pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Thanksgiving

Reading: Psalm 100

Verse Four: “Give thanks to Him and praise His name”.

As we begin the day, the psalmist encourages us to “Give thanks to Him and praise His name”.  It is very appropriate for Thanksgiving Day.  This is the day when we will gather around the table and list off all of the things we are thankful for: family, friends, home, employment, time off, the food!  And in the midst of the holiday, let us not forget to be thankful for our God.

People will come into this day of thanks with a wide range of emotions and from different places in their lives.  Most will come into the day with the joy and praise called for by the psalmist.  But for some, this will be their first big holiday or their first thanksgiving without someone special.  May we be sensitive to and extra loving of them if this is the case.  Others will come to the gathering with different struggles or sorrows or burdens.  To each of these may we offer kindness and understanding and acceptance along with our love and welcome.

Maybe this is how we enter Thanksgiving today.  Then these words that open the Psalm are harder to live out.  we think: joyful songs when I feel this way?  Shouts of praise as I am going through this?  If so, perhaps just verse five matters today: “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness endured through all generations”.  Sometimes we must just cling to God’s love and His faithfulness.  Sometimes we must lean into God and His presence and know that it is enough.  As we turn to God in our need, He will surround us with His love.  And in time we will be grateful for this and we will thank Him for His love.

May our day today be filled with God, family, and  friends and with wonderful food and a joyous time of fellowship!  Amen!


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Faithful Prayer

Reading: Ephesians 1: 15-23

Verse 18: I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.

Today’s passage is about how Paul prays for others.  He is praying for a group of believers that he has heard of.  I think we all pray for a group of people.  While I most regularly pray for family and friends, I do add people to my daily prayers that I hear about at church.  At times, events in the community or in our wider world will draw my heart to be in prayer for those people or that situation.  So, like Paul, we too pray for people we do not know.  It is part of our role in the fellowship of all believers to pray for one another.  This all leads me to think about prayer.

The core of our daily prayer life focuses on the people and events that are close to our hearts.  Early each morning I pray for my extended family by name, for those I know battling cancer and illness, for those I know who have experienced recent loss, and for our church.  It is a pretty standard list.  It changes from time to time but remains pretty constant.  As I go for a walk, I also pray.  I pray for each pastor and their churches in our area.  I pray for our leaders – national, state, and local.  I pray for our police, highway patrol, EMTs, and firefighters and those who lead them.  I pray for the jail, both the inmates and the workers, as well as for the judicial staff across the street.  It is good to have a pattern of prayer to follow.  It is good to have a time set aside to pray.  It is good to have a regular list of folks to pray for.  It is good to be in prayer.  What and whom do you pray for each and every day?

Two other important areas of prayer that we need to consider are thanksgiving and confession.  It is important to take time each day to reflect on our blessings and to name them before God.  It acknowledges God as our provider and it reminds us of our need for His provision.  It helps us to be humble.  Another important area of prayer is our confession of sin.  We are sinful creatures so we are not usually in short supply of confessional material.  It is so important to daily bow before our Maker, to confess our sins, to seek His forgiveness, and to pledge repentance.  This act of prayer helps us stay in a right relationship with God.  How well do you offer thanks and practice confession?

Lord, may we ever bring our praise, our petitions, our thanksgiving, and our confessions to you.  You are faithful.  May we be as well.  Amen.


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Are We Willing?

Reading: Ezekiel 34: 20-24

Verse 22: “I will save my flock and they will no longer be plundered”.

Ezekiel is writing to a people who are discouraged and downtrodden.  They feel like the sheep he is describing who are lean, weak, and driven away.  The Israelites have been in exile for many years.  The years have separated them from each other and many of them from their faith.  Even those who did not go into exile have become mixed in with the people living around them.  Ezekiel looks at the people and sees their deep need for a shepherd to rise up who will gather the scattered flock, protecting the weak and poor among them while ruling with justice, compassion, and love.

