pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Priority

Reading: Luke 14: 25-27

Jesus wants to make sure those in the crowd understand that to follow Him is a commitment.  He is beginning to head to Jerusalem to face the cross; He wants all to know the level of allegiance that walking this road will require.  To continue to follow Jesus, each must pick up and carry their own cross.  Jesus wants His audience then and us now to fully know what is expected.

First and foremost we must lay all else aside.  Jesus and our relationship with Him must take precedence over all other relationships in our life.  Our relationship with Jesus needs to be above our relationships with our family, our friends, our teammates, our bosses, our coworkers, our job, our interests, our possessions.  In our lives, Jesus must rule over and above all else if we are to become His disciple.  Then all of our other relationships will be in their proper place.  All will be secondary to our relationship with Jesus but all will be better because of this dynamic.  We will be a better father, brother, husband, wife, worker… because our relationship with Jesus is our priority.

Making and keeping Jesus our priority is a challenge.  We live in a fast-paced world that places high demands and expectations on us.  We live in a world that has radically different expectations than Jesus has.  The world says to place self above all else.  Jesus says for self to get way at the back of the line.  The world says to accumulate as much as we can.  Jesus says to give as much away as we can.  The world says to just do it if it makes you feel good.  Jesus says to seek ways to make others’ lives better.

To walk with Jesus as His disciple is hard.  The path is difficult.  The choices and decisions are counter-cultural.  The relationship with Jesus takes supreme commitment.  But the life lived in Jesus is the life worth living.  It is a life filled with hope, love, mercy, grace, contentment, forgiveness, and peace.  May we all be strong in our walk with the Lord.

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Beautiful and Useful

Reading: Jeremiah 18: 1-11

When working with clay, the potter molds the clay into what he or she intended it to be.  At times it became marred or flawed or not exactly what the potter had planned.  So the potter reshapes the clay so that it becomes something beautiful and useful.

Imagine if the clay had a mind of its own.  What would happen if the potter was trying to form a serving platter and the clay wanted to be a vase?  As the potter tried to smooth and flatten out the clay, the clay kept rising up.  Soon enough the potter would give up or would allow the clay to become a vase.  But the clay is not becoming what the potter intended.  To the potter the creation will never be as beautiful or useful as it could have been.  Although it may function as a base and hold water, the potter will not see it as beautiful.

Growing up God often shapes us through the hands of parents, teachers, Sunday school leaders, youth group leaders…  We are molded and shaped as young Christians.  Before we move on to becoming mature Christians, we often seek our own way.  Whether in high school or college or young adulthood, we start to see ourselves as the center of all things.  We think we know do much and decide we will be the ones calling the shots.  We are like the clay that wanted to become a vase.  Over the course of a few years or maybe decades, we wander far from God.

Yet the Creator’s love for us never wains.  God continues to bring us back to the purposes that were laid out for our lives before we were born.  God does not give up.  It is a love so great.  In time, the seeds of faith begin to sprout again for most of us.  We come to know God again and we begin to walk in God’s ways again.  We begin to become the beautiful and useful creation we were meant to be.  Life just seems better again because we are in the palm of God’s hands.  For your faithfulness, O God, we say thank you.


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Willing Vessels

Reading: Jeremiah 18: 1-11

Jeremiah 18 opens at the potter’s house.  The potter forms the clay into a desired form.  But if the form is flawed, the clay is reformed and reshaped.  The clay can be remade into what it was intended to be.  And so it is with us.  God has a plan and a purpose for each of us.  We can become flawed but through God’s love and mercy we can be reformed and reshaped.  We can be reshaped over and over and over again into the creation that God intends us to be.

Oh how we can fight this process.  We can turn away from God and we can even run away at times.  We can and often do act as if we were the one in control.  Yet God continues to work on us, to mold us into who we were created to be.  When we take a fork in the road that God did not want us to take, another fork is being prepared to guide us back to God’s path.  God never gives up.

Jeremiah 18:1 says, “the Word came” to Jeremiah.  This is still true for us.  God is always right there, always ready to re-engage us, ready to reshape and reform us, always ready to restore us.  The Word that comes draws us back to God.  The Word that comes will be specific to us and to God’s purposes.  The Word may be one of promise and hope.  It may be one of comfort and peace.  It may be one of direction and discipline.  It may be one of forgiveness and mercy.  It will be what we need.

Unlike the clay that is placed on the wheel and taken into the potter’s hands, we have a role to play.  If we desire to hear the Word that God has for us, we need to seek God out and to be receptive to the Word that God comes with.  This day, may we seek God and may we be willing vessels in God’s hands.  May we be who God created us to be.


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Living His Life

Reading: Luke 14: 1 and 7-14

Today’s passage is about welcome, inclusion, and openness.  It is about these things for us and for those we invite to the table.  God’s table is a place for conversation, compromise, and acceptance.  It is a place for all to come and experience God’s love, grace, and presence.

For all, being welcome is key.  In love we need to create tables and spaces where all people feel welcome.  Each must be able to come as they are and to be comfortable in that.  We need to be comfortable with any that come too.  We cannot limit who is welcome in any way.  To do so is to remove God’s love.  We cannot do this.  All, through God’s love, are welcome.

