pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Grow

Reading: Ephesians 4: 7-16

Verse 15: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the head, that is, Christ”.

Our goal in life is to grow. As little children we dream about what we will be – a firefighter, a football player, and eventually a teacher then a pastor. Even once we settle into our “career” for life, the desire to grow remains in us. We do not just want to be a ___, but we want to be the best ___ that we can be. To do so we must continue to read and study and go to conferences…

These same ideas are true of our faith journey. And God has a plan for this! In verse 11 Paul tells us that God created some people to be apostles and some to be prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. At different times in our journey we need people to play these various roles so that we can continue to grow. For example, when we were young we relied on our teachers to plant the stories of faith in us. As we move into our adult years we continue to need teachers to grow in our faith but also find a need for pastors to shepherd and guide us. All of these roles are intended for the same purpose: “so that the body of Christ may be built up”.

Paul tells us why – so that we are no longer “infants”. When we are infants we are not sure of our faith so we are easily influenced and we are more susceptible to temptation and sin. This is a place we can choose to remain and some do. Paul wants more for us. We should each want more for ourselves too. To this, Paul writes, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the head, that is, Christ”. Sometimes this truth is hard to hear. Accountability is a necessary part of the maturation process. We must be willing to accept “the truth in love” to move into spiritual maturity.

Our goal as faithful followers of Jesus Christ is to attain the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ”. Although we will never be perfect as Christ was perfect, the goal remains to grow more and more into Christ. As we each play the role that God has blessed us with, the body of Christ, the church, “grows and builds itself up in love”. The question for today is this: how will you help another to grow in faith?

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Modeling God’s Love

Reading: Psalm 24: 1-2

Verse 1: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it”.

Today’s passage connects back to Genesis 1. There we find the familiar words, “in the beginning”. When there was nothing, God created – first the heavens and earth and then light, sky, and land. God would go on to create all living creatures, including humanity. It is from this place of understanding that the psalmist writes, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it”. God is the creator.

It did not take long for mankind to question our place in the created order. Almost since the beginning of time mankind has wrestled with our position in the world. Consequently, God’s role as supreme, all-powerful creator has been questioned too. “Progress” in many fields has led to a questioning of God’s role in creation and the world and even of God’s existence. Yet, when push comes to shove or when we find ourselves in a time of trial and testing, we come to the honest realization that we have very little control. When one breathes their last, we are helpless. When cancer or other diseases set their course, in spite of our best efforts, we are powerless. When mother nature gathers power and moves across land or sea, we cannot deter her or alter her course or lessen her might.

Even though God is creator and is in control, we do have roles to play in the world. We are called to partner with and to work with God to love and care for the earth and for each other. We love and care for the earth and all of creation the same way we love and care for our fellow human beings. We model the love of God that we find in Jesus Christ. It is a love that considers others before ourselves. It is a love that sacrifices for the good of the other. It is a love that seeks what is best for the other.

When we live out this type of love and allow it to lead and guide all of our decisions and choices, then we honor and glorify God’s intent for all of creation. May it be so for you and me this day and every day.


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Small Seeds

Reading: Mark 4: 30-34

Verse 32: “Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants”.

Jesus begins today’s passage by setting the stage, asking, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like”? Before we start thinking of angels dancing around the throne, we need to realize that Jesus is speaking of the kingdom here on earth. He is speaking of the activity and reign of God in the here and now.

A mustard seed is the object lesson in today’s teaching by Jesus. It is a tiny little seed that grows into a huge plant, providing safe harbor for many birds. The idea of planting seeds connects back to what He just said in verses 26-29. There Jesus spoke of how we plant but it is God who makes them grow. Both of these teachings are, of course, not about real seeds. The parables are about planting seeds of faith.

Jesus was a great seed planter. He took twelve men and a small group of followers and He planted seeds of faith in them. He took time to plant seeds of faith in about everyone He met. It was just Jesus’ DNA. In turn, the disciples and followers of Jesus used the faith that grew from the seeds that Jesus planted and planted seeds in others. We are the continuation of this process. Someone took the time to plant seeds of faith in us and now that these seeds have grown into faith, we take our faith and go forth to be planters.

As we go out into the world today, may we be intentional about planting seeds of faith. Even though we plant seeds of faith as small as a mustard seed, God can grow that faith into something that one day may change the world. May we be faithful in our small role, trusting God with the rest. Amen.


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Reading: Matthew 21: 33-41

Verse 40: When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do with those tenants?

