pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Be a Blessing

Reading: Genesis 12: 1-4a

Verse 3: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you”.

Abram pulls up stakes and heads off to see where God wants him to call home. Doing so he demonstrates great obedience and a deep trust in God. He goes with the promises to be made into a great nation and to be blessed. Abram is one of many characters in the Bible that step out of their norm and often out of their comfort zone simply because God called them to do so. It was not easy for one of them. Even though the story is full of these faithful and obedient men and women, I am sure there were also at least as many that refused, ignored, denied, ran from… the call. How am I so sure? I have but to look at my own life to realize how easy it is to fail at being faithful and obedient all the time. Often the bigger the step of faith, the more hesitant or reluctant I am to take the step.

Abram was 75 when he left home and headed for Canaan. He took what he had – his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions and people “accumulated in Haran”. Before departing God’s last words to Abram were these: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you”. Abram was not just going to be a blessing to his family or even to those in the land that he was going to inherit. The blessing was going to be for all peoples. Right there, in Matthew 1:1 and 1:2, Abram’s name begins to geneology of Jesus. The father of many nations is also in the family tree of Jesus, the Christ. In verse sixteen the list ends with Jesus. But the list does not end there. The list of those in the family of God continues to grow even this day. Listed right there as a brother or sister of Jesus is your name and my name. We are adopted in, but we are still family in God’s eyes. Because of this truth, we are indeed very blessed.

We are also connected to Abram in another way. Because we are blessed we too are called to be a blessing to others. It may be in the form of a small act of kindness today. It may be to walk through the valley with someone. It may be to share Jesus Christ with them. There are many ways to be a blessing. Each day may we seek to be a blessing to others.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for the opportunities that you will bring my way today. I know they’ll be there – you provide them every day. Help me this day to be more faithful and more obedient, serving others as I serve you. Amen.


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Push Us

Reading: Acts 10: 34-43

Verses 34-35: “God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right”.

In our passage today, Peter reveals a heart that has witnessed the widening of God’s circle. Early on in his days following Jesus he was more focused on the chosen people, the Jews. Even though Peter was present when many Samaritans came to believe in Jesus after he spoke to the women at the well, his circle was still small. In Acts 10, Peter has a vision and a powerful moment that leads him to say, “God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right”. In this experience God will even challenge Peter’s notion of what is right. (In the reminder of chapter ten the Holy Spirit comes upon the Gentiles before they are baptized – not the “normal” order!)

Peter’s mind and, more importantly, his heart were changed when he allowed himself to be open to God’s voice in the visions and when he followed where God led. Once in a position to do so, Peter shared the good news with his Gentile audience. As God opened up Peter’s circle he came to understand what Jesus really meant by “go and make disciples of all people”. This would not have been possible if Peter was not willing to consider that God might just be doing a new thing in and through him. If Peter stayed stuck in his old understanding of God’s love, he would never have encountered Cornelius and family.

This leads me to wonder: when have I tried to stay in my comfort zone, avoiding the new thing that God is trying to do? When have I been hesitant to see how God is moving and opening up the path to faith to someone I do not think is worthy or ready or acceptable? Sometimes what I have understood previously has been the thing that kept me within my own little circle. At other times my stereotypes and preconceived ideas have been my barrier.

God pushed Peter to new people and to a new understanding of just how big God’s love is. It happened because Peter allowed himself to be pushed. May we each allow God to push us today.

Prayer: Loving Father, your love knows no bounds, does it? You see one and all as worthy of your love. Who and what they are or have been does not matter to you. A heart turned towards you is simply the starting point for us all. Help me today to better be your love in the world. Make my love a love for one and all, Lord. Allow me to follow closer. Amen.


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Follow

Reading: Mark 8: 31-38

Verse 34: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”.

It must have been hard for Peter and the other disciples to hear what Jesus was saying. They have been following this man who is the Messiah. He has healed every disease and illness, He has taught with power and authority, He has established himself as God’s Son in their eyes. And now He is telling them that He will soon be killed. This leads Peter to challenge the plan that Jesus has just laid out. No, there must be another option Jesus.

It is hard for us to always hear what the Holy Spirit is saying. We are cruising through life and our faith seems just fine. We believe in Jesus, we read and study our Bible, we pray at least a couple times a day. Things are good. Then the Holy Spirit whispers to our heart, it tries to nudge our hands and feet into action. We recoil a bit at the thought of stepping out of our routine, out of our comfort zone. We think, no, Holy Spirit there must be another way, another person to meet this need.

Jesus called the disciples and the crowd to Himself. He calls us to hear these words too: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”. If we are to follow Jesus, we must begin by denying self. That means that we subvert our pride and ego and selfishness and our wants and all else to Jesus. He must sit alone on the throne of our hearts. Then we must take up our own cross. This means that we put to death the desires of the flesh and that we are willing to pay the price for another. Just as Jesus did, we do not count the cost. When our souls are in this place, then we are ready to follow, to walk as Jesus walked, loving those who need loved. More than just reading or hearing these words, we need to live them out too.