Once each feels welcome, they gain voice and place at the table.  The sense of being included brings the freedom to be open and honest and transparent.  This can be scary because it makes the table a place for frank and often difficult conversations.  It can open our eyes to needs we never knew existed.  It can place upon our hearts convictions about the need for change and to corrects injustices.

Once the conversation has started, we begin to see each other as the same and as brothers and sisters in Christ.  The openness of the experience will lead us to compromise and to a willingness to give of self.  As God works in our hearts, we are led to be more accepting.  We see less and less our differences and grow to see more and more that we are much the same.  As we come to see God in others, we see their true value.  In humility we gain an understanding that we are not the most important thing in the world.

Once we understand that all are beloved children of God, we are forever changed.  We live life with an open heart and mind.  We are willing to enter into a conversation and relationship with any and all.  We are willing to walk with those who suffer so that we can bring relief.  We are willing to give of ourselves in service to others.  This approach to life may sound familiar.  It is how Jesus lived and how He calls us to live.  May it be so.


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Expanding Welcome

Reading: Luke 14:1 and 7-14

Too often we help another person because we foresee repayment.  I’ll come help you move because I know we’re moving in a couple months.  I’ll come help you brand cattle because, well, I own cattle and they’ll need to be branded soon.  I’ll buy a car from you because when you are ready to buy that boat, I know you’ll come to me.  I’ll help you with your event at church because I know the event I lead is just around the corner.

In today’s passage Jesus is saying ‘no’ to think kind of thinking.  It was all too common (and still is today) to think ‘What’s in it for me?’ instead of simply being a good neighbor or following where the Holy Spirit is leading.  When we do things with these attitudes and are only willing to spend time with those just like us, God’s kingdom does not grow very much.  When we rub elbows only with people just like us, then we are keeping the circle small and the walls high.

Jesus came to reverse this.  He ate with the sinners, healed the outcast and poor, talked with the tax collectors, and worked on the Sabbath.  Jesus acknowledges that if we invite only our friends, yes, they will repay us.  He also says that then our reward will be done.  Instead, Jesus says to invite the poor, lame, crippled, and blind.  They cannot repay us but God’s reward will be there in heaven for us.  This is wonderful.  But we are also rewarded here on esrth.

When we serve and live life alongsidethe poor, lame, crippled, blind, and other social outcasts if our day, then we experience true giving.  It is giving without strings attached.  It is pure and free and feels so good.  We also experience true gratitude.  We do so within ourselves when we realize how blessed we are.  We experience it in the thankful and grateful hearts of those we come alongside.  Loving those on the margins and the outcasts aligns us with God’s ways and purposes.  It is here that we are closest to God.  It is here we are truly blessed.


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Blessings

Reading: Hebrews 13: 1-8 and 15-16

Throughout the New Testament we are reminded to love as Jesus loved and to be a servant to all.  The examples abound and the expectations are clear.  The idea that whenever we “do this for the least of these” (Matthew 25:40), we do for Jesus.  We are called to do as Jesus would have done.  Jesus loved all people where they were at and gave to each as they had need.  There was never one that came to Jesus and was rebuffed or ignored.  He treated all with love.

Verse 8 of today’s reading states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”.  Who Jesus is does not change.  He loves all people still.  He will love all people forever.  As Jesus’ agents of love, we are to continue to live out our lives as Jesus did, offering love and care to all.  In doing so, people come to experience Jesus and His presence in their lives too.  It is a blessing to them.

But perhaps it is a greater blessing to us.  In following Jesus’example and living out our call to be Jesus’ light in our world, we are in His presence each and every time we offer His love to another.  We are reminded that Jesus is in us each time we serve another.  Each time we do so we too are touched by His love.  It is a blessing to us.  In the process we too are changed as we are increasingly transformed more and more into the image and likeness of Christ.

As we share Christ’s love and offer ourselves as living sacrifices for God’s glory, the world is impacted by love.  So are we.  Today may we be pleasing to the Lord our God in all we do and say.  May the blessings ever flow!


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Angels

Hebrews 13: 1-8 and 15-16

In Hebrews 13:2 we are reminded, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it”.  Do you think you have ever experienced this?  Could have someone God placed in your path been an angel instead of simply a stranger?  Maybe so.  These thoughts made me wonder why.  Why would God allow us to practice loving a stranger with an angel instead of with a real stranger?  Maybe we were not ready for a real stranger yet.

Or… maybe God is reminding us of the sacred value of all life.  Imagine if we treated all people we met as if they were an angel.  We would certainly be more humble and more willing to go the extra mile.  We would look on others as worthy and even as deserving of our time and attention.  It would be an experience in radical love.

Or maybe God is reminding us because so often God chooses the unlikely, the one we see as powerless, the stranger to teach us.  Sometimes people we tend to ignore or marginalize can teach us much.  If we are willing.  A lifelong hard core criminal who experienced salvation while incarcerated can teach us much about God’s amazing grace.  A person who struggled for years with addiction that found freedom through a relationship with Jesus Christ can teach us much about God’s redeeming love.  A person who endured years of unfair treatment and injustice yet persevered because of their faith can teach us much about trust and obedience.  These are but a few examples.  Those who have had powerful, lifechanging encounters with God have much to offer and teach.

Today, today may we see all people as if they were angels.  May we find the value in each person we meet.  May we see in all the gift of God that they each are.  And may we be willing and open to all that each has to offer to us.