pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Filled to be Emptied

Jesus calls us to believe in the light so that we can become the light ourselves.  Darkness is powerful – only the light can overcome it.  After teaching the people all day, Jesus takes some time in solitude to pray.  It is a hard week ahead.  Even the Son of God needs to spend time alone with God in order to face what lies ahead.

Psalm 71 begins with the encouragement to take refuge in God.  In the midst of the trial and adversaries that surround all around the psalmist, they seek refuge, protection, and safety in time alone with God.  There is the admission that we cannot manage on our own but need time alone with God to find the strength and the ability to face the day or week ahead.

In both of these cases and in our case too our enemies pursue us.  The messages of the world shout out things to chase after and interests to develop that are not the things of God.  These things and people in our lives will challenge our faith.  And like Jesus and the psalmist, we too must take time alone with God.

Today, where will you find the time to be alone with God?  Where will you go to hide from the world as you seek help, protection, and love from God?  It is important to make sure we are full of His presence before we go out into the world to be the light and love that dispels darkness and fills it with Christ’s presence.  After being filled up, go out and give it away.

Scripture references: Psalm 71: 1-14 and John 12: 20-36


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How Vast and Wide

Yesterday the people hailed Jesus as He entered Jerusalem.  People laid down their coats, waved palm branches, and shouted exultations.  To the general observer it was quite a parade!  But Jesus did not toss candy to the crowd as He rode along.  Tears stained His face and sadness consumed Him.  He knew many present would not accept Him as the Messiah and some would even be in the crowd that shouted, “Crucify him!”

Jesus’ first action after the triumphal entry was to go to the temple.  But He goes not to worship or to teach but to purge the temple.  He drives out the people who have turned the “house of prayer” into a “den of robbers.”

As we begin our Holy Week journey may we look to our hearts, the temple of our bodies.  May we seek out that which is impure and drive it from our hearts.  This week may we become a “house of prayer.”

Today, as we wrestle with this, may we also celebrate God’s vast love.  In many psalms we find great words to use as prayers.  In Psalm 36 we are reminded that His love “reaches to the heavens” and that His faithfulness “stretches to the skies.”  And we hear in verse seven, “How priceless is your unfailing love.”

He cleared the temple to make it pure.  As we wrestle with what we find in the corners of our hearts, may we be strengthened by this great and vast love and faithfulness.  As we purge what keeps us at a distance from Jesus, let our spirits remember how much He loves us.  Let us be filled with that vast love and faithfulness this week.

Scripture reference: Psalm 36: 5-11


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Blessed Is He

“Hosanna in the highest!”  He who saves comes today in a parade.  We celebrate Palm Sunday for the same reason we celebrate Christmas: it is a significant event.  Jesus was born with one purpose: to show us the way, the truth, and the life.

The celebration and words we say today remind us of this.  People were cheering for a king that day.  Jesus is a king.  He just as not the kind of king people along the parade route were seeking.  They sought the only kind of king they knew.  They sought a king like King David, someone to lead them out of Roman oppression.

As our King, we know that Jesus leads us out of oppression.  On the cross he freed us from sin and death.  Because of the eternal life He offers, sin and death no longer have power over our lives.  Jesus also calls us to be agents who end oppression.  He calls us to help the weak, to care for those trapped by need, and to triumph justice.

“Hosanna in the highest!”  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Jesus is indeed mighty to save.  Today we celebrate this idea.  Then we go forth to bless others as we serve in the name of the only one who can save: Jesus Christ.

Scripture reference: Psalm 118: 26-29 and Luke 11: 8-10


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The Parade

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday.  Many children in many churches will parade into places of worship waving palm branches and singing songs.  It will be festive.  It will be joyful.  It will be like a good parade.

Parades usually accompany a special holiday or a special event.  It can range from a holiday like St. Patrick’s Day to an event like winning a big championship.  Parades are a celebration of something or someone.  The folks along the route cheer, encourage, and support those in the parade.  The folks in the parade wave, smile, thank people for coming, and maybe pass out candy.

On that first Palm Sunday, there certainly was a parade, although it was kind of an accidental parade.  The Jewish people were gathered to celebrate the Passover, a remembrance of great significance in the Jewish faith.  The spontaneous parade that broke out was for this prophet Jesus.  He too was born and raised a Jew so many in the crowd would assume He was also coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  And partly He was.  Even the disciples and followers who went along with Jesus did not really know what was about to unfold in the week ahead.