Holy Spirit, blow into my heart today. Shoo out all of my selfish desires and ways. Rid me of all that prevents me from dying to self. Help me to pick up my cross and to hold it tightly as I seek to love and live like Jesus did. May I follow my Lord and Savior closely today. Amen.


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Talents to Work

Reading: Matthew 25: 14-30

Verse 25: “So I was afraid and went and hid your talent in the ground”.

Fear motivates at least the third slave.  He is fearful of losing the master’s money so he goes and buries it in the ground.  At least when the master returns he can give him what is his.  He is playing it safe.  He knows the master is harsh, so he avoids taking a risk.  When the master returns he punishes the third slave for playing it too safe.  The one talent he has is taken and given to the one with ten talents.  The third slave is thrown out into the darkness.

As Christians, does God expect us to take chances, to do some risky things for our faith?  I think He does.  At a minimum we are called to live out our faith.  In the simple way we live our lives, we should be sharing our faith with others.  This takes risks.  To offer fellowship to that co-worker who always seems to be alone takes on the risk of rejection.  To offer grace and forgiveness to that classmate who always wants to be first, usually hurting others to get there, takes on the risk of being hurt again.  To ask that person who seems to be in a rough spots takes on the risk of involvement and possibly relationship.  And these are just a few small risks that God expects us to take as ones who try and follow Christ’s example.  Each act, as a small seed planted, will one day bear fruit for the kingdom.

I believe God is also calling us to more than simply living out our faith.  God creates each of us uniquely, with special talents inside each of us.  Some are teachers, some are preachers, some are evangelists, …  God expects us to take these talents and to put these to work as well.  It usually involves stepping out of our comfort zones the first time or two.  Yet as we live into the call of God on our lives, we begin to see these actions bearing fruit as well.  God desires to be at work in and through us, allowing the light and love of Jesus to go forth into the world, bearing a crop 30, 60, or 100 times what was sown.  In both the small ways and in the big ways, may we each seek to use the talents that God has given us to build the kingdom here on earth.


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Come and Follow

Reading: Matthew 16: 21-28

Verse 24: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Jesus was quite the radical in His day.  He called a group of men to be His disciples not from within the elite of the pre-Rabbi schools but out of ordinary life.  He did not spend all of His time in the temple but was out in the towns and villages eating and teaching the sinners and the lost.  Jesus did not simply read the scriptures and proclaim the word, but He also rolled up His sleeves and served others as a mean to show them God’s love.  He lived this way so that we would know what it looked like to live as a Christian.

In today’s passage we hear these words: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”.  The first step is to deny self.  Society teaches us to first look out for #1, but Jesus says to put self last.  Jesus loved God with all He was and then next loved all of His neighbors more than He loved Himself.  He first sought to serve God and neighbor and only then did He consider His own needs.  In doing so, Jesus met people’s basic needs, sought equality for all, showed love and forgiveness and compassion, and lived a humble and simple life.

The next part involves taking up our cross.  On the cross of Calvary, Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice.  When Jesus calls us to take up our cross, He is asking us to die to self, to be willing to live with less so that others may have some, and to be a servant to all.

And then He says, “Follow me”.  Jesus calls us to do what He did, to follow His example.  Get out there into the ordinary of life – get outside the walls of the temple and our homes and our comfort zones.  Spend time with the lost – the sinners and the atheists and the non-believers.  Eat with them, talk with them, share Jesus with them.  Find ways to serve others, to meet people’s basic needs, to lift them up, and to bring them hope and justice.  In all this, we follow the One who lived God’s love out loud.  May we come and follow, showing the light and love of Christ to all for the glory of God.


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Comfort Zones

Reading: Acts 9: 10-20

Comfort is something we all like.  Life seems to be at its best when we are in our ‘comfort zone’.  We are there when we are surrounded with the familiar.  While this can vary greatly from one person to another – one person’s paradise may look very different from another’s – each of us craves routine and known.  We like patterns and to be in control.  So when God asks us to step outside of our comfort zones, our minds naturally go to excuses.

Such was the case with Ananias in Damascus.  Life seems to be sailing along and his faith appears to be solid.  This resonates with us – when life and faith are good, all is well.  Then out of the blue, at least for Ananias, God asks him to go and see Saul.  Immediately the reports of Saul persecuting and killing Christians floods Ananias’ mind.  It is the ‘but’ we often come up with too when God is asking us to step out of our comfort zones.

Ananias is comfortable enough in his relationship with God to question this nudge.  And God is comfortable enough with Ananias to repeat the instruction, this time with a little more detail.  So he obeys and makes his way to Straight Street.  It was probably a slow and hard walk filled with questions, doubts, and fear.  But Ananias was faithful and was blessed to heal Saul’s vision and to baptize him into Jesus Christ.

God wants to work in and through our lives as well.  Just as Ananias did, we too are called to step out of our comfort zones and to trust in God.  At times we all feel this nudge, the Spirit’s leading.  If we are willing to lay aside out ‘but’ and to walk alongside God, we too will be blessed, maybe even experiencing the miracle of God working in another person’s life.  May we step outside of our comfort zones when called so that through us, God can bless another today.