pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Listening and Talking

Reading: Isaiah 50: 4-9a

God gifts us with many good things.  Two of them are our tongue and our ears.  Over time we too can become like Isaiah, having an “instructed tongue”.  We do this by developing a close relationship with God so that His Word is deep within us.  This is accomplished by faithful Bible reading and study, by a consistent and committed prayer life, and by an active and engaged worship life.  As we immerse ourselves in the things of God, we come to have an instructed tongue.  While I do believe in the old saying that God gave us two ears and one tongue so that we can listen twice as much as we talk, I am also convinced that there is great power in our words.

Like Isaiah in today’s text, we too can give attention to God so that He can awaken our ears.  When we take the time and slow down and really listen, we can hear a lot.  When we are fully tuned into the one before us, we are able to hear much more than the words they are saying.  We are able to understand their needs below the surface level.  From this point of view our ” instructed tongue” can offer much to another in need.

God also desires to awaken our ears to the world out there.  He desires for us to be in the world to make a difference, to make the world a better place.  God desires for our ears to hear the cries of the needy, to hear the wails against injustice, and to hear the sighs of the suffering.  It is very necessary to hear those in need if we are going to respond.  We must be listening closely and understanding deeply if we are going to be able to bring the light, love, and hope of Jesus Christ to where God calls us.  When we hear and respond, we are  being His hands and feet.  When we do so, God will direct our instructed tongue to share His message and all else that He offers our brothers and sisters in need.


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Special Together

God is pretty smart and very creative.  Consider for a moment the design and intricacy of our bodies.  Our bodies hum along, performing activity after activity without us having to think about it.  And in general our bodies last a long time.  If I drove the same truck every day for 50 years it would be absolutely amazing.  Yet here I sit, still running relatively well, hoping for another thirty or forty years out of this body.

The vast array of parts and functions that make up our bodies is another example of God’s genius.  Each part is pretty indispensable.  Imagine for a moment if all of our legs ended at our ankles – balance would be tough.  Imagine if we had one eye.  We could still see but would have no depth perception.  How close is that car?

Apparently there was some squabbling and division going on in Corinth.  Paul had to remind them that the gifts of the Spirit are like our body parts – all equally important and all necessary for the body of Christ to function properly.  They wanted to elevate certain gifts over others but Paul reminded them that all parts are for the common good.  Imagine where the church would be if all had the gift of prophecy but none had the gifts of teaching and administrating and healing.

A modern example of the need for diversity and the necessity of working together would be our praise team.  If we all played bass and did nothing else, we would not be much of a band.  We need singers and pianists and guitarists as well.  Each gift adds to the whole.

Each and everyone of us has gifts.  Are you using yours to the fullest?  Are you building up the body of Christ with your gifts?  Each of us is equally important and specifically designed to play our roles.  May the Lord bless you in the use of your gifts!

Scripture reference: 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31


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Will We?

After their capitol city Jerusalem was destroyed, many of the people of Israel spent a long period living in exile.  Finally the king of Persia begins to allow some to return to start rebuilding their holy city.  The Israelites had been helpful and useful to the king, so this was a way he could thank them.  Miraculously, the small group rebuilds all of the city wall in just 52 days.  They know from this amazing feat, accomplished in the midst of unfriendly peoples all around them, that God was at work in and around them.  So they gather to worship and to hear the Word of God read.

Each week lots of folks will gather on Sunday morning to hear the Word of God, to offer Him praise, and to celebrate God’s presence in their lives.  God is a steady and active part of the lives of regular church goers.  Sunday morning is the time when they are renewed and encouraged and built up so that they can face the world in the week ahead.  Their time each Sunday morning in church allows them to live each day with God’s presence.

For lots of other folks, this feeling of a need to connect with God is generated only through an exceptional blessing or through a trying circumstance or event.  For the first group, something really amazing happens and they can sense God’s hand or presence in that blessing.  They show up on a Sunday and offer theirs thanks to God.  For the second group, it is a tragedy or trial that brings them to the point of feeling they need to connect to God.  They come desperate and seeking, sensing that only God can make a difference for them.

Funny thing though, God is equally happy to have all three in the house.  Each and every one is seen as a beloved child of God.  To God, on that day, it does not matter if one is there every Sunday or if it has been a while or if it is the first time.  On that day, they are there in the house of God.  And God is happy.

The challenge in the church is, first, to be equally happy.  The second challenge is to regularly feed to every Sunday worshiper while also meeting the special occasion worshiper where they are at and ministering to them right there.  All people need to see the relevance of God in their lives and to feel that their time is well-invested to keep showing up at church.  Together, the body of Christ has the gifts and talents to accomplish all of this.  Together the church can be relevant, can be worthy of people’s time, and can meet and minister to each person right where they are at in life and on their journey of faith.  But our question is: will we?

