pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Remember and Recognize

Reading: Psalm 66: 1-12

Like the psalmist, there are times in our lives where God is present, when God acts on our behalf.  To recall these times is an essential practice of our faith.  When the Israelites remember how God turned away their enemies or when God led them through the sea or when God brought them into the promised land, they are reminding themselves of God’s love for them and, in turn, of their love for God.  This leads them to worship and praise God.

God is also active and present in our lives.  We too have experiences that we can identify and note as moments when God was especially near or when God acted in our lives.  These times are moments in our lives that we too must occasionally remember and be in the moment for doing so connects us to God as well.  Whether we record these moments in a journal or mentally store them does not matter.  What is important is that we periodically review when God walked with us in a time of need, when God carried us through a crisis, or when God blessed us with a child or job or healing or …  When we do this we are reminded, just as the Israelites were each time they sang a Psalm, of God’s love for us and of our live for God.  It keeps our connection to God strong when we regularly offer our praise and thanksgiving.

In regularly recognizing God’s presence and activity in our lives, we are also made aware of God’s presence in smaller things.  We sense God in the sunrise or in the beautiful song of the bird.  We see God in the grateful face of one we stop to help or talk to.  Soon we are thanking God and praising God for all of the blessings we have in our lives.  This day may we be attuned to God’s presence in our lives and may we offer many grateful responses.

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Thanks

Reading: Psalm 50: 1-8 & 22-23

God’s voice booms out in this passage.  It opens with, “The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks”.  One can hear the thunder in God’s voice.  Rightly so, God sounds like an angry parent.  God summons the people Israel to hear what needs to be said.  God reminds them of their covenant and that God is their judge.  In the verses not read from the Psalm, God lays out both why they should offer just thank offerings and also a list of the sins they are committing.  As we pick up in verse 22, God reminds ‘you who forget God’ the consequences and benefits of following God faithfully.

We live in a time where blood sacrifices of animals arr no longer made nor are they necessary.  Christ’s sacrifice on the cross covers all of our sins.  Yet God still desires our sacrifices.  In our passage God calls for thank offerings.  These are what God desires of us as well.  A thank offering expresses our gratitude to God for all we have been blessed with.  This can run the gamut from our tithe that we lay on the altar to the time we give to mentor one new to the faith.  It can be the time we give to teach a class and it can be the time we set aside each day to specifically and gratefully thank God for the specific blessings of each day.

This idea goes beyond simply saying ‘Thank You’ to God for the good things in our life.  Our thanksgiving also keeps us humble by recognizing God’s hand in all of our blessings.  It takes the focus off of us and how good we are.  We are also made more aware of God’s vast love, mercy, grace, … and this lessens the load that we feel we have to carry.  It relieves us of some of our fears and anxieties as we come to trust more in God’s provision, power, and presence in our lives.  We come to know God is in control.

Today may we take some time to thank God for the many ways we are blessed by and experience the divine hand at work in our lives.  May we express our gratitude through our selfless offering of our time, gifts, talents, resources, service, and witness.  And may we welcome the presence and peace of God into our lives.


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Presence

Reading: Psalm 107: 43

Today’s verse is a great reminder to do something we seldom do enough of: consider the great love of the Lord.  In the busyness of our lives we rarely slow down enough to pause and recognize God’s role and presence in our lives.  Thus we rarely slow down enough to offer our praise and thanksgiving for God’s activity and presence in our lives.  The less we do this, the less we seem to be thankful to have God in our lives.

When we are in touch with God’s activity in our lives, we are grateful for the many ways we experience that love and presence.  We are also more aware of the ways we can use God’s love to engage others through the use of the gifts and talents that God has uniquely blessed us each with.  This is our grateful response.  This engagement also keeps us focused on God and our faith.  The more we recognize and offer our thanks for God in our life, the more we become aware of it.  It is a good cycle.

As a church, we too can become so focused on what we are doing to involve new people or whatever we think God is calling us to that we forget God is involved as well.  As the body becomes more and more us-centered we slowly but gradually lose the sense of God leading and guiding the church.  On the other hand, there are churches who seek God’s presence, direction, will… almost constantly.  These churches very much have God at the center of all they do.  Looking in from the outside one can see how alive the Spirit of God is in that place and in those people.  It is a beautiful and wonderful thing.

As children of God, we too must seek God’s presence and be aware of God’s handprints in our lives.  Our grateful response is to offer God our thanksgiving and praise.  In doing so we too will exude the light and love of God and Christ in us.  We will be a living example of Christ to all we encounter.  May our joyful, Christ-centered lives witness to our faith and the hope we have in Him this day.


