pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Presence, Rest

Reading: Exodus 33:14

Verse 14: My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.

Today’s passage is one verse long.  It is given to Moses by God to reassure and encourage him.  It is a good promise for us to remember as well.

God’s presence goes with us in so many ways.  I think it begins with the situations and people that God brings into our lives.  These are both opportunities to share God with others and to experience God through others.  Sometimes in our lives we have the blessing of ministering to others and at other times we are ministered to.  When we respond to these opportunities, when we are open to the moving of the Holy Spirit in our lives, surely God’s presence is with us.

A few days ago I felt a nudge to go visit a friend who had experienced a very difficult loss.  I was going to be traveling through her state so I asked if we could have coffee.  As I drove yesterday, the Spirit was at work and the Lord placed upon my heart what I needed to share.  I was able to do that and it was a wonderful experience of being able to share God’s presence and love with a fellow child of God.

The second half of today’s verse is such a blessing too when we can get there.  Life does not get much better than when we can find that sweet spot of rest – whether in the recliner, out on the deck, on the couch in the afternoon sun, in the qiuet of the early morning.  But it can be so elusive!  Life is usually so busy and we go at such a non-stop pace that periods of rest can be hard to find.

One of the most restful times of the day can be our times of prayer and study.  If one is willing to carve out 15, 30, or even 60 minutes each day to spend time with God, then He will be both present and He will bring you rest.  In those quiet, still moments spent talking with God, He fills you with peace and rest for your mind and soul.  God renews your spirit.  Taking time to read and meditate on God’s Word is both nourishment and peace for the heart, mind, and soul.  He is surely present and certainly fills us up!

Lord God, may I dwell in your presence today and maybe honor you in all I do and say today.  May your Spirit grant me rest.  Amen.

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Distinct

Reading: Exodus 33: 12-23

Verse 13: Teach me your ways so I may know you.

Moses represents God’s connection to the people as the spokesperson for both God and the people.  Although they are the “chosen people”, what Moses provides is essential to the relationship.  At this point, the people do not feel a connection to God that allows them to communicate directly with God.  This is done by Moses.  The way we communicate with God through our prayers would seem an impossibility to the Israelites.

The Lord God knows Moses by name.  It is a personal relationship.  Moses has come to know God well enough to be able to negotiate with God, but he wants more.  Moses says to God, “Teach me your ways so I may know you”.  He is saying, in essence, that he wants to know God even more.  God’s response is the promise of His presence with Moses and the people Israel.

Moses’ request should be the request that always lies at the center of our personal relationship with God.  “Teach me your ways” should be our daily goal and our constant aim.  Central to this should be our own daily communication with God.  Each day we should often spend time with God, giving our thanks and praise, seeking His activity in our lives.  A part of the conversation must be listening as well – not just to the Holy Spirit but also for God’s voice in our times of prayer.  We must also spend time daily in His Word – reading, meditating, seeking discernment and direction, growing in our knowledge of His ways.  Lastly, we must live out our faith.  As we interact with others, as we meet the stranger, as we work, as we play – in all things God must shine through.  In all we are and do, we too should hear, “I am pleased with you and I know you by name”.  Just like Moses, we too should have an intimate personal relationship with God.

This relationship made Moses and the Israelites distinct from the rest of the world.  They were set apart.  What makes us as Christians distinctive and set apart for God?  How does our daily living bring God the glory as it draws others closer to Jesus Christ?


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Stories

Readings: Exodus 32: 1-6 and Psalm 106: 19-23

Key Verses:

Exodus 32:6 – He made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf.

Psalm 106:20 – They exchanged their Glory for the image of a bull.

In both passages, we have the story of the people departing from God to worship an idol made of gold.  True, Moses has been gone up the mountain a long time.  But the people did not worship Moses.  While Moses is up on the mountain, clearly the presence of God remains on the mountain.  The presence of God is right there in plain sight when the people and Aaron make another “god” to worship.

This is not a pretty story about what happened in the life of the chosen people and their relationship with God.  Yet it is recounted and retold over and over by these people and generations to follow.  Why?  For the same reason they tell and tell about the Passover, the parting of the sea, the fall of Jericho, the defeat of Goliath…  We remember and retell good and bad stories for the same reason: to remind us of God’s love and grace.  In the stories where we (corporate) are not faithful or where we have sinned, they remind us of God’s love in spite if our fleshy weakness.  In the stories where God provides or guides or redeems… we are reminded of God’s constant love and care for each of us.

There is great value in the telling and retelling of these stories where God is active and present in the lives of the people, always bringing comfort, guidance, peace, and, of course, love and grace.  But these stories are not just found in the pages of the Bible.  They are also found in the day to day living of our lives.  We each have stories to tell of when God rescued us, when God forgave us, when God redeemed us, when God loved us…  These too are powerful stories of God’s continuing presence and activity in the lives of His people.  They are stories we need to hear over and over.  They are also stories others need to hear.  Our faith is communal.  Our faith is a shared faith.  Today, who will we share our story with?


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Remember and Retell

Reading: Psalm 78: 1-4 and 12-16

Verse Four: We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.

Today’s Psalm is about remembering and retelling.  It is about remembering the times of God’s presence and activity in the past and retelling it to others.  The Israelites are very good at doing this.  It keeps reminding them over and over of both God’s love and their status as the chosen people of God.  Remembering and retelling keeps them intimately connected to God and His love.

