pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Reading: Psalm 145: 1-5

Verse 3: “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom”.

Psalm 145 is about praising God. This is something we can do in many ways. The psalmist begins with worship, with exalting God. Perhaps this happens on Sunday morning, but it can also happen in other ways. It can occur in quiet moments of prayer. It can be singing praise in the car or in the shower. Praise can happen as one walks or runs and recognizes God in the beauty of the stars or forest groves. Worship can happen as we read our Bibles and meditate on God’s work in the world and in our lives.

The praise section transitions with these words: “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom”. These words draw to mind why we praise God. While the greatness of God might be hard to fathom, it is certainly recognizable and it draws us to praise the creator. We can see God in the magnificence of creation itself, in the faces of one another, in the healing miraculous touch that occurs in our Bible, in our world, and maybe even in our lives. These and many more bring us to an awareness of how worthy God is of our praise.

In verse four the psalmist shifts to evangelism. This too is a form of praise. He writes, “One generation will commend your works to another”. Part of our connection to God and to one another comes in our common story. The arc of the Bible connects people of faith through stories that span thousands of years. Beginning in Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21 we hear the story of God’s love and redemption. Each story builds the case for God’s love for his children and for all of creation. The stories of God’s mighty acts and wonderful works reveal both God’s glory and the ways in which God has, can, and will work in the world and in the lives of the faithful. We are a part of telling the stories too. We are each one more link in the great story of faith and we are each a storyteller too.

Whether by word, action, or deed, may we praise God and may we tell the story of our faith, planting seeds and encouraging our fellow disciples along the way.

Prayer: Magnificent creator, the work of your hands is amazing! The intricacies of our world shout your greatness. Yet I know you and you know me. This mystery too reveals your greatness. It humbles me. May my life be poured out as thanks to you, my God and King. Amen.


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Search, Know, Lead

Reading: Psalm 139: 13-18 and 23-24

Verses 23 and 24: Search me, O God, and know my heart… Lead me in the way everlasting.

The opening lines of Psalm 139 establish the deep and intimate relationship that David has with God.  In today’s reading, David goes back to the very beginning of life and then asks for God to continue in their present relationship.  It is a lifetime with God.  Over the course of this journey, David has fallen deeply in love with God.

All of us begin as David began – knit together in the womb.  He acknowledges that as he was woven together, God was there and saw his unformed body.  In understanding the process of how he was created, David in turn offers priase for how he was “fearfully and wonderfully made”.  The miracle of life and birth can only be accomplished by the creator of all life: God.  We too offer our praise as we are also the wonderful works of God’s hands.

The Psalm concludes with David’s invitation to God.  He writes, “Search me, O God, and know my heart”.  David invites the One who created him to continue to be present in a very open and totally transparent way.  He willingly opens his heart and soul to God and asks God to search out all the corners and closets – to know him completely.  This is an honesty and a transparency that we are sometimes a little hesitant to offer.  At times, we like to hold onto a little of the control.  At times, we like to keep that secret sin tucked away in the closet.  And at times, we place a part of ourselves in that dark corner, where it can come our from once in a great while.

David, we know, had some of these things in him as well.  To varying degrees we all do.  We find David in a new place today though – in a place where he is inviting God to search and know all of him.  In a way it is an admission that he needed to make to get to the next level in the relationship.  David had to release whatever was left, whatever was holding back the relationship.  Search me, know me, O God.  May we follow David’s example of surrender, offering all of ourselves to God – the good and the bad – knowing that our loving Father will “lead us in the way everlasting”.


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Willing and Obedient

Reading: Romans 4: 1-5 & 13-17

Today’s passage centers around the faith of Abraham.  He obediently followed God’s call and lead in his life multiple times.  For me, the ultimate test of Abraham’s faith came up on the mountain as God instructed him to sacrifice his son.  It was the only son born to a very aged Abraham and Sarah and God was leading him to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice.  Abraham’s actions demonstrated great faith and trust in God, not only in this case, but over and over again.  Because of this belief in and trust in God, “it was credited to him as righteousness”.

Paul is wrestling in today’s text with the concept of faith based upon belief and grace versus faith based upon the Law and works.  Paul argues that it is our faith that makes us righteous and he holds Abraham up as the example.  Paul argues that the Law, or following all the rules for us today, cannot make us right before God.  His logic is that we cannot possibly keep all of the Law all of the time, therefore, the Law can only ultimately bring condemnation.  Paul puts forth the idea that only when we live by faith are we made righteous because only then does grace come into play.  Only when our salvation rests solely upon God’s free gift of grace are we able to claim the promise of eternal life.

As we consider this example, we must ask ourselves: do we live a life of faith or do we try to live a life of following the rules?  In our day to day lives, do we seek God’s will and guidance or do we live a faith that entails checking off the boxes as we do this or that?  Abraham demonstrated a faith that I find hard to fathom.  Could I lead my son up the mountain knowing that God was calling me to offer him up as a sacrifice when we got to the top?  It is a faith often outside of my understanding.  Yet it is precisely the type of faith that we are called to.  It is a faith that allows God to work through us instead of us working for God.  There is a huge difference between God leading my life and me leading my life.

