pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Each Day

Reading: Revelation 1: 4-8

Part of our experience of Holy Week was the grief of knowing that Jesus had to die for our sins.  There is a personal connection for each of us to Jesus’ act on the cross.  He not only died for the people’s sins who were living in His time, but for all sin of all people in all time.  We are included, we have a share in the cross.  Through the cross, we also have hope.

In the book of Revelation, John again reminds us that Jesus will come again.  He writes, “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”.  There is not a doubt that one day Jesus will return.  The day is known only to God.  So in the interim God brings us peace.  He removes the guilt of our sin so that we may ever be kneeling at the foot of the cross with our eyes turned to Jesus, the light and love of the world.

John also reminds us that Jesus too offers us grace and peace each day.  Because if His love for us, He frees us from our captivity to sin.  Jesus calls us out of this life to a life lived in His grace and peace.  He calls us into living an abundant life now, serving as priests working to build His kingdom here on earth.

To do so we must cast aside the disobedience that is within and strive to live the true life of faith that brings purpose to our days.  Jesus said, ” I am the alpha and the omega, who was, and is, and is to come “.  He is the beginning and the end and He is everlasting.  For each of us to find God’s renewing grace each day and for us to have true life now, we must live with Jesus as Lord and Savior at the beginning of each day, at the end of each day, and at all times in between.  May it be so.


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Open, Loving, Welcoming

Reading: Revelation 1: 4-8

At times our churches and faith can be private or exclusive is one is not already a member.  Sometimes we do this by using insider language or by expecting guests or seekers to know how we do things or to look and behave just like we do.  Although most churches genuinely work at and desire to be welcoming and inviting, sometimes we are not.  In the same way, most Christians know Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations; we just do not live with this as our primary focus.  We inadvertently put up barriers or fences that in essence keep non-believers and the unchurched outside of our institutions.  On a personal level, we can judge or choose to keep separate from those we see as sinners and unsaved.

If we are truly living as a witness to the love of Christ, we will seek to be more inclusive and inviting and will work to be less judgmental and isolated.  Jesus’ radar was always on.  He was so sensitive to the needs He sensed in people.  Jesus did not allow social or cultural or any other norms to tell Him how to deal with someone.  He simply recognized what they needed and what He could offer and acted accordingly.  Jesus seemed to be friend to all as relationship was the basis of His ministry.  The forming of a relationship so often allowed Him to share Himself to meet their need.

Just as Jesus sought first and foremost to be welcoming and to quickly enter into relationships, so must we as His disciples and as His church.  People need Jesus, not our religion or our churches.  He is who or what we offer.  It is through faith and in the church that people come to know Jesus.  We all need to know His love and the saving grace offered by His blood.  To begin to know Jesus, one must experience Jesus in the love and witness of His followers.  This is what we have to offer.

As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we are privileged to live in His love as we enjoy a personal relationship with the savior of the world.  This relationship is something we are called to share with others.  Our opportunity may come within the walls of the church; it may come out there in the world.  May we be as open, loving, and welcoming as Jesus was as we seek to live as His witness in and through our lives.


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Praise

Reading: Psalm 150

Psalm 150 is the last Psalm.  It concludes the fifth ‘book’ within the larger book of Psalms.  But unlike the other four books, it does not end with a conclusion.  All of the other books in Psalms, and most other books in the Bible, have a definite conclusion to them.  Most often it is the word “Amen” and it usually functions much like ‘The End’ does in a novel or movie.

Psalm 150 ends with two sentences that invite a continuation of the action instead.  Verse 6 reads, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord”.  The invitation to praise is not limited either.  It does not say Israel or even human beings but ‘everything’.  As the bird lifts up its song one can certainly find praise in that.  As the cat purrs in response to affection one can feel love and bring God praise.  If one is open to a broad definition of breath, one can connect to God in the gentle breeze on a hot summer day or in the stream gently bubbling along.  From the beauty and awe of nature we often bring praise to God.

So why does God, through the psalmist, close with an open-ended invitation to continue to praise the Lord?  On the large, upper level it is just one more example of the Bible as the living Word of God, always active and moving.  On the more personal level, it is God asking each of us to live a life of praise.  God desires for our verbal praise to be not only daily but frequent within our days.  It is our grateful response to His many blessings.  But it is also more than words.  God desires for our actions to bring Him praise as well.  How we love and care for and treat others, both our friends and family as well as the enemy or stranger, should bring praise to God.  May He so shine in our lives that all we do and say brings praise to the Lord!


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Worship

Reading: Psalm 150

The Psalm calls upon us to “Praise the Lord” in many ways.  First, we are to praise Him with our voice – to shout or lift up our praises to God.  The psalmist also calls upon us to make music to God using all kinds of instruments: trumpets, lyres, harps, tambourines, flutes, strings, cymbals.  And lastly, the psalmist encourages us to dance before the Lord.  I have the feeling that if the Psalm were written today, the list of instruments would be much longer and the visual arts would also include painting, drawing, images, and so on.  In essence the psalmist is telling us to Praise God every way we can.

In our worship yesterday, many of these elements were present.  But I do not think God only desires or is impressed by how many instruments or presentations we offer.  One lone voice lifted to God can be as pleasing and worshipful to Him as a whole orchestra or huge choir or multi-instrument praise band.  In our worship, the “how” God desires is not how many but simply how.  “How did you worship me today?” is the question God asks.  Did we come before God yesterday with our whole beings, intent on nothing other than offering all we are and all we have to Him?

