pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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He Died for Us

Reading: Romans 5: 6-8

Verse Six: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

To me, today’s three verses speak to the depth of God’s love for all of humanity.  The key words are ‘love’ and ‘all’.  It is an amazing, mighty, almost unfathomable love that would send His Son, knowing He would die a painful death.  And speaking of unfathomable – Jesus died for sinners, for you and me, plus all those who hate God and those who deny God and those who refuse to acknowledge God’s existence…  To die for the sinners we all are is one thing.  To die for the haters, the atheists, the non-believers… is a whole other level of ‘all’.

Verse six reads, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”.  In His infinite wisdom, God initiated His plan to save us at ‘just the right time’.  God’s hand is often at work in the world.  Sometimes it happens in big ways, like this, and at other times God’s hand is at work in smaller ways, like the time that person said that thing to you at that time in your life.  There is another truth in this verse.  We are powerless.  Before the cross humanity was trapped in our sin and held captive by death.  But through the cross we find forgiveness and hope.  As Christ conquered sin and death, He opened the way for us too.  Through a personal relationship with Jesus we can claim salvation and eternal life.

In the next two verses, Paul returns to the idea of just who Christ died for.  He notes that maybe some would die for a good man.  I think some are even willing to die for a good cause.  But no one would be willing to die for an enemy or for a cause they do not believe in.  Jesus died for both.  “While we were sinners” – separated from God – He died for us.  That’s amazing, but it goes farther.  Jesus knew we would continue to sin.  He knew His death would not end sinning.  But He died anyway.  We, by our imperfect nature, are prone to sin.  And Jesus died for each and every one of us anyway.  Thanks be to God.


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Imperishable.

Reading: 1 Peter 1: 17-23

Verses 18-19: It was not with perishable things such as gold or silver that you were redeemed… but with the prescious blood of Christ.

Today’s text plays with the contrast between the perishable and the imperishable.  Peter calls us to pursue the imperishable and to strive for the things of God.  This is in contrast to the world’s view of what matters and what is worthy of our efforts.  Peter encourages the believers to set aside the ways passed down by their fathers and to not follow in pursuing an “empty way of life”.  The chasing after the gold and silver leads to emptiness.  This is a lesson we all eventually learn.  To be rich in things most often leaves one pour in the soul.  At some point all people look in the mirror and come to realize that money and things and status do not bring true happiness.  Living a full life cannot rest on the perishable but must instead be founded on the imperishable.

Peter calls on Christians to “live your lives as strangers in reverant fear”.  To live as strangers means to live not of this world and its cares.  Another phrase that parallels this idea is “in the world but not of the world”.  Our true citizenship is in heaven.  To have ‘reverant fear’ is to have holy respect for God.  It is to be aware that the world’s choices lead to death and destruction.

This passage reminds us that we were bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  This sacrifice made in love calls us to love our brothers and sisters with a deep and sincere love.  Jesus demonstrated what this love looks like and He calls us to follow after Him and to love like He loved.  Verses 18 and 19 capture this love: “It was not with perishable things such as gold or silver that you were redeemed… but with the prescious blood of Christ”.  The blood and love that made it flow so that you and I can be redeemed are imperishable.  This love of God that was poured out on the cross can never be lost.  There is nothing we can do to find ourselves outside of God’s love.  Nothing.  This is why God is our only hope in this world.  This is why God alone provides for our salvation.  He is our eternity.  It is not founded on our fickle love for God but upon God’s unfailing love for us.  It is a gift far more precious than any gold or silver and it is far more enduring.  For the imperishable love of God that we have in Jesus Christ, this day let us offer our praise and thanksgiving.


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Good News

Acts 2: 14a and 36-41

Verse 41: About 3,000 were added to their number that day.

