pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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A Beautiful View

Reading: Psalm 67

Verse 5: “May the people praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you”.

The Psalm opens with a request that the people experience God’s grace and blessing, that God’s face shines upon them. All are good things and things we hope for too. A little grace, a little blessing, and a little shining are always good, right? Yes, but we cannot miss the second half of the opening verse. It is the ‘why’ of why the psalmist desires these things for the people. It is so God’s ways may be made known and so that all nations may know the salvation of the Lord.

When we truly know and experience God’s grace in our lives, it becomes something we want to share with others. It is a gift so beautiful that we should want to share it with others and should seek to live out in our lives. Grace is an unmerited and undeserved outpouring of love and forgiveness that naturally leads us to want others to experience grace. We also experience God’s blessings in our lives. Blessings come in many forms. They are not always all about material things. For example, we can be blessed by our relationships with God and others, finding joy and love and peace and hope and community… Blessings are like grace – a gift that God gives to us so that we can share with others. We share grace and blessing so that others may know both God’s ways and the salvation that comes through faith in Christ alone.

The psalmist offers this prayer today not just for Israel but for all nations. The psalmist has a big view of God. It is a beautiful view. In verse 5 we read these words: “May the people praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you”. In order to praise, one must first know. This day may we each make God known to those we encounter, helping the lost one step closer to being found. May it be so.

Prayer: Loving God, help me to love well today. Give me eyes to see all as your child, dearly beloved by you and by me. Amen.

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Big Plan

Reading: Genesis 21: 8-21

Verse 12: It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.

God’s big plan is at work.  Sometimes it is hard to see the big plan from our own limited vantage point.  From our small view sometimes we cannot see very far.  In today’s passage, God knows the big plan.  He says to Abraham, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned”.  This is the big plan.  The nation of Israel will come through Isaac – his child with wife Sarah.  It fulfills the promise made long ago.  The covenant involves divine guidance and blessing.

The big picture even influences the writers of Genesis.  Notice that in our passage the name ‘Ishmael’ is not used.  The writers instead use ‘son’ and ‘boy’.  Maybe the story is less personal that way.  Yet when we look at Abraham, we see that this is very personal.  It is his son Ishmael that must be cast out.  It is his first born son that he must send out into the desert.  Even though it is part of God’s big plan, this is a hard thing that Abraham is being asked to do.  He is stuck in his small view.

As Abraham teeters in the balance, God gives him some reassurance.  In a way, God is saying, ‘truth’ me’.  Abraham has had lots of experience trusting God when he could not see the big plan, so he trusts once again in God and follows obediently.  At times we find ourselves in a situation similar to Abraham’s.  The things that we need to ‘send out’ are often sins or other things that we can see we need to let go.  Once in a while, though, we find ourselves in a spot like Abraham, having to make the “more right” choice.  We have to let go of something we kind of love to remain obedient to God’s big plan for our lives.  In these moments, may we recall God’s faithfulness in our lives and trust in Him to be faithful once again.


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In Prayer

When we go to God in prayer, we do so with no guarantees.  We bring to God the desires of our hearts and our hopes for friends, family, and the world.  Often we pray for a certain situation or for some conflict to be resolved.  But sometimes, when we are in a season of personal discontent, we do not know what to pray for.  We sense some imbalance or uneasiness in our lives, but we cannot quite put our finger on it.  So we pray for things like guidance, direction, wisdom, discernment.

Usually when we pray, we pray with a certain hoped for answer in mind.  We pray for someone who is sick and we hope for healing.  We pray for someone who needs work and we hope for a job.  We pray for someone who is in a struggling relationship and we hope for reconciliation.  Even when we are in a season of discontent, most of the time when we pray we do so with an idea of what we would like the answer to be.

Funny thing about prayer though – it is God who answers our prayer, not us.  His  vision for our life and our world is so much bigger than our limited view.  His vision and plan for us and our world is focused on an eternal ending.  We often struggle to see with this lens.  But sometimes we do see an answer to a prayer or we begin to understand how God is at work in the midst of it all.  This is a holy privilege.

At times our prayers are also affirming and uplifting.  Like God’s response to Jesus’ prayer after His baptism in today’s passage, at times we too sense God’s presence, love, and affirmation.  We can almost hear Him saying ‘well done’.  We sense a guiding hand or we are blessed with affirmations that encourage us to continue to walk the path that God has placed us on.  In prayer we connect to God and He connects to us.  May we pray often.

Scripture reference: Luke 3: 21-22


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On the Mountaintop

After just a relatively short time in the desert, God calls Moses up the mountain.  The people have seen the pillar and the fire that leads them, and they have been given manna and quail, water from the rock.  The Israelites have already demonstrated a questioning and maybe fickle attitude towards their God and towards this journey that they are on.  Moses heads up the mountain and enters into the cloud that has enveloped the mountain.  On the seventh day God again calls Moses.  He remains on the mountaintop for 40 days and 40 nights.  For Joshua, part way up, and for those down below, it must have seemed like a long time.

I wonder how long it took for the first one in camp to wonder if Moses was coming back.  To enter into God’s presence was terrifying and most thought it would kill a normal person.  I wonder how long it took someone to raise the question of Moses’ return.  I wonder if Joshua pondered entering the cloud to seek out Moses.  I wonder how soon some folks started thinking about moving on.  I wonder how long we might stick around.  But for Moses, did it just seem like a few moments.  Remember being in love and time just seemed to fly by when you were with that person?  Maybe this was how it was for Moses.  Maybe he came down and said, “What??!!  It was HOW long?”

I wonder what the view was like for Moses.  Maybe he didn’t even have time to look around.  Maybe he was so focused on being with God that he did not take a peek at the view.  I’d guess the consuming view was God.  But for us, when we are on a mountaintop or on a high place, our view is usually pretty good.  We can see way off into the distance.  On a clear day we can see for miles and miles.  When we enter into God’s presence and rest in that place, our sight is usually pretty clear.  If we would allow ourselves a deep connection with God and would search out His will for us, I bet our vision would allow us to see for miles and miles.  And I wonder why we don’t do this more often.  I wonder why I don’t do this more often.

My guess is that the fear of entering fully into the presence is what holds us back.  The fear of seeing clearly where God is calling us removes the excuses and requires us to step out boldly in faith.  Being fully in the presence also reveals our faults and what we desire to hold back from our Lord.  Moses entered faithfully and without fear into the cloud on the mountaintop.  As we grow in our faith, may we too learn to step faithfully and fully into the presence of our Lord.  And when we are on the mountaintop, maybe we will really love the view and want to simply rest into the presence of God.  I wonder…