My off key, changing tempo song can be more pleasing to God than the most polished voice performing a perfect solo.  It is all about our heart.  When we praise our God, He wants our whole heart to be fully engaged.  This day may we find opportunity to praise our God with our whole being.


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The Way

Reading: John 20: 1-18

Jesus’ life and story are marked by a few events that are very significant to our faith.  First, the incarnate birth – born partly human to a mother and partly divine to a heavenly father.  Born of a virgin, without sin since birth.  His birth and the events surrounding it indicate to us that Jesus is a unique and special gift from God.

At the end of His life, Jesus experiences two other significant events.  The resurrection and ascension come close together.  Between His holy birth and divine death, Jesus teaches and heals for about three years, providing us an example of how to live and love both God and our fellow man.

While Jesus did raise people from the dead during His earthly ministry, He raised them back to mortal life.  In the resurrection of Jesus, it was God who raised Jesus to immortal or heavenly life.  Jesus’ resurrection is significant for both of these reasons.  Just as God alone initiated Jesus’ human birth, God alone brings Jesus back home to heaven.  God welcomes Jesus back to His eternal home as Jesus returns to the Father.

The ascension, or returning to God’s right hand, is the second significant event at the end of Jesus’ earthly life.  Jesus tells Mary, “I am returning to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.”  In this statement Jesus declares where He is going and also includes us in the relationship.  God is our Father and our God too.

As Jesus returns to His rightful place beside God, He returns changed.  He has lived on earth.  He has felt what we feel.  He returns to heaven and now intercedes for you and me.  He now stands between God and us.  The perfect lamb who was slain now offers mercy and forgiveness and grace.  He who was without sin now provides the way for us who struggle with sin the way to eternal life.  He ascended so that one day we too could ascend.  For this incomprehensible gift, we say  thanks be to God!

 


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Bold as Nicodemus

Reading: John 19: 38-42

Jesus has died and His body hung on the cross.  The other two who had been crucified with Jesus have also died.  The excitement of the crucifixions is over so the jeering crowds, the curious onlookers, and the followers who loved Jesus have all drifted away.  The three bodies hang on the crosses.  It is a desolate image.  It is a hard reality to envision this image.  It seems a time without hope.

It is at this point that Nicodemus steps once again into the story.  He goes to Pilate and asks for Jesus’ body.  This seems an odd choice for a Pharisee and a member of the ruling council.  But it is evidence of Nicodemus’ growing faith and belief in Jesus.  We recall first meeting Nicodemus in John 3 when he went under cover of night to talk with Jesus.  Here he hears the message that he must be born again.  A few chapters later Nicodemus utters a brief and almost half-hearted defense of Jesus as the chief priests and Pharisees debate what to do with this Jesus.  Perhaps Nicodemus was one of those cheering on the parade route a few days earlier and then was among the crowd a few days later that shouted, “Crucify Him”! Through all of this we see Nicodemus’ faith growing, his love deepening, to the point he is willing to go to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body.

But perhaps Nicodemus’ story is not so unfamiliar to us.  We can all think back to the first times we really wondered who this Jesus was.  Was He more than the Bible stories?  Could I really have a personal relationship with Jesus?  So we began to question and to seek answers.  As we learned more and came to love Him more, we too came to a point of timidly defending Jesus and our faith in Him.  It may have seemed unimportant at the time, but upon reflection we are it as another turning point on our journey of faith.  And then we get to the point in our faith where we find Nicodemus at in today’s story: willing to stand and be counted as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  This day may we be as bold as Nicodemus, declaring our faith in Jesus Christ to any and all.


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Love

Reading: John 18:1 to 19:42

The Jewish religious authorities are wise.  They know their own laws inside out and use their own interpretation to build a case against Jesus.  It is a flimsy case at best, which Pilate sees right through.  They do not even state the laws Jesus ‘broke’ but instead remain vague.  Pilate is sharp enough to realize that Jesus has not really committed any crimes.  But he is also insecure and the Jewish leaders are well aware of this.  They understand the political game and have seen the consequences of being against Caesar.  So they play Jesus’ claim to be king against Pilate’s fear of Rome to force an execution.

Just as Caiaphas had earlier stated that it would be better for one man to die, Pilate maybe sees the current situation with Jesus this way too.  Better for one man to die rather than the Jews and possibly the whole city to be in an uproar, to draw attention from Rome.  Pilate’s guilt is easily set aside and Jesus helps by not defending Himself.  This is why He came; He will not interfere with God’s plans either.

On this day when we remember the trial and crucifixion, let us also remember the message of the cross.  Jesus, the perfect lamb, was willing to die for our sins.  Nothing says “I love you” more than this. God, through Jesus, is all about love, relationship, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and restoration.  This is the message we need to share with the world.

We must be careful to not be like the Jewish leaders, bending and picking and choosing the Law to meet our own needs.  The Bible is vast and contains a wide array of ideas.  We cannot pick out parts we like and ignore parts we do not like to manipulate others or to justify and rationalize ourselves.  It is a whole story – the story of God’s redeeming love.  It is a love letter from God to us all, inviting us into a deeply committed, loving relationship with Him.  This is good news to share.