise we too can trust and lean into as we respond to the call that God has placed upon our hearts.  Like Moses, may we find reassurance in these words: “And God said, ‘I will be with you'”.


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Big Plan

Reading: Exodus 2: 1-10

Verse Three: But when she could hide him no longer…

Today’s passage has lots of characters who are all just part of God’s big plan.  Each is playing a role unsuspectingly.  If each were to be told the plan ahead of time and then we’re asked to go out and perform their part, the odds of success would have dropped.  We are much the same when it comes to living out our faith and the plans God has for us.  This is partially because our vision is so limited compared to God’s plans and partially because we too easily allow fear and doubt to whisper in our ear.  And God’s plans require trust too.

The edict to kill all make Hebrew babies had been given.  Our first character today ignores this and keeps her baby.  “But when she could hide him no longer..” she fashions a boat out of a basket and places him in the river.  The older sister decides to stand off at a distance to watch the basket.  Pharaoh’s daughter comes to the river to bathe and notices the basket.  A slave girl is sent to fetch it.  Pharaoh’s daughter knows it is a Hebrew baby and decides to keep it anyway.  The sister reconnects baby and mother for a time and then Moses grows up in Pharaoh’s home.  It is a plan none could have dreamed up and one that none would willingly have participated in.

Yet character after character plays their role in God’s big plan.  One day this baby will lead the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness.  At the time, none knew this.  But something told the mother to keep the baby and then to place it in the river.  Something told the sister to watch and then to approach Pharaoh’s daughter.  Something told her to fetch the basket and then to keep the baby that should have been killed.  Something will whisper into our heart today.  When God whispers, will we hear and respond, playing our role in God’s big plan?


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Lead

Reading​: Exodus 17:1-7

The Israelites have Moses as their leader.  He was sent by God to free the people from slavery in Egypt and to lead them to the Promised Land.  Through the signs and wonders it is clear that God is with Moses.  As the people begin this journey, the memories of slavery are surely still in their minds.  Yet they grumble and complain pretty guickly against Moses when their needs are not met.  They are free, yes, but they have been promised a new homeland.  They envision arriving, not being tested out in the desert.

Initially, Moses was a very reluctant leader.  In fact, he tried to talk God out of choosing him.  But Moses did accept the position and has been a good leader.  He has grown into the position and has worn the title well.  Even though Moses’ patience is tried now and then by the people, he functions well as their leader.  He deals with the daily decisions, hears the daily cases and complaints, and continues to lead.  So it is natural for the people to go to Moses when there is no water to drink.  When the people have a vision for the Promised Land, it is hard to die of thirst out in the desert.

Moses, as leader and intermediary to God, intercedes on the people’s behalf.  God responds to the people’s needs by making water flow from the Rock at Horeb.  God provides and Moses continues to lead.

Almost all of us are leaders.  For some it is with our families, for some it is at our jobs, for some it is on our teams, for some it is where we volunteer, for some it is in our circle of friends.  As leaders, we try and set the example and try to lead in a way that brings honor and glory to God.  And at times, like with Moses, the ‘people’ will complain or grumble to us as the leader.  May we each follow Moses’ example, hearing the people and then going to God for the solution.  We can choose to lead by following God’s voice and direction, or we can try to lead on our own.  Things worked out pretty good for Moses.  May we also choose to lead wherever we are planted with God out in front.


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Being Moses and Elijah

Reading: Matthew 17: 1-9

Jesus meets Moses and Elijah up on the mountain.  These two men represent the Messiah, each in their own way.  Moses is the first great deliverer of his people.  He led them out of the bondage of slavery and guided them to the Promised Land.  Along the way Moses brought them the Law and guided them as they learned to live as the people of God.  Jesus fills these roles as well.  It is Jesus who freed us from the chains of sin and death, bringing us freedom.  It is Jesus who shows us the way to our promised land – life everlasting.  It is Jesus who gave us the example of how to live out the meaning of the Law, to live according to God’s ways, living as a servant to all, loving all we meet.

Elijah is the great prophet of God.  Elijah spoke the word of God to the people and also demonstrated God’s power again and again.  Elijah spoke truth to those around him and was often unwelcomed or lived as an outcast.  Jesus also spoke the word of God to the people.  The power of God certainly flowed through Jesus as well, revealed in the many He healed and restored to life.  Jesus was not always popular either; as a prophet He spoke truth as well and at times Jesus was not welcomed, at other times He was despised by the religious authorities.  In the end, it was this group that crucified Him.