Lord, help me to be more open to your leading, to your guidance, to your ways.  Make me a willing and obedient servant,  work through me, great Jehovah!


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Might and Power

Reading: Psalm 77: 1-2 and 11-20

As our reading opens, the psalmist feels stress and worry and fear.  The writer feels all alone – isolated from people and from God.  It is a hard place to be.  At points in life our problems can seem to mount up like a wall around us.  We cannot see over the top and it seems as if others and God cannot see in.  In these moments we cry out to God and seem to get no response.  We want God or people to come to our aid or to at least bring comfort and it turns out as if all were oblivious to us.

As the song progresses, there is a shift.  The psalmist is perhaps in worship or maybe just the power of the raging storm reawakens his sense of God’s presence.  In either case, the psalmist realizes that God has always been present.  He recalls God’s mighty acts on behalf of the community of faith.  He remembers God’s good news and this lifts his spirit.  In the vastness and power of God the writer comes to see that he is not alone and that there is much more to God than just the personal relationship.

In our lives we too will feel all alone from time to time.  As our problems mount, may we look to the skies, to nature, to history to remind ourselves of God’s presence.  May we recall the story of Jesus and all that God incarnate offers to us.  May we find presence and comfort and strength in His power and majesty.


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New Creations

Reading: John 14: 8-17 and 25-27

In today’s passage, Jesus promises the disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Like most of us, Philip wants the gift now.  He asks Jesus to show them the Father.  And in a familiar pattern, Jesus patiently explains that He has been showing them the Father all along.  Jesus explains that the words and the works are because the Father is in Him and He is in the Father.  Then Jesus tells them again of this gift of the Holy Spirit.  With this gift the disciples will experience the indwelling presence of God and Jesus within them.  And not only will it be in the disciples, but the Spirit will allow them to do even greater works than Jesus did.  The presence of the Holy Spirit is just one more step in bringing the new creation into being.

Jesus was also a step.  In His example and in the works He did, Jesus began the process of making all things new.  In His teachings He showed a new way, a better way – the way of love.  In truly loving others, we reveal the true nature of God.  Jesus also began the new creation by restoring people.  For some it was a physical restoration: the blind see, the lame walk, the mute speak.  For some, like the lepers, there was also an emotional healing as they were restored to the community as well.  For still others, the restoration was the first steps to returning to a relationship with God.  Jesus was making all things new, providing a glimpse of what the new heaven and earth will be like.

Jesus continued this work with the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples at Pentecost and to all who have called on Him as Lord and Savior ever since.  The same Spirit dwells in each of us, giving us the power to reveal the new creation that is in motion.  Through our lives, words, actions, and deeds, people in our lives can begin to see, understand, and experience what Jesus offers: to be made a new creation.  May we be willing servants in the building of His kingdom here on earth.


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Sharing Faith Through Action

Sometimes it is hard to love our neighbor when we really don’t know them.  Sometimes people who are not like us can intimidate or scare us.  Sometimes the negative stereotypes we hear prevent us from really seeing the person standing before us.

Mission trips and one-day outreach events are great ways to help us overcome these barriers.  It is amazing what happens when we allow ourselves to experience others in new ways.   Youth and adults who sign up and participate in trips and events experience direct contact with ‘neighbors’ they did not know before.  And as with almost all people, once they got to know them they come to realize that they are pretty easy to love and serve.  These experiences open us up to the possibilities that are in our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and communities.

Our faith grows as we experience God’s love in action.  This leads us on to action in the everyday places of our lives.  There is a cyclical affect to faith and action.  When we have faith we sense the call to share the love of Christ with others.  When we share the love and see how it changes lives, then our faith grows.  It is a wonderful thing to be doers of the word.

The goal of our Christian walk is to grow in our faith.  If we are living out our faith in service to others, then our faith will grow.  In James we are reminded that faith without action is dead.  We cannot simply wish someone would have food and clothing; we must provide these things as we are able.  When Christ’s love is alive and breathing in us, we must go forth to share that love with others.  It is an amazing gift that we must share with others so they they too can come to know and share the love of Christ.

Scripture reference: James 2: 14-17


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The Right Order

In this season it can be easy to get caught up in the volume of gifts or in spending a lot of time and energy trying to find just the right gift.  Yet for many the gift they most desire is one that is free and that is always available: time.

Our relationship with God can be similar.  We can get so busy doing things for God and we come to think that our works are what matter to God.  It’s easy to get caught up in what we do FOR God instead of focusing in on who we are TO God.  Maybe in Advent it is even easier to get caught up in this game because Christmas can be about giving.

Adding to the mix is the fact that when we do or accomplish things for God, it can make us feel important or special.  We must be careful here.  God cares about who we are much more than about what we do.  Our relationship to God is what matters most.  From this relationship, the ‘doing’ naturally flows.  When asked, Jesus listed loving God first.  He knew the right order.  If we first love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then loving others naturally follows.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 7: 1-7