pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Abundant Grace

Reading: Matthew 20: 1-16

Verse Eight: Call the workers and pay them their wages.

In the parable today the going wage is a denarius.  It was the standard pay for a day’s labor.  For the vineyard workers, four of the five groups received generous pay.  They had worked three, six, nine, or eleven hours less then the first ones hired.  All four of these groups walk away happy with their pay.

The fifth group – those who agreed to a denarius and those who worked the longest – receive the same pay.  In a way this too is generous.  They began the day with nothing to do and were fortunate to be hired.  But what they agreed to does not sit so well with them.  As each group of workers receives their denarius, their unhappiness grows as they come to realize all are being paid the same.  In complaining to the owner, they voice their grumbling relative to the ones who worked only an hour.  They speak of the ones who best ‘prove’ their case.  Yet I think they did not think the groups who worked three, six, or nine hours deserved a denarius either.

God’s grace extends to all who labor for the kingdom of God.  There is no minimum time required before one can begin to draw on grace.  There is no cosmic scorecard somewhere in heaven that determines how much grace each person is allotted or tracks how much we have earned.  We are each given as much as we need.  We are each given the undeserved and unlimited gift of grace anytime we need it.

Our churches are filled with people from all five groups.  Some have just begun to draw on God’s grace.  Others have been living in His grace for 10, 30, or 40 years.  Still others have been living in God’s grace for as long as they can remember.  Many of these receive grace like most of the vineyard workers.  They receive more than they deserve and walk away grateful for the owner’s generosity.  May we each respond to God’s grace the same way, realizing we are receiving more than we deserve, walking away grateful for God’s abundant Grace in our lives.

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Marvelous Deeds

Reading: Psalm 72: 18-19

Our short passage for today so well sums up the spirit of this time of year.  “Praise be to the Lord our God, who alone does marvelous deeds”.  In the bringing forth of the baby Jesus, God indeed did a wonderful thing.  But the list is much longer than this.  Take a moment or two and make a little mental list of the marvelous deeds that God has blessed you with in your life.  Praise be to the Lord our God indeed!

The passage ends with, “May the whole earth be filled with his glory”.  When we praise God for all of the marvelous deeds and wonderful blessings in our lives, we bring God alone the glory.  It is through us that glory is brought to God.  We can bring God glory in many ways.  It can be in our private prayer time.  It can be by singing a song or hymn that offers thanks to God or brings glory to God for the marvelous deeds that he has done.  It can be in the ways we speak to others and in the way we treat them that we bring glory to God.

This day, may we be cognizant of and thankful for all of the marvelous deeds of God.  And may our joyous and grateful response bring God the glory!  Amen and amen.


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Thanks

Readings: Philippians 4: 4-9 and John 6: 25-35

Thanksgiving is an awesome day where we gather with friends and family to give thanks for all that God has blessed us with.  All that we have comes from the Lord.  This day we give thanks.

Our Israelite forefathers recognized God’s provision from day one.  Adam was grateful for God’s love and care in the garden.  His son, Abel, brought the first lamb of his flock and sacrificed it as a thank offering to God.  The Israelites continued to give thank offerings and have a festival at harvest time where they thank God for all of their blessings.  Other festivals, such as Passover, also give thanks to God for the role God has played in their history.

Our American forefathers began Thanksgiving out of gratitude for surviving in a new and wild land.  They were grateful for those who God had sent to teach them what they needed to do to survive here.  They too recognized God’s hand at work in their lives and gave thanks.

Today, as we gather with family and friends, may we too give thanks for all of the ways God brings blessings into our lives.  May we celebrate today with a grateful heart full of thanks to God our Father, the giver of all good things.


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Praise

Reading: Psalm 150

Psalm 150 is the last Psalm.  It concludes the fifth ‘book’ within the larger book of Psalms.  But unlike the other four books, it does not end with a conclusion.  All of the other books in Psalms, and most other books in the Bible, have a definite conclusion to them.  Most often it is the word “Amen” and it usually functions much like ‘The End’ does in a novel or movie.