As Christians, we also are called to remember and retell.  We are first called to tell the good news of Jesus Christ.  The Great Commission charges all believers to tell of Jesus to all nations.  In doing do we help people to connect to the Savior.  In telling the story we also remind ourselves of how Jesus saves, loves, forgives, … each of us.  This personal story is the second calling we have to remember and retell.

Each of us has our own personal faith story.  It is the story of how Jesus Christ makes a difference in our lives.  It is the story of how Jesus is better – better than any other god we can chase after, be it money or power or some other religion.  It is the story of how Jesus walks with us through the joys and the trials, lifting us up at times and carrying us at others.  It is a deeply personal story because Jesus is a deeply personal Savior.  And it is a story that others need to hear.  We remember and retell our faith story so that others can see how the good news of Jesus Christ can be good news to them as well.

So what is your faith story?  Why Jesus?  Just as the Israelites pledged to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord”, we too are called to follow the same.  Jesus put it this way: “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).  May we go and tell all we meet of our faith in the only one who can save.


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God Moments

Reading: Exodus 24: 19-25

Verse 21: All that night the Lord drove back the sea.

The Israelites experience God’s presence in several ways in today’s passage.  God moves the pillar of cloud to be a barrier to keep the Egyptian army at bay.  This same cloud gives light in the darkness so the Israelites can move.  God next provides a way: “All that night the Lord drove back the sea”.  The sea floor is made dry and the people of God pass over.  That same sea bed is made muddy and the Egyptians get mired down.  Chariots wheels fall off, stalling them out completely so that the waters can come over them all – drowning every single Egyptian soldier.  God at work in powerful ways.

Al times we too can see God at work n our lives.  Some of the time we can see how God has opened a door or provided a way when we saw none, bringing hope, relief, joy…  Other times a door closes or we become stymied.  After our initial frustration we find a new way or a path forward.  In both cases we can see God at work when we look back and reflect.  It is almost as if there were step by step instructions being worked out as we wandered along.  It is only with some reflection that we can see God’s hand at work.

Just as with the Israelites, we too remember these times of God’s hand at work and we rejoice.  Our faith grows as we see how God has worked plans once again for our good, demonstrating His great love for us.  This day may we look back at some of our God moments and bring God our praise.


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Present and Active

Reading: Psalm 114

Verse Three: The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back.

This song of praise celebrates God’s mighty acts during the exodus from Egypt.  This journey to the Promised Land is the fulfillment of a promise God made to His chosen people.  For those who were there, it was an amazing experience.  For all the generations after, that is brought back to life every time they sing this Psalm.  These events are just more witness to God’s love and care for the Israelites.

There are three God moments remembered in the Psalm.  The first is when they were hard-pressed.  As the Egyptian army closed in, “the sea looked and fled”.  The Israelites were saved.  The second is when they faced the Jordan River, ready to enter the Promised Land.  Even though at flood stage, “the Jordan turned back” and the people once again crossed over on dry land.  The third came when the people were put hard to the test.  Water was scarce in the desert and the people were almost dying of thirst.  Moses struck the rock with his staff and water poured forth.  God turned the “hard rock into springs of water”.  Once again God saved the people.

Over the course of their history God would act again and again on behalf of the people.  Some were mighty acts like at Jericho when the walls came tumbling down and others were relatively small – the quiet call of Gideon or the simple act of Rahab.  To this day God continues to be present and active in the world and in our lives.  Some are ‘small’ things like the miracle of birth.  Others are ‘bigger’ – someone’s cancer is suddenly gone.  Even in the midst of tragedies and natural disasters, God is present in powerful ways.  Faith-based groups and agencies will have huge impacts in Texas and Florida as they come in to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, helping to restore people’s lives and their hope.  God continues to love and care not only for His people but to love and care for all people.  May we do the same today as we celebrate and participate in God’s continuing involvement and presence in the world.


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His Strength

Reading: Matthew 16: 21-23

Verse 23: You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.

Jesus is preparing the disciples for what is to come in Jerusalem.  In today’s passage He plainly tells them what is about to happen.  Soon enough Jesus will be crucified, glorified, and resurrected.  This is great news from our vantage point, but from the immediate audience’s perspective, this is not good news.  Peter pulls Jesus aside and behind to rebuke Him.  “Never, Lord!” Peter says.  Then the one who had just gotten the gold star for declaring Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God” now hears, “Get behind me, Satan”!  Head of the class to under the bus in short order!

What led Peter to try and rebuke Jesus?  What led him to try and tell Jesus that God’s plan should not happen?  Mostly fear.  The one who they gave up all for and have lived with for three years and have grown to love deeply has told them that soon He will die.  None of the disciples want to consider life without Jesus.  Peter is just the one to voice it.  Just like all of the disciples we too have felt the fear that rises up from the unknown that lies just ahead.  We have certainly faced it with the loss if one we love but the fear can also come equally in lesser situations.

Fear is one of Satan’s greatest weapons.  Go and share my faith with him?  But what if he rejects me or ridicules me or asks me a hard question?  Bring a meal to that family?  But what if they break down or if their pain causes them to lash out?  Help with Sunday School?  But what if the students are unruly or if they do not like me?

Jesus says to Peter, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men”.  Fear is not from God.  Into our fears and doubts, God promises to always be with us.  He says to trust in Him.  God is always preparing us and is always giving us opportunities to keep the things of God on our hearts and minds.  May we ever seek His presence and step out in God’s grace and love, allowing His strength to lead us into ministry to others and to our world.  Trust in His strength.