pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Live and Love Like Jesus

Reading: Philippians 3:17-4:1

Verse 17: “Join with others in following my example… live according to the pattern we gave you”.

Paul is writing to the church in Philippi. In our passage today he is encouraging them to keep in mind the eternal prize. In verses 12-14 Paul wrote of “straining toward what is ahead” and “to win the prize” that he has been called “heavenward”. This is the big picture, the end game, of our faith. Yet we also live in the day to day. Leading into our passage for today, Paul writes, “Only let us live up to what we already have obtained”. Let us live daily in a way that reveals our salvation and hope that we have found in Jesus Christ.

From this point Paul jumps off into today’s passage. He opens up with this encouragement: “Join with others in following my example… live according to the pattern we gave you”. Since his encounter with Jesus Christ, Paul has led a life of total devotion to Jesus. Paul has and will endured much suffering and pain for the cause of Christ. This is part of what Paul is calling the Philippians to. Once Paul became a follower of Jesus he dedicated his entire life to helping others know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There was often opposition to Paul and what he was teaching. During his ministry he was beaten, stoned, arrested, whipped, and shipwrecked. He lived at times in poverty. None of this mattered: he would always continue with the same passion and conviction no matter what was done to him, no matter what he had to endure. Paul was truly a servant of the cross. His call to follow his example is second only to following Jesus’ example.

In the “Disciplines” devotional that I read this morning, the author calls this a “vulnerable love”. This is such an awesome description of the love that Jesus lived out and that Paul imitated. It is a love for Christ and for our brothers and sisters that is so deep that it makes us vulnerable. We love so fully and completely that we open ourselves up to pain and suffering for Christ and for the other. It is how Christ loved.

Paul concludes with the ‘why’ we are called to love in this extravagant way: “Our citizenship is in heaven”. The things of this world that others choose does not matter because “their destiny is destruction”. He goes on to remind the Philippians and us that we “await a Savior from there [heaven]”, one who will “transform our lowly bodies so that we will be like His glorious body”. What a day it will be! Until that day may we live and love like Jesus.

Prayer: Lord may the love I have for you and for my fellow human beings be extravagant, willing, vulnerable, generous, and all else that your love was and is. Amen.

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For Others

Reading: Isaiah 61: 1-4

Verse Three: “…to bestow on them a crown of beauty… oil of gladness… a garment of praise…”

The opening lines to Isaiah 61 are a clear call to love all of our neighbors.  These are the words that Jesus read after He came out of the time of testing in the wilderness.  As He stood in the temple, these words from Isaiah 61:1-2 were used as the announcement for what He had come to do.  As Jesus’ ministry unfolds, it becomes clear that these things are what His disciples and all who will follow Him are called to do as well.  There is much joy in proclaiming these words as Jesus did and claiming our role to follow in His footsteps.

During this Christmas season, the children have risen to a new level of awareness in my heart.  Perhaps it is because these are the ones who often have the least and who are most vulnerable.  Whether it is buying gifts for an “Angel Tree” child or assembling a “Christmas ShoeBox” for one in need, it makes a difference.  Whether it is ringing the Salvation Army bell for an hour or two or helping to assemble a holiday food basket for a needy child’s family, it makes a difference.These are but a few of the ways that we, as followers of Jesus Christ, can help a child or their family to feel loved this holiday season.  In doing so, we will “bestow on them a crown of beauty… oil of gladness… a garment of praise…”

May we each find ways to do for others this Christmas season.  Whether big or small, it all makes a positive difference.  May we bless the children with God’s love this Christmas season!


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Truly the Family

Usually we read the story of the sheep and the goats from the perspective of the sheep and the goats.  We think Jesus is talking to us as we mentally note which poor person we may have helped or what orphan or widow we may have visited.  And often I think we ponder the missed opportunities and wonder if we are doing enough to be a sheep.  No one wants to be a goat.

But what if we read this parable from the other side – what if we are the opportunity?  What if we are the ones that others are sheep and goats to?  In this case I’d rather meet a sheep than a goat.  In need, I’d take sheep hands down.

Yet many people would not.  They would rather cross a goat when they are in need because some people just do not accept help well.  For some it is pride, for some a deep rooted individualism.  But this limits our community.  And it is important to minister to each other.  This builds up the bonds of faith and strengthens our fellowship as children of God.  At times, we must all allow others to see our inner self and to know our vulnerable spots if we are to truly be the family of God.

Scripture reference: Matthew 25: 31-46


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Even in the Wilderness

After Jesus hears of the death of John the Baptist, He withdraws by boat to a solitary place.  But the people follow Him out into the wilderness.  They are seeking.  As they come to Him, Jesus is filled with compassion and heals many.  At the end of the day, out in the wilderness, some of the people find hope and love.

Out in the wilderness, as night begins to settle in, many are vulnerable.  They all have a basic need for food.  Once again (but after an interesting exchange with the disciples!), Jesus feels compassion for the people.  Again He responds out of love.  The people are seated and, from little, 5000 men plus the women and children all eat their fill.  In the wilderness the people encounter a loving God who meets their need not just with what satisfied but with abundance.

At times we to are in the wilderness.  In these times we often feel alone and vulnerable.  And Jesus comes to us too.  In His compassion and love we find healing and comfort for our souls.  In His presence our strength is renewed.  As He walks with us, our wilderness begins to fade.  We come to know that no matter where we are, His love and compassion will always help us through.  His mercies are new every morning and His love never fails!

Scripture reference: Matthew 14: 13-21