Peter opens this section of scripture with these words: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Savior”.  Peter speaks with authority and power that comes from two things: he has personally seen the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit now dwells within him.  Those gathered around him must have perked up and paid attention.  They all knew the facts of Jesus’ life and His crucifixion.  They also must sense both the unquestionable truth of Peter’s words and the guilt they feel over what has happened to Jesus.  They are ‘cut to the heart’ and ask Peter and friends, “Brothers, what shall we do”?  Although the Holy Spirit has not yet come to dwell in them, they are certainly feeling the conviction of the Spirit.

Peter responds with an altar call.  He says step up, admit and repent of your sins, and be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ.  Again the people respond to the nudge of God.  We too live with this nudge guiding us.  At times the Holy Spirit leads, at times it whispers, at times it convicts, and at times it nudges.  In all of these ways, the Holy Spirit propmts us to action.  When we are faithful, like the 3,000 in today’s passage, then God responds.  God gives the people the forgiveness of sins and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  This is the essence of the good news.

The same good news exists today.  God still pursues mankind with a love that is unquenchable and undeniable.  It is a love that is offered to one and all.  It is offered equally to sinners and to saints.  No matter where we are on the sinner-saint continuum, may we each realize and accept the good news this day: God loves us, Jesus saves us.  All we have to do is profess Jesus as Lord and we receive the gift of eternal life and the daily presence of the Spirit.  Thanks be to God for this wonderful and incredible gift.


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Living and Eternal Hope

Reading: 1 Peter 1: 3-9

Verses 4 and 5: In His great mercy, God has given us new birth into a living hope… and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade.

This short passage has so much power.  Peter opens by praising God and then jumps right in to explain why.  In verses four and five Peter writes, “In His great mercy, God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for you”.  Our hope is a hope not only for eternal life, but also for a living hope in our life here on earth.  Yes, the gift of the resurrection is a wonderful promise.  But our time with God in the eternal will be a time of no more tears, no more pain, …  If there was ever a time when we needed hope, it is in the realities of this world.

After reassuring us of God’s power shielding us, Peter does acknowledge that this life will bring testing.  He writes that we may have to “suffer griefs in all kinds of trials”.  Yes, even though we have faith and even though God shields our gift of salvation, yes, this life will bring trials.  Just as the rain falls on the just and the unjust, so too do trials and “life” come to all peoples.  But there is a great difference in the affect of the trails.  Those without faith get through; they endure until the trial passes and emotions dull.  The believer, on the other hand, has a trusted and loving companion to walk beside us.  God brings us peace and comfort and strength in the trial.  God walks with us and in the end leads us to rejoice as our faith has grown, has been refined; this leads us to praise the God who is faithful and is a real presence in our time of need.

Our experience with God deepens our faith.  As Peter writes, “though you have not seen Him, you love Him”.  It is true that we do not physically see God, but we do tangibly experience God and His presence in Spirit.  This is what fills us with an “inexpressible and glorious joy”.  Peter returns to the eternal as this section draws to a close.  He reminds us that we are receiving the salvation of our souls as well.  For both of these gifts – presence now and hope in the life to come – we shout thanks be to God!!  To Him be all the glory and power, both now and forevermore.


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Resurrection Faith

Reading: Acts 2: 29-32

Verse 32: God has raised Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.

God had promised David that one from his line would rule forever.  In the world where kings come and go, where power struggles are a real threat, this promise required a great deal of faith to believe.  Even in David’s reign, there were several who tried to sieze power from him.  So to hold onto this promise too a great deal of faith.  David had such a faith.  He held onto his absolute trust in God.  Forever is a long time, but there was an unshakable trust that David had in God.

For Peter, his faith had been shaken.  He has just been restored from the denial of knowing Christ.  He has been anointed the “Rock” upon which the church will be built.  But Peter has had those days when doubt and fear has crept in, just as David had and just as we do.  No human being is immune to doubt and fear and anxiety and worry.  For Peter, in those days after Jesus died, there must have been huge doubts.  But the resurrection came and his doubts about Christ were washed away.  But after the resurrection, there must have been great fear… – he had denied the Lord three times.  And Jesus restores him from this too.  Peter was beginning to see through new eyes.  He was beginning to see with eyes full of hope and faith.  He realized that God had been at work all along.  This too is the faith that David lived within.  It is the faith we are called to live in too.

