pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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God Is Revealed

Reading: Psalm 139: 1-6

Verse 6: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain”.

Verses one through six are about God’s personal connection to each of us. The psalmist recognizes that God searches and knows him, that God perceives his thoughts, that God knows his words before they are spoken. He also notes that God “hems me in” – that God is behind and before him. God has his hand upon him. In a joyous yet overwhelming response, the psalmist writes, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain”. We too are invited into just such a relationship by God. We too can barely fathom it.

For the psalmist, the world and all that is in it were created by God. To the Israelites, God was an omnipotent and omnipresent God. God was everywhere at once and knows all things too. The Israelites’ understanding of the vastness of space was not nearly as advanced as our modern understanding, but one only needs to glance up at the stars to begin to sense the size of God’s creation. And yet this same God knows our going and coming, knows our words and thoughts, is ever with each of us.

We can sense God in the created world. In the new bloom, in the baby’s first cry, in the crash of thunder, in the smile of the stranger – God is revealed. In the nudge and the soft whisper of the Spirit, in the tangible strength or comfort, in the witness of the apostles – God is revealed. Our big, big God is also a personal, one-on-one God. What an amazing God we love and serve.

Prayer: God, you are as vast as the sands upon the beach and yet you know my every thought and each fiber of my body. I am humbled that huge and powerful you desires a relationship with me. Thank you, God. Amen.

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Praise God

Reading: Psalm 148

Verse 13: “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone in exalted”.

Today’s Psalm is all about praising God. We praise God not for God’s sake but for ours. Yes, scripture calls us to praise God and doing what we’re supposed to do can feel good. But that is not the only reason to praise God.

We praise God because that is where we can express our thanks. We can thank God for the blessings in our lives, for the guidance God gives, for the ways God protects us. When we are thankful we fight our natural tendency to center on self. Being thankful focuses us upon God and upon others.

When we praise God we are connecting with God. The intentional act of praise draws us into God’s presence. In those moments when we commune with God we are reminded of the love, peace, grace, mercy,… that flows from God into our lives. To be present with the living God also renews and refreshes us.

When we praise God we also share God with others. In the house of worship on Sunday morning or Saturday evening or whenever, when we praise God in community, we are sharing and building up one another’s faith. In the world, when we praise God in less formal ways, it can also be a testimony that builds up and encourages others. Whether an indirect or direct chance to evangelize, it exposes the world to God and to our faith.

Lastly, when we praise God we are reminded of who and what God is. Whether in song or scripture or prayer or message, when we praise God we are reminded of God’s attributes: omnipresent, omnipresent, good, just… We are also reminded of what God is: loving parent, wonderful Creator, strong protector, generous provider… Like expressing our thanks, this also leads to exalting God while we humble ourselves.

Each day may we find time and opportunity to praise the Lord our God. May it be so today and every day.

Prayer: God of all, this day I bring you my praise. You are in the beauty of the songbirds and in the sway of the breeze. Help me to connect to you all day long, being drawn closer to you in this way. Amen.


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Not Just Safe

Reading: 1 Kings 8: 1, 6, 10-11

Verses 10-11: “When the priests withdrew… the cloud filled the temple of the Lord… for the glory of the Lord filled the temple”.

Today’s passage is about the ark of the covenant – that ‘thing’ that represents God’s presence – coming to the temple that Solomon built. There is a lot of ceremony and celebration surrounding this event. I’d imagine everyone from Jerusalem and the whole countryside came to witness and praise God for this happening. Even God shows up. Verses 10 and 11 offer testimony: “When the priests withdrew… the cloud filled the temple of the Lord… for the glory of the Lord filled the temple”.

The idea of God “being in the house” continues to this day. When a new church is built there is always a dedication service where the building is consecrated to God and ministry. Each Sunday during our opening prayer I invite God’s presence to come and dwell in that space and in our hearts. For centuries in the not too distant past churches and cathedrals were built to a grand scale in an odd competition to have the biggest and most impressive structure that somehow said something about that church’s relationship with God.

Counter to these notions is our belief that God is omnipresent – that God is present at all times in all places. We can encounter God in church but also in the woods, under the overpass, on the mountain top, at a concert in the park, in a bar… Even God himself questioned the idea of a home, saying in 2nd Samuel 7, “Did I ever say, ‘Why have you not built me a house'”? Perhaps God saw the down sides of a place to “dwell”.

While it is true that a community of faith needs a place to gather for worship and fellowship, the building has too often come to represent God and our faith. Put another way, it has compartmentalized our faith. It is where we go to be in God’s presence. It has too regularly become the only place we go to be in God’s presence. While the sanctuary is definitely a holy and sacred place where one can be present with God, it is far from the only place. I believe that connecting to God only on a Sunday morning is far from God’s intent for how we are to live out and experience our faith. The building is comfortable and safe. Yes, it has its place and purpose. But God does not desire for us to have a faith that is just comfortable and safe. When we look at Jesus, Paul, John, James, Peter… we see a faith that was lived out in the world, amongst the lost and the broken. May this be an important part of our faith life as well.


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Pray, Trust, Know

Reading: Matthew 14: 22-25

Verse 25: Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.

