pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Talents

Reading: Matthew 25: 14-30

Verse 21: “Well done good and faithful servant… Come and share in your master’s happiness”.

In our passage today, the slaves see their master one of two ways.  Two see the master as trustworthy and to be worked for.  The third sees the master as harsh and greedy.  Two of the slaves take what the master has entrusted them with and put it to work, doubling what they had been given.  The third hides what he has been given, refusing to use it even a little by safely investing it with the bankers.

God gives each of us talents or gifts as well.  Each of us has gifts that can be used to build the kingdom of God here on earth.  What we do with what we have been given depends on how we see our master, God.  If we see God as a God who is harsh, as a God who punishes His children, then we are likely to risk little for God.  We will take what we have been given and guard it closely.  We do not want others to know the gift we have so we keep it hidden away.  But if we see God as loving and trustworthy, then we desire to take the talents or gifts we have been given and to invest them to help others to come to know God.  We use our talents to grow the kingdom of God.  One day we too will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant… Come and share in your master’s happiness”.

Our God is a loving, compassionate, grace-filled, forgiving God who calls us to be the same.  If we truly see God in this way, then we feel led to be this type of person to others.  We seek ways to help others know our loving, compassionate… God.  In doing so we use the talents and gifts that God has blessed us with so that all will come to know our God.  What gifts has God given you?  How are or can you use your talents and gifts for the building of the kingdom of God here on earth?


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Kingdom Builders

Reading: 1 Corinthians 2: 12-16

As followers of Jesus Christ, we receive the Spirit from God.  Through our baptism we become part of the family of God.  When we accept Christ as the Lord of our life, we are blessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  It is the Spirit that helps us to discern and understand the things of God.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit we come to know the gifts and talents that God has blessed us with and how to use them for the glory of God.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth to encourage them and to spur them on to action.  Paul reminds them that when they allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them that they will speak not with human words and wisdom but instead they will speak words taught by the Spirit.  With the power of the Holy Spirit they will speak to others “expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words”.  God will fill them with “the mind of Christ” so that they are able to share Jesus’ light and love with others.

Both remain true today.  God has blessed every member of every church with gifts to be used for the kingdom.  As members of the body of Christ, we are called to help each other discover our gifts and talents.  We do this through fellowship, by getting to know one another, and by inviting one another to come along as we go forth to serve Christ in the world.  We also do this through prayer and study, allowing the Spirit time and space to reveal who God created us to be.  Once we know our gifts and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the use of our gifts, then through the power of God we will be able to do great things for the kingdom of God.

May we each play our role well – both by seeking the Holy Spirit and by faithfully serving God with the gifts we have been blessed with.  May we each be kingdom builders today.


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Faithful

Reading: Isaiah 49: 5-7

The servant realizes that God has called him to a role.  Although initially unsure of himself, the servant has come to understand that if God has called him, then God will insure success.  The servant says, “I am honored in the eyes of my Lord”.  In essence, if God has chosen me, then I am up to the task.  Then he goes on to acknowledge that God is his strength.  He recognizes that God has carried him through before and will certainly do so again and again.  The servant is embracing his role as a child of God.

God’s response to the servant’s faith?  Oh no – it is “too small a thing” to just bring salvation and restoration to Israel.  Oh no, the faithful servant will bring salvation and restoration to all people.  The servant will not only be a light to the Jews but to the Gentiles as well.  God’s response to the faithful servant?  God rewards the faith with expanded blessings and an expanded role.  This idea of he who does much with what he has been given will be given more is also found in the parable of the talents.  The servant who works five into ten talents is given even more by his master in turn for his faithful service.  God blesses those who are faithful servants.

So it is with the servant in Isaiah and so it is with us.  It is only when we are willing to trust God that God can and will reward our trust.  When we do trust and step out in faith, we are blessed to see God at work in our lives and in the world.  This allows us to step out quicker and further the next time.  The passage today ends with, “the Lord is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who had chosen you”.  May we be strong in our faith, trusting the Holy One who had chosen each of us.  God is faithful.  May we be so as well.


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Generous Living

Reading: Luke 16: 1-9

In today’s passage a manager is fired for poor job performance.  He has mismanaged the owner’s resources.  We do not know if he is incompetent or lazy as well, but we do know he is somehow being dishonest and is wasting the owner’s resources.  The shrewd manner in which he then acts would maybe rule out incompetent.  In a handful of quick transactions, he not only shores up his future, he also gains commendation from the owner.

If we are honest, there are times we too waste the company’s resources.  There are times when we check our Facebook or when we text back and forth solidifying our weekend plans or update our fantasy football lineup at work.  And there are other times when our mind simply drifts for a few minutes.  Some days we would really like to just lay our heads down on our desk and take a little nap.  If the boss notices these types of things a few times, we too could find ourselves unemployed.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to offer our best effort in all we do.  We are called to work joyously in all of our labors – to work as if we were working for the Lord.  Always putting in a good days effort is a witness to our faith.  It is about respect for others and being personally responsible.

Personal responsibility forms us another way as well.  In the parable Jesus offers advice on the use of our resources.  He says to be generous with our money – it will gain us friends.  This idea also extends to our time and talents.  We should be generous with these as well.  When we share what God has blessed us with to help others, we are building up a treasure in heaven as well.  Generous living is a blessing all around.


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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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“Crazy” Promises?

Reading: Genesis 15: 1-18

In Genesis 15 we hear one of God’s “crazy” promises.  He again tells Abram that he will have an heir after all these long years.  You see, Abram had heard this promise before – first at age 75 when God also told him to move to a foreign land and again years later after Abram had moved to Canaan.  At age 99, almost 25 years after first hearing the promise, God tells Abram that is will soon occur.  God renames him Abraham and at 100 an heir is borne to him by his wife Sarah.  It is true that 100 then is not what 100 is now – his father Terah lived to 205 after all.  Abraham remained faithful to God’s promise and, in the end, the promise came true.  This should not surprise us – it is God making the promise.

I imagine it was hard for Abraham to wait all of those years without doubting, without starting to question the promise.  At least a little.  In my times of uncertainty, it can be really hard to keep faithful and to fully trust in God.  It can be all to easy to worry and fret and to become lost in the midst of the uncertainty.  It can be hard to remember His promise to us: “I will never leave you, I will never forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Yet this ancient promise still rings true for each of us.  In faith we can face whatever uncertainty we may have.  Maybe life seems to be heading in a direction like Abraham’s.  The questions of “Do what?” and “Now?” may be ringing loudly in our heads.  But quietly, underneath these noises, is the quiet and sure voice of God.  It is steady and unchanging.  He reminds us that He created us just as He intended so that we could fulfill just the purpose He has for our lives.  The road may be rocky at times and fear may rise up from the uncertainty, but God has it.  He will carry us when we need carried; He will strengthen us when we falter.  He reminds us that He has given us the skills and talents for the task at hand.  In faith, we step forward into God’s plans, fully knowing He is in control.