pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Actions of Faith

Reading: Hebrews 11: 8-16

Verse 8: “By faith Abraham, when called to go… obeyed and went”.

Within chapter eleven, the “Hall of Fame” of faith, we find many examples of those who demonstrated great faith. Our section today is focused on Abraham. As a younger man, while still known as Abram, he moved with his father to Haran. They settled there and began to establish themselves. Then, in Genesis 12, Abram receives a call from God to move to a new and unknown land. God promises Abram that he will become “a great nation” and then, a handful of chapters later, God promises him that he will have descendants as numerous as the sand on the shore who will one day be given the Promised Land. In faith Abraham responded to God’s initial call and moved his family, slaves, livestock… to this unknown land. They were strangers and foreigners living in tents. God too was faithful. The promises and covenants came and were fulfilled. Abraham and Sarah had many children and they became established in the new land.

We too will hear God’s call. We too will wrestle with some of the calls – especially those that lead us away from the familiar and comfortable. For most of us, the call is not to pack up all we own and to follow God’s lead to a new home. For a few it is their call. Most of us experience a call that is much more local. Our calls are to help the family down the street, to befriend that lonely soul, to take the time to listen and to be present to the one that is hurting, to serve at church as a teacher or on a team or committee, to tutor that student struggling in school… God calls us in many different ways and to a wide variety of service. No matter the call, our willingness to step out and to follow where God leads demonstrates our faith. To listen and then to obey, to trust and then to step out in faith – these are the actions of faith. May these be our actions today and throughout our journey of faith.

Prayer: Lord God, each day you offer opportunities for me to step out and to step up. Give me a willing and obedient heart. Amen.

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Willing?

Reading: Acts 8: 26-40

Verse 34: “The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else'”?

There are three active characters in our passage today. The three are Philip, the eunuch, and the Holy Spirit. As followers of Christ, the Holy Spirit is an active part of our lives, just as it was with both Philip and the eunuch. Sometimes in our lives we are like Philip and like the eunuch is the other. At other times we are like the eunuch and the role of Philip is played by a teacher or a mentor or other more mature Christian. In either case, the work of God hinges on our willingness.

The first level of willingness comes from within and asks, ‘How willing are you to listen to and to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit’? We all hear the voice and feel the nudges. Do we demonstrate a willingness to follow whatever or wherever the Spirit leads? In this, we can be the teacher or we can be the seeker, the one serving or the one in need.

When we are the seeker, like the Ethiopian eunuch in today’s passage, are we willing to say, “Tell me please?” when we have questions or doubts or curiosity? At times we too need another to help us along on our faith journey or on our walk through the dark valley. We must be willing to receive when that is our need in life.

Sometimes we are approached by or encounter the seeker or the one in need. When we sense the Holy Spirit leading us to the other, like Philip was, are we willing to take the time and to take the risk to give of ourselves? We may not think we gave the knowledge or the skills or the… for the situation, but we can trust that with the Holy Spirit’s power and presence, we will. When we are willing, God will provide the words or the way or whatever else we need to help another grow closer to Christ.

This day God will provide opportunity. It may be for us to grow in our faith, it may be for us to help another grow in their faith, or it might just do both. May we be willing servants today. Amen.


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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.


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Bringing Christ 

Reading: Colossians 1: 24-28

One of the reasons Christ became flesh was to be like one of us.  Jesus Christ walked the earth in a human body and set for us an example of how we are to live.  Once we come to the point of accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, then His Spirit comes to dwell in our fleshy bodies.  With the indwelling of Christ in us we know the hope of our eternity.  We know that once Christ dwells in us and lives in us, that one day we too will experience resurrection and will rejoice in the hope of eternal life in the heavens.  This is wonderful news for all believers.

Paul also writes of suffering.  He rejoices in what he has suffered in order to continue advancing the gospel.  Paul is always ready to suffer for others.  He is so willing to do so because Jesus Christ first suffered for him.  Through the ultimate suffering on the cross, Jesus provided the path to our hope of glory, to eternal life.

Once we come to have Christ in us and to live our lives in Christ, we begin to take on and then seek to emulate all aspects of Christ.  Suffering is one aspect of Christ that we, like Paul, are called to take on.  As His followers we too must be committed to suffering as Christ suffered.  It is a willingness to both suffer for and to suffer with those who suffer.  It is a willingness to have less so that another may have some.  It is a willingness to enter into relationships with those who suffer and to walk alongside them to alleviate some of the suffering.  It is a willingness to give one of the things we hold most dear: time.

In willingly offering ourselves in suffering for another, we bring Christ himself to those most in need.  As Paul wrote, we share Christ so that “we may present everyone perfect in Christ”.  It is living out our great commission to bring all people in all nations to kneel at the foot of the cross.  This day and each day may we embrace each opportunity God brings to suffer as Christ suffered, all for the building of the kingdom and all for the glory of God.


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For His Glory

Reading: Acts 1: 1-11

All too often we are like the disciples.  Jesus tells them that they will soon receive the Holy Spirit.  He has taught and built them up so that they can carry on His work as they go out to share the good news and to build the church.  He has told them that it is better that He goes so that the Holy Spirit can come.  It is now their moment to shine.  And they ask if now is the time He will restore the kingdom of Israel.  I can just see Jesus’ head drop and His shoulders slump as He let’s out a long sigh.

We too have the promise of the Spirit dwelling in us.  Once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior then the Holy Spirit enters our heart and seeks to lead and guide us.  We are reminded in scripture that the Spirit will give us what we need, the words to say, the thoughts to share.  We are told that God will never put us in a situation we cannot handle and that He will never give us more than we can bear.  Yet we don’t always live into these things.  We too ask, “God, won’t you just do this for me?”

We cannot expect the kingdom to grow if we are not willing to be co-laborers with God.  We cannot begin by pursuing our own agenda, hoping that God will join us somewhere along the way.  Our God is a big God and can alter our life anytime He wants to bend us to His will.  But that is not how He operates.  He desires our love, our obedience, our willingness to serve.  It is when we offer all of these and when we prayerfully seek His lead that we can make the greatest impact for His kingdom.  Each day we must strive to offer our all to God.  Each day we must hand all control over to Him.  It is then that we begin to live for His glory.


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The Building

The temple that King Harod built was massive and impressive.  It was thought to be indestructible.  So when Jesus told Peter, James, John, and Andrew that not one stone would be left on another, it would’ve been hard for them to imagine that.  He would later get a bigger reaction when He referenced destroying the temple.

As churches I think we too sometimes view our buildings this way.  The building is a wonderful place to gather for worhsip, to feed people, to teach people…  For some they dream of a new, bigger, better building.  Yet in any case it is just a building, something physical.

The heart and soul of the church is the people that make up that body of Christ and what they do for Christ.  A congregation of 1,000 can be dead and one of 20 can be on fire for Christ.  Size does not matter.  What does is a body’s willingness to go where Christ leads, to engage and minister to who He brings to that body called the church.

Frederick Buechner once suggested we do away with buildings, bulletins, and budgets.  He thought all that would be left was Jesus and the people.  It is an interesting thought and he well may be right.  But we do need a place to call home and a place to minister FROM as we go out into the world.  Plus we must always remember whose house it is!

Scripture reference: Mark 13: 1-8