Scripture reference: Nehemiah 8: 1-3


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For the Common Good

“For the Common good” is why we are given gifts.  It is part of the concept of being one big family or of being one body with many parts, each working together.  Our varied and unique gifts are meant to unite us as we come to learn what we each can offer to the whole.

In life we each face situations.  Sometimes we can maneuver through them on our own.  In other cases, we are a little more pressed and the gifts and skills God has given us are not quite enough.  In these times we need to call on others whose gifts will help with our situation.  There are two byproducts of this system God designed: as individuals we experience humility as we rely on others.  As part of the body we come to value and appreciate others for their role in the larger community of faith.

For us to play a role in this system, we must know what our gifts are.  The list in today’s reading includes teaching, discernment, healing, prophesying, and speaking in and interpreting tongues.  In Romans 12 is another list and in Galatians 5 we find a list of the fruits of the Spirit, which can also be seen as gifts we possess and can share with others.

For some of us, our gifts are revealed through our passions.  For example, one drawn to working with young people discovers their gift for teaching.  Often we “do” what we are gifted at or with.  For others, it takes effort and sometimes trial and error to find their gifts.  And, uniquely, for some their gifts are totally different than what they do for a living.

Whatever the case, we are each called to use our gifts for the common good.  May God’s Spirit work in us to reveal our gifts if we do not know them.  If we do, may God provide opportunities for us to exercise our gifts today, for the common good and for God’s glory.

Scripture reference: 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11


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His Gifts, His Call

Paul writes to the Corinthians concerning the many gifts that the Holy Spirit has blessed them with.  In today’s passage Pauli stressing that all gifts are equally given and that all are to be used for the same purpose: to do the will of God in the world.  He also emphasizes the idea that we each are uniquely gifts to do our own special work for the kingdom of God.  Lastly, Paul points out the fact that our gifts are given to be used.

It is often said that where our passions meet God’s desires for our world is the place our gifts are best used.  Where our gift as a teacher or healer or encourager or interpreter of tongues fills a need in someone’s life or in a ministry is just the place God calls us to use the gift that the Spirit gave us.

We mus be careful to be aware of, to recognize, and to give the glory to God for the gifts we have.  Our gift is like all else we have in life – a gift from God.  It is something that God placed within each of us through the Holy Spirit.  Our thankful response should be to use our gift for God.  We must recognize that God intended our gifts to be used for the good of all of God’s children, for all of the people in our lives, not just for some.  Each of our gifts is intended to make the world a better place.  And in the end, all must point back to God.  It is He who gave the gift and it is really God who is at work accomplishing all that results from us using the gift.  To God be all the glory.

Sometimes the call to put our gift to work can be a scary thing.  It may involve giving up a career or maybe moving to a new place.  It may involve doing something in your community that is a bit uncomfortable.  We must remember that He who calls is really the only one in control anyway.  He will be with us in the response as well as in the call.  May we be ever faithful to the One who calls.

Scripture reference: 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11


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Our Promises

In many churches the words, “God is good!” draws the response “All the time.”  Then the call, “And all the time,” draws “God is good!”  In our churches we are sure to spread the word that God loves us.  As just one means of responding to God’s vast love for us, we are drawn to give back to God through our churches and their work in the world.

In my denomination we promise to support the church with our “prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness” when we join.  It is much the same in any church for these are the things Christ did when He set us the example of how to live our lives.

I think the list goes from easiest to hardest for most people.  A time of prayer each day or a few prayers here and there is easy to offer up to God.  Being present in church on a regular basis takes a bit more effort but is not really that hard.  Giving back some of the gifts that God has blessed us with is OK for most.  When one begins to speak of tithing it takes a bit more and here is where we begin to see some delineation in what commitment really looks like.  Service requires a higher commitment that basic giving.  It is more that the hour on Sunday morning and often requires some effort to serve.  Here we see more separation.

But that last word – witness – is the most challenging.  It is the promise that takes risk, the one that requires us to really put ourselves out there. It also calls upon us to trust in God and to seek the Spirit’s lead.  His promise is to give us the words we need, when we need them.  When we offer our witness or testimony, God will be fully present with us if we acknowledge our need for Him.  Trust and obey, for God really is good all of the time.

Scripture reference: Psalm 107: 1-3


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Share the Gifts

Grace and peace to you!  Paul’s standard salutation speaks of two of the most important attributes of being in the family of God.