The need for a good shepherd is very real today.  On a personal level, we need one to walk the walk of faith.  Our inner bent towards sin is in almost constant need of the voice of the good shepherd to guide is on the right path and to keep us from wandering off of the narrow way.  We also need the good shepherd to lead us where we should go at times – to those green pastures.  As we follow Jesus and His teachings and example, we are following the one true good shepherd.  As we follow, we in turn open ourselves up more and more to the voice of the good shepherd as we feel the nudges and hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.

This voice calls us to the least and the lost.  It calls us to those who do not know the good shepherd.  The lost are wandering around in the darkness, going from one thing to another, never finding what they truly need.  Others are marginalized and struggle in the simple day to day of life.  The Holy Spirit calls us to them as well.  The least often cannot begin to hear the voice of the good shepherd calling out to them until their basic needs are met.  The need for shelter, food, and safety must be met before there is space for the good shepherd to speak into their lives.

The Good Shepherd says, “I will save my flock and they will no longer be plundered”.  He says this to us in our times of need and encouragement.  He calls us to help bring this message to those who are hurting and broken and lost and discouraged.  Are we willing?


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Seeking and Searching

Reading: Ezekiel 34: 11-16

Verse 11: “I will search for my sheep and look after them”.

Our relationship with God is a two-way street.  We are created by God with a spark of God inside each of us as we are created in His image.  From birth God reveals Himself to us through the world and through the people in our lives.  As we grow and mature, we begin to sense our need for something more in life, for God.  If one chooses a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, then this need is filled with faith and with God.  some folks choose to try and fill the God-hole in their life with many other things, none of which ever satisfy, all leaving them searching.

Once we choose God over the things of this world, then we begin to seek more of God.  Our journey of faith becomes one of continual learning and growth.  We always seek to know Him more deeply, more intimately.  We spend time in His word, time in prayer, time in worship, and time in fellowship with other believers.  This all deepens and strengthens our faith and our relationship with Jesus, enriching our lives and bringing us His joy, love, peace, and hope.  In turn, God eventually calls us to go forth and share all of this love, hope, joy, and peace with others.

God also pursues us.  God desires to be in a relationship with all people.  This is what today’s Psalm is all about.  Verse eleven begins with these words, “I will search for my sheep and look after them”.  Jesus, our good shepherd, desires to search for, find, bring in, and care for all the sheep.  The psalmist goes on to explain how, writing, “I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered”.  This speaks both of us during those days or seasons when we have wandered and also of those  who have chosen the wide path of the world.  He seeks to call all people to Himself.  Once the call is heard, Jesus will “bring them back into their own land”.  He will connect us into communities of faith where we find encouragement, support, learning, unity, fellowship, a sense of belonging.

Our passage today ends with words of healing and restoration: “I will search for the lost and the strays.  I will bind up the inured and strengthen the weak”.  Jesus searches for and seeks out all, both the sinners and the saints.  Thanks be to God that Jesus has found you and me.  Thanks be to God that He always calls our name.  Thanks be to God that Jesus continues to search for the least and the lost.  Thanks be to God that Jesus seeks to bring them healing and restoration and to bring them into the family of God.  Thank you Jesus for your love.


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Talents to Work

Reading: Matthew 25: 14-30

Verse 25: “So I was afraid and went and hid your talent in the ground”.

Fear motivates at least the third slave.  He is fearful of losing the master’s money so he goes and buries it in the ground.  At least when the master returns he can give him what is his.  He is playing it safe.  He knows the master is harsh, so he avoids taking a risk.  When the master returns he punishes the third slave for playing it too safe.  The one talent he has is taken and given to the one with ten talents.  The third slave is thrown out into the darkness.

