pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Lived Out through Us

Reading: Psalm 146

God is steadfast and true.  God loves the righteous.  God seeks to lift up those who are bowed down.  His desire is to bring relief to their suffering and to put an end to the oppression and injustices they face.  How does our God of compassion and love lift up the bowed down?  He sends the righteous, those who have received His favor and blessing, to minister in His name.  He sends you and me.

It is God alone who can restore a person’s soul and who can make a new creation from within.  It is God who sends the righteous faithful to engage the bowed down, oppressed, and suffering.  It is God who has given us each gifts and talents and blessings to share with others to lift them up, to help them in their struggles.  We can be there to offer much, but it is God alone who can transform their lives and hearts.

God desires to use us in many ways.  We are each uniquely gifted and blessed as the body of Christ so that we can corporately minister to a wide variety of situations and needs.  Some are the feet of Christ who enter into brokenness to lift shame and guilt so that hope can begin to enter in.  Some of us are the hands of Christ, entering in and offering a hand up so that one can begin to be above water again.  Some of us are His eyes, restoring value and worth to someone who thought they had none.  Some of us are God’s voice, speaking out against injustice and oppression, seeking to make things right.  Some of us are His ears, listening to the stories that need heard and retold so that others may find or experience positive change in their lives.

God loves all of His children equally.  Some do not even know that they are a child of God.  This day may we collectively be His feet, hands, eyes, voice, and ears so that all may begin to experience His love, lived out through our witness, example, and presence.


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Community and Service

Reading: Acts 9: 36-43

A true community has many benefits.  First of all, it fills our basic need to belong.  But it also goes far beyond this.  When we are part of a faith community, it allows us to serve together to build the kingdom of God.  Together we find much encouragement and strength.  Together we can more easily express our faith.  Communities of faith can both serve each other and can go out into the world to serve.

A true community of faith also shares we each other.  This does require a level of trust and vulnerability, so it is something that develops and deepens over time.  Joys are lifted up and celebrated; burdens are shared and carried by many.  A true community also shares in the small things and in the daily struggles.  There is an increasing level of accountability that grows and facilitates our day to day living.  When we can be honest and vulnerable with each other we lift one another up in prayer, we check in on how the battle is going, we sharpen and encourage one another.

Tabitha and her community shared many of these traits of true community.  Tabitha shared her talents and resources with those near her by making clothes and other items.  She not only helped with their basic needs but poured love into what she gave.  This is just one example of how Tabitha cared for her friends and fellow widows.  At her passing, it brought great grief to her faith community as she was central to the group and the bonds of community that had developed.  She was the one all sought out in times of need or in a crisis.

Peter must have sensed all of this as he entered into the house that day.  Sensing the community’s deep need for her at this particular time, God, through Peter, restored her to them.  It was an extraordinary act of love.  It reveals His love for us and how much He values community because of how it helps us grow in our faith and service to others.  May we each seek to find and experience and live within a true community of faith.


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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