From the Christian perspective, grace means “unmerited favor.”  It is the forgiveness of sins that we cannot earn.  It is the free gift of Jesus Christ to all who call on His name.  It is the power to save us and to bring us back before God, cleansed and made new.

Grace also meant an “arresting vision of beauty” to the Greeks.  And isn’t Christ on the cross just that?  In some ways arresting to visualize His broken and bloodied body hanging there yet also amazingly beautiful to realize what He did for you  and me.

Peace is also a gift from God.  That sense of wholeness in life and that all is right in His kingdom enriches our lives here.  This gift also removes competition from our equations and allows us to respond to others with love.  We spread peace with love.

Peace and grace to you!  These gifts are always offered to bless our lives and the lives of those we encounter.  God is faithful.  Our reality is that He brings us an unending supply of grace and peace.  And our reality is that the more we share these gifts with others, the more comes back to us as well.  Grace and peace to you!

Scripture reference: 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9


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Be Involved. Offer Yourself.

We all have gifts and talents.  God gives us these to use and for the benefit of others.  As the family of God, all of our talents and gifts are bound up together.  Paul reminds us that, like a human body, each member belongs to all of the other members of the body.

In Romans 12 Paul lists a few gifts: prophesying, teaching, serving, and encouraging.  I’m sure you can think of a few people in your church who have one (or more) of these gifts and maybe you even recognize your gift(s) on this list.  Paul also lists giving generously, leading diligently, and showing mercy cheerfully.  Know a few of these people too?

This list of seven gifts is obviously not all-inclusive.  Many gifts are not listed here yet are definitely gifts that God has bestowed on people.

But maybe you don’t know your gift.  Maybe as you thought about who you knew that was merciful, you thought of a person or two and wondered what their gift was.  The solution?  Try things out!  Maybe as you are teaching a class you discover that teaching is not your gift.  But while teaching you do discover that encouraging or mentoring is your gift.  Maybe as you fill a role serving you find that serving is not your gift.  But while there you do discover that offering compassion is just your thing.

Be involved.  Offer yourself.  God definitely gives each of us gifts.  He does not give us gifts to keep secretly tucked away.  God gives us gifts to use, to develop, to practice to be a part of building each other up and to build up His kingdom here on earth.

Scripture reference: Romans 12: 1-8


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Won’t You Join Him?

In Matthew 16 Jesus names Peter ‘the rock’ – the foundation of His church.  Imagine what the other disciples were thinking?!  Remember, Peter was the loud, in-your-face, foot-in-mouth, act-before-you-think guy in the group.  But Peter was also the only one who stepped out of the boat and took a few steps on the water.  He was also the only one who went to Jesus’ trials before the authorities.  It was here that Peter denied Jesus.  But Jesus saw in Pater what no one else saw.  He knew the denials would be used to build Peter back up.  Jesus saw Peter for what he was to become – the rock.

We too are all chosen by God.  We too are all empowered by Christ’s indwelling spirit.  We too all possess gifts and talents that God has given us to build up the kingdom here on earth.  We are to work together as the church.

Jesus is inside each of us.  Jesus living in us brings tremendous power.  His Spirit leads us to build community, to help each other grow in our faith, and to bring others into the family.  Jesus brings strength, courage, and compassion to or lives.  He sees our potential and wants to work within us to develop that potential.  Jesus seeks to work in and through us – won’t you join Him?

Scripture reference: Matthew 16:13-20


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To the Best of Our Ability

All that we have is a gift from God.  Our talents and abilities are gifts that we must use with humility, grace, and love.  We are not to use what we have been blessed with to lord it over others or to take advantage of people or situations.

As Joseph was riding along that trade route to Egypt, a new slave to Midianite merchants, I wonder if he saw it as God’s work in his life.  As they saw Joseph disappearing into the horizon, I doubt the brothers we thinking of how God’s plan was just beginning to take shape.  Often in the midst of things we too fail to see God at work in our lives.

When Joseph first exercised his gift to interpret dreams, he angered his family.  Yet later in Egypt this ability would allow Joseph to rise up in importance.  When used as God intended, Joseph’s gift was used to build up and to do good.  And yet even then Joseph probably only saw this as a personal success, not as a part of God’s bigger plan.  But Joseph was faithful and continued to do as God led him to do.  Because of this, he would eventually he would see God’s big plan.

What gifts and talents has God blessed you with?  In what ways are they being used to build God’s kingdom now?  Are you using you gift to the best of your ability?  May we learn to use what God has blessed us with, trusting Him and the plan He has for our life.

Scripture reference: Genesis 37: 1-4 and 12-28