As Christians, does God expect us to take chances, to do some risky things for our faith?  I think He does.  At a minimum we are called to live out our faith.  In the simple way we live our lives, we should be sharing our faith with others.  This takes risks.  To offer fellowship to that co-worker who always seems to be alone takes on the risk of rejection.  To offer grace and forgiveness to that classmate who always wants to be first, usually hurting others to get there, takes on the risk of being hurt again.  To ask that person who seems to be in a rough spots takes on the risk of involvement and possibly relationship.  And these are just a few small risks that God expects us to take as ones who try and follow Christ’s example.  Each act, as a small seed planted, will one day bear fruit for the kingdom.

I believe God is also calling us to more than simply living out our faith.  God creates each of us uniquely, with special talents inside each of us.  Some are teachers, some are preachers, some are evangelists, …  God expects us to take these talents and to put these to work as well.  It usually involves stepping out of our comfort zones the first time or two.  Yet as we live into the call of God on our lives, we begin to see these actions bearing fruit as well.  God desires to be at work in and through us, allowing the light and love of Jesus to go forth into the world, bearing a crop 30, 60, or 100 times what was sown.  In both the small ways and in the big ways, may we each seek to use the talents that God has given us to build the kingdom here on earth.


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Talents

Reading: Matthew 25: 14-30

Verse 21: “Well done good and faithful servant… Come and share in your master’s happiness”.

In our passage today, the slaves see their master one of two ways.  Two see the master as trustworthy and to be worked for.  The third sees the master as harsh and greedy.  Two of the slaves take what the master has entrusted them with and put it to work, doubling what they had been given.  The third hides what he has been given, refusing to use it even a little by safely investing it with the bankers.

God gives each of us talents or gifts as well.  Each of us has gifts that can be used to build the kingdom of God here on earth.  What we do with what we have been given depends on how we see our master, God.  If we see God as a God who is harsh, as a God who punishes His children, then we are likely to risk little for God.  We will take what we have been given and guard it closely.  We do not want others to know the gift we have so we keep it hidden away.  But if we see God as loving and trustworthy, then we desire to take the talents or gifts we have been given and to invest them to help others to come to know God.  We use our talents to grow the kingdom of God.  One day we too will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant… Come and share in your master’s happiness”.

Our God is a loving, compassionate, grace-filled, forgiving God who calls us to be the same.  If we truly see God in this way, then we feel led to be this type of person to others.  We seek ways to help others know our loving, compassionate… God.  In doing so we use the talents and gifts that God has blessed us with so that all will come to know our God.  What gifts has God given you?  How are or can you use your talents and gifts for the building of the kingdom of God here on earth?


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Awake and Alert

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 5: 1-11

Verse Nine: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Paul encourages us to stay awake on our faith journey.  He calls us to be alert to what is going on around us.  He contrasts this with those who are asleep.  There is a great difference between having a faith that is awake and alert and journeying through life asleep and oblivious to God.  The difference matters in both the day to day living and on the day when Jesus returns.

In our daily walk with Jesus we must be awake and alert and self-controlled.  Paul calls us children of the light.  In the light, all of our deeds and words – both the good and the bad – are exposed.  Paul is implying that in all we do and say we must bring honor to God.  Faith and love and the hope of salvation must be what others see in our lives.  It is through these three that we encourage one another and it is how we draw others to the light.  When we are awake and alert we also see the world as Jesus sees it.  We see those in need.  We see how we can make a positive difference for the lost.  Only when we are awake and alert do we see so that we can then respond with compassion and care.

Paul contrasts the daily walk with Jesus with those who are asleep and with those who live in the night or in the darkness.  They have a false sense of security in the dark and will be caught unprepared when Jesus returns.  They live in the dark and think their sins are covered by the darkness.  They live enjoying the pleasures of the flesh and the world, not realizing that God sees in the dark just as well as He sees in the light.

at times, however, we too wander into the dark.  At times we succumb to the temptation and we dwell in the darkness.  But out of His great love for us God calls us back into the light.  Verse nine reads, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Thank God for that love that died for us so that we may live with Him forever.  This day may we be awake and alert, having a servant’s heart and hands and feet that bring His love to all we meet today.