As Jesus rode along He must have smiled and waved to the crowd – you know, the parade wave.  Upon entering the city He went to the temple.  He took it all in and then went out to Bethany for the night.  He would return to the temple the next day, but, for now, He was just observing.

For us, Palm Sunday is a little like that.  We see and observe but know what is coming too.  Tomorrow may we celebrate with Jesus, the King.  May we be a part of the parade and may we celebrate His willingness to walk into the week ahead.

Scripture reference: Mark 11: 8-11 and 15-18


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It Narrows

“Jesus arrives on the scene disinclined to greatness but inclined to goodness.”  This line really stood out in one of the devotionals I read this morning.  Just a bit earlier in Mark, Jesus referred to himself as “Lord.”  But His definition of ‘Lord’ is a bit different that the people He will encounter as they enter Jerusalem.

The excited people gathered for the Passover with shout “Hosanna!” and declare him ‘Lord’ and will call in the kingdom of David as Jesus arrives.  Hosanna means ‘Save!” – they had such high expectations for Jesus.  They were ready to anoint Him.  Riding in on a donkey probably wasn’t what most had imagined for the day a king would return to save Israel.  The crowd was so charged that Jesus could have been easily lured in.  But He was not.  As He slowly progressed His mind remained resolutely focused on the cross.  He could have chosen greatness but instead He chose to be the good servant.

Jesus’ life was never about power or status or accolades.  His life was always about service and the offering of self for others.  To follow Him is to do as He did.  It is hard.  Remember, when the teachings got really tough and the road narrowed, then the crowds thinned and the followers fell away.  His teachings were challenging and required a cost or sacrifice – most often to self, to status, or to possessions.  In Jesus’ economy the things of value are love, mercy, justice.

In the week ahead, as we enter Holy Week, the road gets really narrow.  It will take a bit to walk through the week ahead with Christ.  This Lenten season of self-denial and introspection makes us ask some hard questions.  He is calling us to read the Word, to feel the tug of the emotions, to be a part of His Holy Week.  Happy trails!

Scripture reference: Mark 11: 4-7


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Lord of All

In the book of Mark, Jesus is most often referred to as “teacher.”  Mark used “Messiah” once and “Son of Man” a couple of times.  In encounters with demons, Mark tells us they called Jesus “the Holy One of God.”

Jesus adds a new name himself when he tells the two disciples to go and retrieve the colt.  He instructs any who ask to tell them, “The Lord needs it.”  In the language of the day this term was reserved for royalty and divinity.  As in Caesar and God.  As His final week drew near, Jesus was adding a new and important definition to who He is: divine presence.  In several places Jesus uses the term “Lord” to refer to God.  Now He is applying it to himself.

This claim implies more for His followers.  It draws a new level of commitment and attachment.  Believing in Jesus as a good teacher was easy.  All who heard Him speak were amazed and He seemed to draw knowledge from a higher source.  And the healings!  These pointed to something special about this Jesus.

When we claim Jesus as Lord there is something more to it than there was before.  But to simply call Jesus ‘Lord’ feels incomplete.  It really needs to be “Lord of my life.”  As in all of me.  As in over all of my life.  It is not a partial commitment.  Jesus did not go half way to the cross.  Nor does He expect us to go half way in following Him.  To call Jesus “Lord” offers our total being to Him.  What do you call Jesus?

Scripture reference: Mark 11: 1-3


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In the Name

The scripture “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” comes in Psalm 118.  At the time it was written it surely represented an actual person.  In the Gospels, this person was seen as Jesus.  This interpretation fits with the psalm as Jesus was delivered from death by God and He certainly brought and brings the good news through His resurrection.

The “one” can also mean another.  It can be you or me.  The language of the psalm is open enough that it anyone who has survived a trial via God’s mercy and strength could find their own story in the psalm.  It is so true that we are blessed when we come in the name of the Lord and lay our burdens at His feet.

We can also be the ‘one’ in another manner.  It can be us who bring the good news brought in the psalm.  Through us, His light can shine.  We can bring the story of Christ and his righteousness to others through our witness.  We can praise His name and declare all the ways we are thankful for His love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Verse 29 declares, “You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.”  We can do this on Sunday as we worship and offer our thanksgiving for our blessings and for His presence in our lives.  We can also do this on Thursdays, Mondays, Saturdays, Wednesdays, … as we live out our lives as an example of one who comes in the name of the Lord.

Scripture reference: Psalm 118: 1-2 and 25-29