pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Thy Word

Reading: 2nd Timothy 3:14 – 4:5

Verse 16: “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness”.

In 2nd Timothy we read, “All scripture is God-breathed”. The Protestant Bible is the compilation of 66 books that were penned by various individuals as God inspired them. The set of books that has been Canon for hundreds of years was set by men who prayed and discerned and sought Holy Spirit guidance to establish which books would make up the Bible. The books are written by many authors in many settings over the span of many hundreds of years. It is the story of God’s love for humanity and for the world. It is not one cohesive narrative written by one person.

Sometimes we are unsure or are confused by the different and seemingly contradictory passages that we find in the Bible. Sometimes we question its relevance. For example, there are many verses that speak to owning slaves and others that govern our conduct with our slaves. Yet 70+ years ago our nation abolished slavery, declaring it unjust. In the gospels, written over a much shorter time span, we also find differences. For example, the call of Jesus’ first disciples is very different in Matthew 4 and in Luke 5. Was Simon Peter there or was it just Andrew? Did Jesus perform a miracle to draw them in or did he simply say, “Come, follow me”?

If we get hung up on the details we can miss the bigger picture. The books were written in varied contexts and times, by authors with specific audiences and purposes. Taken together, all tell the evolving story of God’s love. We read the Bible informed by our time and place and previous understanding. At times, the Bible also reveals different things to us. For example, a passage I have read many times can tell me something new the next time I read it. The actual words have not changed. Yet the Holy Spirit alive in me and in the Bible both have an impact on my understanding.

Yes, the Bible is undoubtedly useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness”. In and through the Bible we find the only way to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We understand and increase the value of the Bible only by reading it, by meditating upon it, by discussing it, and by seeking discernment from it. It is the story of how God seeks to make us more like God and like Jesus. Read it!

Prayer: Father of light, your word is a lamp into my feet and a light unto my path. Without its wisdom and guidance and direction I would be blind. May I feed upon your holy word day by day. Amen.

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Personal Call

Reading: John 20: 1-18

Verse 15: “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for”?

Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb early on the first day, prepared to visit the grave. She was present throughout the events of Thursday and Friday, when they tried, beat, and crucified her Lord. She was there when the stone was rolled in place, sealing the end of the story. Mary comes in the darkness, full of sorrow and grief and pain. She at first assumes Jesus’ enemies have stolen the body. Mary tells Peter and John; they run to the tomb and enter, finding just the linen and cloths lying there.

Peter and John return home, but Mary lingers. She stands outside the tomb crying. Grief has been added to grief. What else could she do but stand and weep? Two angels appear in the tomb and ask her why she weeps. Because they have taken the body of her Lord. A second question comes, this time from behind her: “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for”? Maybe this is who took the body. Again, tell me where you have put the body. But then it happens. Jesus says to her, “Mary”. In that moment, in that personal and intimate moment, Mary knows it is Jesus. She cries out in recognition and hears the news from Jesus Himself. She goes and tells the disciples the good news: “I have seen the Lord”! Jesus is alive. He is risen!

As it was with Mary, so it is with us. Jesus calls out to each of us: Sue! Peter! Anna! Fred! Melanie! Steve! Beth! Mark! Hanna! Joshua! … When we search, Jesus calls out to us. He seeks us. He finds us. Some have walked a slow but pretty steady journey to the point that Jesus finally became personal, calling out our name. Some have had a sudden encounter with Jesus – unexpected and sudden, caused by situation or circumstance. The same Jesus called out your name. In that moment Jesus became your Lord and Savior. There are many ways to become friends with Jesus Christ. They all begin with the same question asked of Mary: whom are you looking for?

We are all looking for the same thing. All of humanity wants purpose and meaning and relationship. We find all this and more in Jesus Christ. In Him we find a deep satisfaction for all that our soul longs for. The eternal, big questions are all answered by the One who personally calls our name. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, open your heart to Him. He will find you. If you know the Lord, rejoice today because we celebrate: He is risen! He is alive! Thanks be to God! Jesus is alive!!

Prayer: Lord of all, you are risen, resurrected, and eternal. Yet you are intimately connected to each of us. Hallelujah! Amen.


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Coming Soon

Reading: Mark 13: 24-31

Verse 28: “You know that it is near, right at the door”.

At first glance, today’s text seems odd for Advent, the season where we celebrate the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  The sun being darkened, the stars falling, and the heavens quaking don’t quite have that Christmas vibe.  But if we dig a little deeper, the reading makes sense.  There are signs all around that the world is more ready than ever for what this passage speaks of.  Each year we can look back and think the world is more ready than ever for Jesus to return and make all things new.

If we dig down into the core of why Jesus came, we find our answer in the fullness of God’s love: for God so loved the world…  Because God looked down and saw His children living in darkness and sin, He sent Jesus.  We remember too that Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it.  God looked down upon a world dead in its sin and did something about it.  Today many people still live in darkness and the only true, lasting light remains Jesus.  As we await the return that today’s passage speaks of, we do so following our call to bring the light and love of Jesus to all people and to all nations.  This call is a great reason for us to celebrate the birth and life that brought hope and love to a world in great need.

We wait, though, in a tension.  Verse 28 speaks of this tension: “You know that it is near, right at the door”.  Just as the fig tree shows signs and calls people to anticipate summer, so too are we to live with the sense that Jesus is coming soon.  Soon is a good place to be.  When we live with a sense of Jesus coming soon, we live with a faith that is active and alive.  We live with a faith that matters today in the present.  We live with a faith that seeks to share the hope and love of Jesus with all we meet.  We live with a faith that is full of promise and expectation.  As we live out a “coming soon” faith, may we live so that others may sense that Jesus is right at the door of their hearts too, seeking to come in.