Just as David had seen the eternity of the Messiah, Peter now understood God’s will for all of creation: forgiveness of sin and life eternal.  These are God’s gifts​.  Through the cross, Jesus defeated the power of sin.  Through the grave, Jesus defeated the power of death.  God’s will is to offer these gifts to all who call on Christ as Lord and Savior.  Once we do this and place our hope and trust in Him, we too will understand what Peter knew.  Christ came to save the world and will come again to restore all of creation.  It is God’s gift to you and to me, to all of creation.  May we, like David and Peter, claim this gift, this inheritance, and begin to live out our resurrection faith each day.  Verse 32 reads, “God has raised Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact”.  May we live as witnesses today!


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See the Glory

Reading: John 11: 1-15 & 38-45

Verse 40: Christ said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

In this story about death, the focus is on what Jesus can do for Lazarus and for us.  Although it is Mary and Martha that call for Jesus and it is they who are given the gift of having their brother back, it is Lazarus for whom the significant change has been made.  He was deaf and now lives again.  As the story unfolds and Jesus delays, it is clear that there is more to the story than simply healing or even raising Lazarus from the dead.

God’s plan encompasses all that are present that day to comfort Mary and Martha, the disciples who have come along, and us, the readers.  To see someone walk out of the grave after being dead for four days was a powerful testament to Jesus’ control over all things.  Reading about it thereafter is also a powerful testimony to what Jesus can do in our lives today.  For the people present it was a great showing of the glory of God.  For readers past and present, it reveals that the power of Jesus is not limited by anything – certainly not death.  In the story today, we also gain the understanding that death is not to be feared.

Jesus continues to offer us victory over death.  We will be transformed after we draw our last earthly breath, yes.  In this story and in Jesus’ words “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and “I am the resurrection and the life” we gain an understanding and confidence that death here is not the end but is simply the beginning of our eternal life.

Jesus’ words to Martha ring out to us as well: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God”?  May we hold fast to the faith we profess, rejoicing in the time when we too will see the glory of God.


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Breath and Hope

Reading: Ezekiel 37: 1-14

Verse 14: I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.

Ezekiel is living amongst and speaking to a people living in exile.  They were carried off long ago and feel as if they have been living in exile forever.  The people of Israel cry out, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off”.  There is great sadness in these verses.  It is very difficult to live without hope.

As Ezekiel prophesies, the scattered bones come together as tendon, flesh, and skin covers them.  They are capable of having life now but there is no breath in them.  They are flesh and bone, but that is all.  At this point they represent Israel in exile.  Living but not truly having life can also represent many we know ourselves.  Yes, they are physically alive – they go to work, spend time with their families and friends, maybe even play on your softball team.  But they only know earthly life; they do not know or live for anything outside of the here and now.

For the Israelites in exile, life has become about simply surviving in the day to day.  They are barely getting by.  They feel ‘cut off completely’ from God and all they knew back home.  It is hard to live without hope and they are fast losing hope.  God instructs Ezekiel to prophesy that the breath of God enter the dry bones and flesh so that they would have life.  Ezekiel does this and a vast army arises.  This is the vision Ezekiel brings back to the people living in exile, to a people fast losing hope.  In this, the people know that God has heard their cry and that He will respond.  It brings much needed hope to the nation of Israel.

In a very similar way, we too can offer hope to those we know who are alive but only in the earthly sense.  We too can share the hope that comes when one lives with Jesus as Lord and Savior.  We too can share the joy that comes when the Spirit of God enters our hearts and brings us each the hope of eternal life.  May we each seek to be spreaders of the Word of God to those living in exile, so that they too may know abundant life in Christ in this place and eternal life with Him in the life to come.