Psalm 150 ends with two sentences that invite a continuation of the action instead.  Verse 6 reads, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord”.  The invitation to praise is not limited either.  It does not say Israel or even human beings but ‘everything’.  As the bird lifts up its song one can certainly find praise in that.  As the cat purrs in response to affection one can feel love and bring God praise.  If one is open to a broad definition of breath, one can connect to God in the gentle breeze on a hot summer day or in the stream gently bubbling along.  From the beauty and awe of nature we often bring praise to God.

So why does God, through the psalmist, close with an open-ended invitation to continue to praise the Lord?  On the large, upper level it is just one more example of the Bible as the living Word of God, always active and moving.  On the more personal level, it is God asking each of us to live a life of praise.  God desires for our verbal praise to be not only daily but frequent within our days.  It is our grateful response to His many blessings.  But it is also more than words.  God desires for our actions to bring Him praise as well.  How we love and care for and treat others, both our friends and family as well as the enemy or stranger, should bring praise to God.  May He so shine in our lives that all we do and say brings praise to the Lord!


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All in All

Readings: Isaiah 55: 1-5 and 1 Corinthians 10: 1-5

Even though the Israelites wandered around the desert for 40 years, they were well cared for. God had led them out of 400 years of slavery and had rescued them from Pharaoh’s army. He had provided manna, quail, and water when needed. He was constantly leading them from the cloud and pillar of fire. If not for their times of disobedience, it would have been a nice, relatively short journey. In their disobedience is a lack of trust in God.

Even though we too wander off from time to time and become lost in the wilderness of our sin, we too are well cared for by God. Through Jesus Christ we have been redeemed from slavery to our sin. In the time we spend in worship and personal study we are fed by the Word. As we go through our daily life we are guided and led by the presence of the Holy Spirit. We too are blessed richly by God. We too are a chosen people.

In my life it can be very easy to take for granted all of the ways God blesses and cares for me. I think that can be true for many of us living in a modern and free country. So we too must heed Paul’s warning. We too must not get complacent and take God and His blessings for granted. We too must not accept where we are but ever seek to be continuing on our journey of faith.

In order to not fall into complacency let us stay in regular contact with God. In our times together may we daily offer our sincere thanksgiving for His many blessings and also delve into the Word so that we are always growing to be more and more Christ-like. If we pursue God with all of our hearts, He will become our all in all.


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Bread of Life

Jesus, the bread of life, the bread of heaven, wants to feed us.  His food is for our spirits.   Jesus desires to pour into our hearts both to fill us with His joy and to sustain us in the hard days we all face.

The crowd in the story today is almost the same crowd who ate of the fishes and loaves the day before.  They have been physically fed by a miraculous work of Jesus and they are back wanting more.  Like us sometimes, they ask, “What must we do?”  But Jesus has no requirements.  There is no ticket to punch.  He simply wants to give us the bread of life.  Out of His great love for us, the gift of life is offered to all.

Jesus simply invites us into His presence to be fed.  We can ‘fill up’ in many ways – in worship, in prayer, in praise, in study.  At the table of the Lord we are fed.  His spirit and presence fill us up.  Oddly enough, over time we come to the place of desiring to offer our thanks. The ‘must’ becomes ‘can’ as we ask, “What can we do?”  As we are filled we come to want to share the bread of life with others through word, acts of mercy, and acts of kindness.This is our grateful response to Christ’s great love being poured into us.

As we ourselves continue to come to the bread of life, we grow to become more and more like Christ.  Out of His great love for us we are led to love others more.  In our churches, in our places of work or school, in our social settings, in or homes we will have opportunities to lead others to the table of our Lord.  This invitation is one of the greatest offers we can offer another.  This day may we find one who is lost and bring them to the table.

Scripture reference: John 6: 24-35