It makes sense that Jesus would meet and talk with Moses and Elijah.  He was and is both deliverer and prophet.  In the same way that Jesus fills these roles, we too must fill these roles in our own way.  Many in our lives need to be delivered – there is much that holds us captive and that binds people today.  Many in our lives need to find the freedom brought by living as a child of God – the peace, contentment, and joy found in Christ.  Many in our lives need to hear the prophetic word of God to bring hope and promise and healing to their broken lives.  We are called to follow Jesus Christ’s example to help accomplish all of this.  We are called to be a humble servant and to graciously love all we meet.  Through us, we allow the same light of Christ that shone at the transfiguration to shine out into people’s darkness, guiding them to the only hope, to the Savior of the world, to Jesus Christ.


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Into the Cloud

Reading: Exodus 24: 15-18

Many years ago my wife and I were in Switzerland.  One day we planned to go up into the Alps to see Jungfrau up close and personal.  Jungfrau is a rugged and beautiful mountain.  So we found the little mountain train and rode up the line.  It was a glorious summer day in June.  However, when we got to the small town nestled high up in the Alps, the clouds had settled in around Jungfrau.  I have a lovely picture of a very thick cloud to show what Jungfrau looked like that day.

In our passage today, Moses is not on vacation but is answering God’s call to ‘come up the mountain’.  Aaron and Hur are appointed to settle disputes while Moses and Joshua are gone.  The elders are told to wait for Moses to return.  A cloud descends on the mountain as Moses heads up.  On the seventh day God calls Moses into the cloud.  Stepping into the cloud, Moses enters into God’s presence.  Moses converses with God for a period of forty days and forty nights.  Moses emerges from the cloud filled with knowledge and empowered to lead.

There will be times in our lives when we feel as if God were in a cloud.  In the ordinary days of our faith, we can sense that God is near and in those sacred moments can feel as if we were in the palm of God’s hand.  But at times we feel as if God were distant or were shrouded in a cloud.  In these times, there is a scariness about stepping into the cloud, into the unknown or unseen.  But just as God called Moses, He too calls us to trust in Him and to faithfully walk forward in faith, knowing that God will guide our steps.  Of course, we know that God is never distant or gone.  It is only that at times we feel this way.  In those times of doubt and fear and uncertainty, may we step boldly into God’s presence, as Moses did, trusting God to transform and empower us as well.


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Choice

Reading: Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

As the Hebrews stand on the edge of the Promised Land, they face a whole new life.  It is a life unlike any they have known or heard about.  It is a life that contains options, choices, freedom.  All of the stories they heard as children were of slavery in Egypt and of God’s redemption.  As slaves, the people had to follow Pharaoh’s orders or they died.  Even when God redeemed them and Moses led them out of Egypt, they were ‘free’ but we’re very dependant on God.  They wandered for forty years in the vast desert, dependant on God for everything.  On the occasions when they tested out freedom, like when they built and worshipped the golden calf, the consequences were dire.

What lay ahead was the land of milk and honey.  The land would provide their food.  The toil of their own hands would also play a role in what seemed to produce the crops.  Instead of being the only people isolated together in the desert, now rheyb would live in and amongst many different tribes.  Each of these tribes brought and offered choices.  Who to fight with, who to intermarry with?  Who to shun as outsiders, whobto kneel beside at the altar to an idol?  The Hebrews entered a new land flush with choices and freedoms.

We too live in a land flush with choices and freedom.  We too live as aliens amongst many different tribes.  Not only this, but we live in a world of tolerance and acceptance.  The ‘just do it’ and do whatever you need to to find success mentalities are poor examples of these good ideals.  And to add to this, the list of what our culture idolizes is long.  It is a tough time and place to be a devout Christian.

Each day, we too face the choice that Moses presented to the Hebrews: choose life through God or choose death through the world.  When we choose God, we are choosing the narrow road.  Our choices are not unlimited but are bound by God.  All of our choices and decisions must be filtered through lens of ‘What is God’s will in this’?  How we speak, act, and do must also be aligned with God’s will.  When we choose life through God we are choosing life in Christ.  When our choice is Jesus and we choose to declare Him the Lord of our life, we hand it all over to Him, surrendering all that we are.  When we choose life in Christ, we are choosing to become slaves to His love, hope, mercy, compassion, …  And what a life of freedom it is!  There is a choice to be made.  What is your choice?