pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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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


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Offering Our Best

Together, as a church, there is so much potential.  Each unique person contributes to the fabric and talents of the whole.  Each brings different gifts, ways of serving, and contributions of works.  When all work together to accomplish the work of God in the world, great things can happen.

Sometimes what each has to offer to the body of Christ is not readily seen.  Sometimes we have to search and maybe try a few things to see what our gifts of the Spirit are.  As members of the body, we can help each other to discover and nurture and use the gifts we have been given.

When those with the gifts of healing, teaching, discernment, prophecy, knowledge, speaking… work together for the glory of God, a unified body of Christ can do much.  How are we each fitting in?  Are we each giving the best of ourselves for the building of His kingdom?


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The Tools in Your Toolbox

In the “New Beginnings” series we have looked a lot at the call to share our faith. Peary developed the idea that once we come to know Christ within, then the journey becomes outward as we seek to serve Christ. Keihwan continued the concept with the idea that our call is to make a difference in our world, one person at a time, one moment at a time. Last Sunday we looked at Jesus being our new BFF. The overall idea was that we so grow in our relationship that Jesus is our best friend and that through this we share Him with those in our worlds.
The primary means through which we can share Jesus are prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. All of these are important to have in our ‘toolbox’ of faith. All of these need to be ready to be used. After all, a dull tool will not cut anything very efficiently. Similarly, a jumbled up and rambling story of faith will not be effective. So… which do you need the most practice at? Or, put another way… If you were presented with an opportunity to share Christ with someone desperately in need and I were to randomly draw one of these five out of a hat and you had to go with that means, which would you really hope I did not draw?

If you are like me, and I believe like most people, you were hoping that ‘witness’ was not the one drawn. So that is the one you and I need to work on, to hone into razor sharpness so that when presented with that opportunity, we can nail it.

The natural means through which most of us share our faith is presence. We try to live out our lives as a loving, caring person. We often back this up through our prayers that we follow up a situation with. Many share their faith through their gifts – be that time volunteering at church, through financial support of the church, as so on. And some are natural witnesses. Some are able to naturally work God and their faith into a conversation as easily as some of us talk about the weather!

But to wrap up, again, it is about being prepared to use whatever tool the opportunity requires. If someone is hungry and you have $5 in your pocket, don’t tell them you will pray for them. That’d be like using a screwdriver to cut down a tree! But if someone needs to hear your faith story at that point in their lives, you better be ready to share it. If they just need you to be there to listen, you better pull up a chair. Practice each of these means and be a willing and faithful servant. The world needs Jesus and we are the ones to bring Him to them.