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Alive

Reading: Romans 6: 1b-11

Verse Six: We that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with.

Paul writes today of a willingness to die to self.  It is a willing choice to accept Jesus as Lord, to figuratively die with Christ, and to make the choice to kill the sins that live in our lives.  It is a lot of talk about death, but to die is necessary so that the new creation in Christ can live in us.  Paul was a man that did not avoid death.  He was a man who died over and over again to sin in his life and who literally faced persecution and threats of death.  Eventually he would be martyred, dying for the Jesus he loved.

Paul begins by reminding us that as we are baptized into Christ, we are also baptized into His death so that we can be raised to new life in Christ.  Paul extends the idea of new life here as a follower of Jesus to one day being “united with Him in resurrection”.  For Paul, dying to our old self first brought death to the “body of sin” that we used to occupy.  With this, Paul tells us that we are no longer slaves to sin but instead “we that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with”.  In Christ we are freed from the power of sin.  In Christ we live free from the entanglements and guilt and shame of sin.

For Paul, when we die with Christ we also share in His mastery over death.  In “dying with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him”.  In rising from the grave, Christ demonstrated that death has no power over Him.  Death is not the end of all ends.  It is simply the end of our mortal bodies.

Paul closes this section by returning to dying to sin.  Paul reminds us that Christ “died to sin once for all”.  In Jesus’ sacrifice He conquered sin for all people for all time.  This is the grace you and I live under.  No matter what sin we fall into, we can repent and seek mercy and find forgiveness.  Once for all.  Sin has no power over the believer.

We find freedom in choosing to follow Jesus Christ, dying to self so that sin and death have no power over us.  In this choice to follow we instead live into the joy of new life, resurrection life, and life in the Spirit.  Thank you Jesus for providing the way to be “alive to God in Christ Jesus”.


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He Is Alive!

Reading: John 20: 1-18

Verse 18: Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news, “I have seen the Lord”!

In the original garden, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God.  They had a close, personal relationship.  Their sin cost them much: they were forced from the garden.  With sin, death also entered the world.  We fast forward to another garden, this time the garden of Gethsemane.  In a moment of weakness, we find a human Jesus worried about death.  He does not want to die.  The physical part of Jesus knows what it will be like to be crucified.  But Jesus masters the fear and prepares to walk to the cross.  The divine Jesus triumphs and He is willing to drink of the cup for us.  The cup represents the new covenant, made with His blood.  This cup of forgiveness is for all who call on Jesus as Lord and Savior.  His blood was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).  The sin that had entered in the first garden is defeated by Christ on the cross.  In the new covenant, we are freed from the power of sin.

Today’s story takes place in another garden.  Hope seemed lost.  Mary and the disciples have seen that the tomb is empty, but the do not understand.  The one they called “Messiah” – Savior of the world – was gone.  Mary stands alone, weeping.  Then angels appear, almost to announce what happens next.  Mary turns and asks for the body.  “Mary”.  Jesus speaks her name.  “Mary”.  With her name spoken, suddenly she knows it is Jesus.  She knows His voice.  He calls her by name.  In John 10:14, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me”.  At His voice, Mary knows it is Jesus.  On the cross, Jesus defeated sin.  From the grave, He defeats death.

Jesus continues to call out, calling us each by name.  He calls us by name, into a personal relationship with Him.  When we open our hearts to Jesus, He comes and dwells within us.  In this relationship, we know Jesus, just as He knows us.  In this relationship, we experience what He experienced – victory over sin and death.  May we join many, proclaiming what Mary proclaimed: “I have seen the Lord”!  Hallelujah and amen!  He is risen!  He is alive!!


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Life in the Word

When Jesus taught He often used parables – stories that always had a point to them.  Sometimes the point was hard for His audience to get.  And sometimes the disciples struggled to get the meaning too.  Jesus wanted them to wrestle with the meaning.  Fortunately for us, Jesus often unpacked the parables for His disciples.  It is then that the meaning often comes alive.

We tend to remember a good story much longer than a list of do’s and don’ts.  We can remember many of Jesus’ parables and they continue to speak to us today.  They contain lessons and insights that will always be relevant to life in any day and age.  The Bible is truly a living, breathing book.

As we spend time reading His word, we are storing up instructions for life.  Soak in its rich teachings so that Jesus Christ may permeate all of your relationships, interactions, and life.

Scripture reference: Matthew 18: 23-35


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Jesus is Alive!!

The fact that Jesus was born, walked  the earth, and died is not in much dispute.  The method of his death on the cross is also widely accepted.  Even Islam sees Jesus as a great prophet.  But for many, believing that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, is somewhere they are unwilling to go.  Good man, great teachings, did a few amazing miracles even – but God’s Son, in the flesh?

Without the resurrection, maybe Jesus is just these things.  But for the Christian, the empty tomb is the ‘proves it’ moment.  Because Jesus conquered death and rose to eternal life, the resurrection is our sign that Jesus was indeed God’s Son.  Many in the Bible spoke to and for God.  Many in the Bible performed miraculous signs.  A few were even raised from the dead (although just back to an earthly life).  But Jesus, our Lord and Savior, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God.

Shortly after His death, Jesus appears to several people.  He comforts his closest followers and friends with the fact that he has conquered death, that the grave could not hold him.  What he said about rising again was true!  It was important for the disciples and others to see Jesus, so that as they write the Gospels and went on to spread and grow the early church, they went forth with an unshakable belief.  As Christians, we believe the witness given by Mary, by the disciples, and by others.  As the Bible unfolds past the Gospels, we see the Spirit of Jesus living on, continuing to change and shape lives.  As is living examples today, we too experience the presence of Jesus’ Holy Spirit working in our lives and in our worlds.  Indeed – Jesus is alive!!