Jesus is teaching in the temple courts.  He is in Jerusalem and each day people gather around Him to hear His interpretation of the scriptures and to hear the stories He likes to tell.  Others are there to listen for a way to trap Him or to catch Jesus in a blasphemy.  He is aware of both aspects of the crowd.

This day Jesus tells the story of the landowner who plants a vineyard and builds a wine press and watchtower.  Then he rents the vineyard out and goes on a journey.  Harvest time comes and he sends for his share of the crop.  But the tenants beat and stone and kill those who were sent.  The landowner sends a bigger group, but the results are the same.  AND then the tenants do it again when he sends his very own son to collect.  Then Jesus asks them a question: “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do with those tenants”?  The answer seems obvious.

At this point, most everyone in the crowd has the same answer.  Most of us would give the same answer too.  But Jesus’ stories always seem to have an edge or twist to them.  There are probably a few in the crowd besides His twelve disciples who are wary – they know there is more to the story.  But for now, for today, the story ends here.

When we consider the story, are we thinking we are more like the owner, like those sent, or like the tenants?  At times we certainly think we are the owner.  We look at our life and our possessions and our talents and think they are all ours.  At times we can see ourselves as those who are sent.  We try and share the good news but are rejected and/or abused.  And at times we are the tenants – living for self, disregarding all else.

Jesus is also framing larger questions too.  The first is who really owns the ‘vineyard’?  The second is who is the son that is finally sent to re-establish the correct relationship between owner and tenants?  And the third is, what is our response to the one who is sent?  From these perspectives, the story takes on new meaning and depth.  From here we must consider how we see and relate to God, how we see and relate to Jesus, and what role we are or should be playing in the vineyard.


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Servant

Reading: Isaiah 49: 1-4

We are each chosen by God to be God’s servant.  We are each identified before birth: “before I was born the Lord called me”.  The Lord has followed that call with preparation.  God has planted His Word within us as we have grown and matured in our faith.  God has prepared us for service by making us a ‘polished arrow’.  God has equipped us with the Word so that our mouth is like a ‘sharpened sword’.  All of this so that we may live into verse four: “You are my servant… in whom I will display my splendor”.

Chosen by God, created for a purpose, equipped to fulfill that purpose.  Yes, this is what it says in Isaiah and throughout the Bible.  Yes, it can be hard to live into our call to serve God.  But it is what God desires for us, what God has planned for us.  So what is it that keeps us from living into what God created us to be?  I believe there are two culprits: us and Satan.

We doubt.  We worry.  We think ourselves not up to the task.  We think our faith or knowledge too limited to serve God.  We think our time has not yet come.  We remember past failures.  We fear rejection or criticism.  Then Satan partners with us and whispers lies into our minds.  Man, that is too much for you.  Woman, you could never do that.  Son, what if they ask you this question?  Daughter, remember the last time you tried to share your faith?  Satan, the great deceiver, fears that we will believe and cling to the truths and promises we find in the Word.  The devil fears that we will trust in God and will call upon God for all we need.  Satan knows the truth: nothing is impossible with God.

To our doubt and worry, God promises: I will be with you.  To our poor self-confidence, God promises: I will never leave or foresake you.  To our lack of felt knowledge, God promises: I will send the Holy Spirit to remind you of all things.  To our past failures, God promises: I have plans to prosper you.

Today’s passage ends with, “my reward is with God”.  This day may we trust fully into the promises of God, looking forward to the promise of life eternal.  This day may we may we embrace our role as servant of the most high God, knowing that God is with us, living our lives to bring glory to God.


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Faithful Pursuit

What is God’s call upon your life?  God has a plan for all of us.  The plan He has for each of us is a part of His overall plan to redeem mankind and the earth.

Each of us are gifted with skills and abilities to accomplish what God has called us to (or will call us to).  Some people know their gifts, know God’s intent for their lives, and are working the plan.  Others wonder what their gifts are and haven’t heard God’s call yet.  Others remain in between – some questioning the gifts and/or the call and others knowing gifts and call, yet hesitant to begin the work for a variety of reasons.

In His pursuit of us, God asks that we remain open to His guidance and direction.  If we are faithful, He will reveal the plan.  If you are getting along in years and wonder when the plan will finally be revealed – remember, God used some people that were ‘advanced in years’ to do His work.  (See childbirth at almost 100?!)  Keep faithful.  And if you are young and wondering ‘now?” remember, He used some teens in the Bible to accomplish His work too!  (David anyone?)  Be faithful!

If we look for opportunities to share our faith story, to serve others, to offer love where needed, then we will come to know both our gifts and God’s call upon our lives.  Faithfully pursue God and He will use you just as He has always intended to use you!

 

Scripture reference: Genesis 25: 19-34