pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Gifts, Love, Strength

Reading: 1st Corinthians 1: 3-9

Verse Five: “For in Him you have been enriched in every way”.

Paul is writing to a church he loves.  He writes to them to strengthen and encourage them as they live amongst a society that loves power, position, and money.  This sounds like the setting for many of our churches today.  The church in Corinth is apparently being a little judgmental and is having some disagreements within.  The church is also failing to treat all of its members equally as the wealthier members are being given better treatment than the poorer members.  This also might be a thing or two that we struggle with in our churches today.

Into the current reality, Paul speaks some Gospel truths.  He begins by thanking God for the grace that they have been given.  It is a grace that has fallen on one and all.  Paul then goes on to write, “For in Him you have been enriched in every way”.  Here Paul is speaking of both the spiritual gifts that each member has been given as well as of the strength that they can find in Jesus Christ.  In reminding them of grace, Paul is reminding them that God gives grace to all people equally.  Just as God gives grace freely to all people, God also loves all people equally as His beloved children – not loving this special person more and “that” person less.  In reminding them that each has a spiritual gift, he is reminding them that all have value as each gift is needed for the building up of the body of Christ.  Paul also knows that at times the walk of faith will be hard.  So he also reminds them that God is faithful and will keep them to the end.

Just as this passage was a great reminder of the truths of God for the church in Corinth, so too is it a great reminder for us, the church today.  This passage calls us to use the gifts that we have been given, to love others just as Jesus loved all, to lean not into our own strength but to lean into God’s strength instead, and to rest upon the eternal faithfulness of God.  In and through all of these things may we find our path today, loving both God and neighbor, as we are each called to do.

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Teach

Reading: Psalm 78: 1-7

Verse Four: “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.”

Today’s Psalm is all about the story of God and His children.  The whole Psalm speaks of God’s love and compassion for the people regardless of their wanderings and stumbles.  It is a reminder that it is God who remains constant in our covenant relationship.  God is faithful even as we rebel.  As we read the opening of Psalm 78, we are reminded why we need to stay in touch with our history with God.  The psalmist begins with this proclamation: “O my people, hear my teaching”.  We do this many ways.

We remember through personal and corporate study and worship.  We remember as we take time to reflect on God’s provision and blessing as we lift our prayers of thanks and praise.  As we do these things, God’s love and compassion seep a little deeper still into who we are and how we live out our lives.  We remember, we connect, we are shaped.

Verse four begins our role as story tellers of the faith.  It begins with, “We will not hide them from our children”.  We will instead live out the love and compassion of God in our daily lives.  The verse continues, “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord”.  To many this speaks of Sunday school.  Yes and no.  What we teach our children about God must begin at home.  If we model God as the central focus of our personal lives, so too will our children.  If we joyously head off to church each Sunday, so too will our children.  We model God’s love and compassion by how we live it out in our lives.  We model faith by how visible it is in our lives.  We model Christ’s love to the world by being His hands and feet each day.

The psalmist goes on to write, “then they would put their trust in God”.  It is my hope and prayer for all children.  May it be yours as well.  As we live out this day, may our love of God pour forth in all we think, say, and do.  May God’s compassion for all if His children be evident in our compassion for all of His children.  May it be so this day and every day.  Amen.


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Encourage One Another

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 3: 13-18

Verse 17: “And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

When we think of the end times or of the end of our earthly life, many people experience fear and worry.  For many there is an unknown feeling that comes when we think of death.  When a loved one or good friend passes on, some left behind wonder where that person has gone to and some even wonder if death is just the end.  They grieve without hope.

In today’s passage, Paul reminds all believers of the hope and promise that is given to all who call on Jesus as Lord and Savior.  It is a promise that we can live and trust into.  Paul begins by cautioning us not to think as the pagan world thinks, as those who have no hope.  Instead, Paul reminds us of the death and resurrection of Jesus that provides the way for all who die in Christ to gain eternal life.  We too will one day experience resurrection into the glory and wonder of heaven.  Paul tells the Thessalonians and us that this is true also for all who have already died in Christ.  Paul assures them and us that our loved ones will also rise in Christ.  In verse 17 he writes, “And so we will be with the Lord forever”.

Our passage today closes with these words: “Therefore, encourage one another with these words”.  Paul exhorts us to take these words of hope and promise and to be encouraging one another with them.  At times in our lives we need to remember and hear these words.  Maybe that is today.  We also know people who need to hear these words of hope and promise today.  With whom and how can we share these words of hope and promise today?  May we be open to the lead of the Holy Spirit as we seek to be Jesus’ light and love this day.


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Hearers and Tellers

Reading: Psalm 78: 1-4

Verse 1: “O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth”.

Today the psalmist urges us to listen and to remember.  It begins with listening.  We cannot just hear words but must really listen to the words and their meaning.  This allows us to internalize and understand the words and how they apply to our lives and to our faith.  Once done listening, we also must remember.  The words cannot come in one ear and go out the other.  To remember means to hold onto the words and the affect they have on our life and on our faith.

The psalmist is urging the people Israel to hold onto the teaching and to hold onto the “trustworthy deeds of the Lord”.  In remembering “what our fathers have told us” we begin to build up a collective memory of what God has done for His people.  In doing so, we build up a reservoir of strength to draw upon when we find ourselves in a time of trial or suffering.  All those memories of God at work in the past give us a reassurance that we can trust God to be present in our current need.

But is is not all about taking in and holding on.  We must also be a part of the telling.  The psalmist reminds us that “we will not hide them from our children”.  We must tell our children and the generations after them of the mighty works of God as well.  We must pour into our children and into the future generations so that they too will “hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth”.