After feeding the 5,000, Jesus sends the disciples off across the lake.  They were a crew that liked to stay with Jesus.  We do not have very many examples where Jesus creates separation from the disciples.  But in today’s passage, Jesus “made” them get in the boat and head across the lake.  Our passage reveals three reasons Jesus did this and they are lessons for us as well.

The first is Jesus’ desire for solitude.  After dismissing the crowd, Jesus goes up the mountain to pray.  Jesus often found space and alone time to talk with God.  It is one of the best models He gives us and one we should seek to practice often.

The second is Jesus’ desire for the disciples to trust Him.  We do not know if Jesus foresaw the storm but we do know the last time they were out on this lake they feared for their lives.  They have a recent bad experience with this lake and a storm.  It was when Jesus awoke and calmed the storm that they felt safe again.  Now they head out without Jesus.  They must trust in His continued care even though He is not physically present with them.  At times, so must we.

The third is to demonstrate Jesus’ absolute power over everything.  In the middle of the night, as the boat is buffeted by wind and waves, “Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake”.  As the storm goes on, the disciples’ fears must have escalated.  Memories of almost sinking and now being without Jesus must have created some tension in the boat.  Jesus finishes praying and He returns to the disciples.  To see Jesus walking on the water must have helped solidify their belief in Jesus as the Son of God.  Just as God is, so too is Jesus omnipotent.  Knowing that Jesus is truly Lord of all brings us great comfort and reassurances as we journey through life.  To pray often and to trust always and to know Jesus Christ as Lord of all, these are the building blocks of our faith.


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Thank You

The psalmist writes, “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens”.  The writer goes on to speak of God’s faithfulness reaching to the skies and of His righteousness being like the mighty mountains.  Lastly God’s justice is paralleled to the ocean.  How vast and wide and high and deep is God’s love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice!  Verses like these remind us of who God is and cause us to give praise and thanksgiving.

Yet almost as often as there are grains of sand on the beach, I can forget all that the psalmist writes of.  In an instant I can forget all about this omnipotent and omnipresent God and rely only on myself.  On the one hand this amazes me and on the other hand I know I have been there over and over and over again.  But no matter how many times I seem to try to do it on my own and fail, He is always there.  With that love that reaches to the heavens, God always waits for my return.  Through a faithfulness equally as big, God never gives up on me.

It is humbling to think of such things.  All I have to do is rely on God.  To know I fail reminds me of my total dependence on God.  To be humbled is to remember my place in the large order of things.  Thank you God for your immeasurable love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice.  Thank you God.

Scripture reference: Psalm 36: 5-10


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Where Is My Place?

God is omnipotent and omnipresent.  He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and is present everywhere, all of the time.  Psalm 139 reminds us that there is nowhere we can go to hide from God – not depths, heights, darkness, or the far side of the sea.  Yet at times we feel separated from God, at times we feel we can hide from God.  At times we feel distant and ask: “Where is God in my life?”  But the real question is: where is my place in God’s plans for my life?

God has promised to always be with us.  In the decision to become flesh, to dwell amongst us as Jesus Christ, God fulfilled His promise completely.  At birth the divine spark is planted in each of us.  This inner light is our connection to God.  For some who never respond and do not enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ, the spark is still there, its light shown in the inherant goodness found in all humanity.  For those who do enter into a relationship with Jesus, that light leads us to become the continuing incarnation of God in the world.  We become a part of God’s redeeming work in the world as we extend His presence in the world, just as the Holy Spirit is God’s active presence in us.

Each day we must ask the question: where is my place in God’s plan for my life today?  Through prayer and through time in the Word we connect to God and seek to actively discern where and to whom God is calling us this day.  It is in His presence that we find where He is active in our life and where God is calling us to be active in our world.  This day may we find the time and space to bow down, to worship God, and to to praise our God and may we bring that out into the world with us.

Scripture reference: Psalm 132: 1-10


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In God’s Presence

God is really big.  He is the creator of all that is in the world.  God continues to create new life, new experiences, and new discoveries.  God has a hand on and in all life, in nature, and in the physical world.  In spite of how vast God and His reach are, at times we think we can control or dictate to God.  We cannot.

Perhaps it is because God allows us to have free will that we feel this authority and power.  Perhaps it is because God placed humankind as stewards over all creation that we feel in charge.  Perhaps it is because God enabled us with the ability to reason and make decisions that we feel we should.  Yet it is through a relationship with God that we should exercise our free will, our stewardship, and our decision-making.  It is within this relationship with God that we were intended to live.

Despite the omnipotence and omnipresence of God, at times we pretend He is not there.  We ignore a temptation or give in to sin or we compartmentalize an area of our life and live as if God did  not exist.  But God is not just in our churches, He is everywhere.  He is a constant presence in our lives and in our world.

It is natural for us to acknowledge and live within God’s presence all of the time.  A close relationship is what God most desires from each of us.  Just as we are intimately known, God wants us to grow to know Him intimately as well.  When our efforts focus on His presence in our lives and in the world, we live a life that is truly blessed.  We see God is so many people, places, and experiences.  We are made to live in step with our creator.  This day may we all choose to walk closely with our God.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 7: 1-14a