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Ever Present

Reading: Psalm 30

Psalm 30 is an excellent representation of our journey of faith.  It begins with praise to God for the protection and healing that He gave.  At times in our lives we definitely sense a hedge about us that God is providing.  Our “foes” rise up against us and we feel as if we may fall, yet we do not quite topple or give in.  In the midst of it we can sense God’s hand upon us.  Or perhaps, looking back, we can see where God came to our rescue.

At times in life, though, we can also question where God is.  We cannot sense His presence and He seems absent in our struggles.  As the psalmist writes, “You his your face, I was dismayed”.  We can all recall such times in our lives.  The writer’s solution?  Cry out and pray to God anyway.  Earnestly seek to be in God’s presence even when He feels far away.  Even in our seasons or ‘dark nights of the soul’ God is still present.

Midway through, in verse five, we are reminded that God’s favor is for a lifetime.  Once we enter into that saving relationship, we are forever His.  In this verse we are reminded that joy will come in the morning.  The writer returns to this theme in verse 11.  Because of God’s unfailing love, He turns our mourning into joy and dancing.  The response is praise and thanksgiving to God.  This response is the same as when it feels He is absent: seek Him through prayer and worship.

Faith is a journey.  These times of feeling that God is absent can lead to doubt, which is a normal part of our faith journey.  These times reveal our human limitations.  God is omnipresent.  In our struggles, it is we who question the fact of an omnipresent God.  Like the psalmist, may we too pray through the silence and may we ever offer our thanksgiving and worship for the grace, love, and favor that never ends.


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All in All

Readings: Isaiah 55: 1-5 and 1 Corinthians 10: 1-5

Even though the Israelites wandered around the desert for 40 years, they were well cared for. God had led them out of 400 years of slavery and had rescued them from Pharaoh’s army. He had provided manna, quail, and water when needed. He was constantly leading them from the cloud and pillar of fire. If not for their times of disobedience, it would have been a nice, relatively short journey. In their disobedience is a lack of trust in God.

Even though we too wander off from time to time and become lost in the wilderness of our sin, we too are well cared for by God. Through Jesus Christ we have been redeemed from slavery to our sin. In the time we spend in worship and personal study we are fed by the Word. As we go through our daily life we are guided and led by the presence of the Holy Spirit. We too are blessed richly by God. We too are a chosen people.

In my life it can be very easy to take for granted all of the ways God blesses and cares for me. I think that can be true for many of us living in a modern and free country. So we too must heed Paul’s warning. We too must not get complacent and take God and His blessings for granted. We too must not accept where we are but ever seek to be continuing on our journey of faith.

In order to not fall into complacency let us stay in regular contact with God. In our times together may we daily offer our sincere thanksgiving for His many blessings and also delve into the Word so that we are always growing to be more and more Christ-like. If we pursue God with all of our hearts, He will become our all in all.


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Thank You God

Thank you God!  Today is a day when we give thanks to God for His many blessings.  We are grateful to be with friends and family and to gather together in fellowship over the meal.  We are thankful for all of our material and physical blessings as well – for job and home and other possessions.  We are richly blessed and it is good to give thanks to our provider.

We are most deeply blessed, though, by our relationship with the living God.  In God we find our Savior and our hope.  Like Job, all we have can fall away, yet we can still count ourselves blessed because we know God and God knows us.  Although hard times will come, we can trust in God in the midst of and through these difficulties.  God is faithful and true.

I am most thankful for His love and mercy.  In my humanity I stumble and I sin.  In these times my love for God fails.  But His love never fails.  In these times, when I repent and seek God again, His mercies flow down upon me like a powerful rain, washing me clean, making me new, drawing me back into that relationship again.  Thank you God.

Scripture reference: Psalm 25: 1-10


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An Act of Praise

“I will praise the Lord all my life.” (Psalm 146, verse 2a)

We find this line at the beginning of Psalm 146, one of the “Hallelujah” psalms.  Each of the last five psalms in the book focus on the idea of praising the Lord.  It is a great way to end the book of Psalms.  In verse 2a the psalmist pledges to praise God all of the time.  This too should be our pledge.

How would our daily life and perspective on life change if we really did live in a state of constant praise to our God?  How would our life look if all we did was bring praise and glory to God?  I imagine our witness would be quite different!  If we lived and breathed a constant praise to God, imagine how our light would shine!

We are created to live this way, implanted with the spark of the divine since our conception.  God’s desire is for us to reflect His light and love all of the time, not just in church for an hour or just when we are with our church friends.

To live as a constant praise to God requires some choices.  First, we must fully trust in Him as our all in all – our provider, comforter, healer, creator, …  Second, we must actively thank God for all of the blessings in our daily lives.  In doing so we reinforce that God is really our all.  From this deep well of trust and thanksgiving, may we pour out our lives today and every day as an act of praise to our God and King!

Scripture reference: Psalm 146