We each are a part of the coming and the going out of the faith.  At times we must listen and absorb the stories of the faith – both those in the Bible and those experienced in life.  At other times it must be our voices who pass along the Word and the stories that help others to find and grow in their faith.  Each day may we be hearers as well as tellers, bringing the glory to God in all we do and say as we live out our lives of faith.


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Word

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 2: 9-13

Verse 12: You accepted it not as the word of man, but as it actually is, as the word of God.

As children we would often use the phrase, “Stick and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”.  It was a way to try and deflect and minimalize the teasing and bullying that were part of childhood, but but in reality the words were powerful and often hurtful.  As a people who communicate primarily with words, words are the foundation of knowledge and understanding and even of faith.

On the surface level, the Bible contains just words.  As Paul wrote and spoke to the many churches he founded, he used just words.  In more recent times people like Martin Luther King, Junior, just spoke words.  Words are powerful.  Words can change how we see the world, how we understand things, and how we believe and think.  Paul came to the Thessalonians and preached the gospel.  As Paul and his companions were among them, they were “holy, righteous, and blameless”.  To be heard, one must first walk the walk.  Paul and friends went on to encourage and comfort the Thessalonians and also urged them to live lives “worthy of God”.  Yet as Paul preached, it wasn’t just words.  He writes, “You accepted it not as the word of man, but as it actually is, as the word of God”.  The words Paul spoke took on life and were heard as the Word of God.  The scriptures continue to be the living Word of God and will always be alive.

The Word continues to be alive as it works in and through each of us.  As we read the Bible and hear the Word proclaimed, it creeps into our hearts and minds and takes root.  It shapes and forms and refines us.  It challenges and convicts us.  It becomes who we are as we grow in our faith and deepen our relationship with Jesus.  And when we share our faith with others, it becomes a word planted in their lives, waiting for the living God to take that seed and to make it grow.  As we go forth and live holy and righteous lives we are encouragement and love and hope to the world around us.  As such we too will have the opportunity to share our faith and the story of the good news of Jesus Christ.  This day, may the living word flow in and through us, bringing Christ to the world.


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Humble

Reading: Matthew 22: 11-12

Verse 12: Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Jesus has just finished “teaching” the Pharisees about how un-humble they are.  They love to be seen and heard, to be recognized and honored.  Elsewhere in Scripture we are told that they already have their reward.  Earthly accolades have no heavenly value.

Jesus tells them and us that there is a better way.  In verse 12 He says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”.  He is speaking of here and there, of earth and heaven.  Those who have exalted themselves here will be humbled one day.  The Word speaks of the day when  one will be taken and one will be left behind.  The implication here for the Pharisees is that they will be humbled on that day.

The other side of Jesus’ advice applies to the disciples.  If you are a humble servant now, one day you will be exalted.  For the disciples and many others who would suffer for their faith, the ‘one day’ promise was powerful and encouraging.  For people like Paul and his fellow workers for the gospel, they had many experiences that humbled them.  They knew well the promise of one day being exalted.

Humility is sometimes in short supply today.  In a culture that values and espouses power and position and possessions, humility can be hard to find.  In our lives we occasionally have experiences that force humility upon us.  But too often we choose to blame others or to make excuses for our failure.  The other, more pressing, consideration has to do with our faith though.  The question we must wrestle with as Christian is this: if we do not experience humility in our faith journey, are we risking too little for Jesus Christ?  Are we playing it too safe?  Are we holding back from the Spirit’s lead?

Jesus tells us that we will be humbled when we share our faith, lead other to belief, or love the least and lost in His name.  When we step out in faith, when we risk much for the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is then that we become aware of His power and strength moving in and through us.  We come to see that it is Jesus that saves, moves, loves.  It has very little to do with us when we are truly humble servants.  May we all seek to be humbled today.


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A Willingness

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 2: 1-8

Verse Two: With the help of God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition.

Having faith can be difficult.  What is happening to the Thessalonians happens to believers today.  Their faith is wavering, the voices of the world are clamoring, Jesus has not returned yet.  In the midst of all that life can bring, it can be easy to have our faith waver.  Those voices of the world and the temptations of Satan can put us hard to the test.  As we look around at the world and perhaps even at our own lives, we can long for Jesus to return to redeem all things.

The culture of Paul’s world and the culture of Thessalonica is much like ours today.  The Christians are a minority within a culture and society that worships many false idols and chases after many earthly pleasures.  It can be a dangerous place to preach the gospel.  It was in Paul’s day too.  Fresh off a testing and trying experience in Philippi, Paul declares, “With the help of God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition”.  Not one to be deterred, Paul fondly recalls sharing the gospel in Thessalonica.  At times we too must dare to share  the gospel.  For Paul, it was well-received and a strong church emerged.  This letter comes some time after the initial visit and Paul is writing to encourage and to teach this new group of believers.

Paul states a couple of different ways that God is the center of it all.  He speaks as a man approved by God and tested by God.  He speaks with God as his witness, never seeking praise or approval from men.  As we seek to engage the least and the lost of our communities, we too must begin here.  God must be at the core and we must lead out as God guides and directs, keeping our focus on God alone.  Paul says that he was “like a mother caring for her little children”.  This is the second imperative we get from today’s Word.  We must genuinely love those we share the gospel with.  This means a willingness to fully commit, to humbly serve, to offer all we can to help another grow closer to Jesus Christ.  May our focus be on God and on loving others as He first loved us; God will take care of the rest.