pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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A Beautiful Love

Reading: 2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:7a

Verses 5 & 6: “David burned with anger against the man… He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity”.

Today’s passage comes in the aftermath of David’s affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah. We recall that David simply took what he wanted and then did what needed done to cover up the problem. At least that’s how David saw it. As the king, there was nothing outside of his appetite. David is far from that young shepherd boy that God anointed years before.

We too can get to a similar point. No, we may not commit adultery or murder, but we can commit a sin and do as David did. We can try and rationalize it in our minds. We can try and make ourselves feel better through a variety of distractions. We can tell ourselves that ‘x’ is a sin but at least it is not ‘y’. And a favorite: we tell ourselves that we are not as bad as ___. The other trap we fall into is offering up a hollow and insincere admission of sin. Yet even as we do so we are thinking about committing that sin again. There is no repentance involved.

To bring David face to face with his sin, God sends Nathan to tell David a story. There is a rich man with many, many lambs. There is a poor man with only one lamb. The rich man probably hasn’t even seen all the sheep he owns. The poor man treats the one lamb that he owns as if it were his child. When a guest arrives at the rich man’s home, instead of taking one from his own vast flock, the rich man takes the poor man’s one and only lamb. The poor shepherd boy in him kicks in and “David burned with anger against the man… He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity”. What a consequence David metes out! The wealthy man with a vast flock of wives and concubines now stands in the shoes of the one poor soldier with only one wife to love and cherish.

Nathan says to David, “You are the man”! At once David recognizes the depth of his sin. We too come to these moments. Maybe it is the Holy Spirit, maybe it is a ‘Nathan’ that God has sent into our lives. God sends us a messenger to draw us back into a right relationship with Him. The conviction falls heavy upon us and we fall before the throne, begging for mercy. In that moment, Christ reaches out, helps us up, and reminds us that the price has been paid. Once again we are made new, holy and perfect in His sight. It is a beautiful love that we find in Christ. Thanks be to God.

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Victory

Reading: Revelation 7: 9-17

Verse 16: Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.

Tonight is a “scary” night.  People of all ages dress up in fun costumes and go out to collect candy.  The reality is that the “trick” has largely left the “trick or treat” aspect of the night and it is largely about dressing up (which is fun) and collecting candy (which is yummy).  For the vast majority who will be going door to door, trunk to trunk, or table to table, Halloween is just a fun night.

Although the “darkness” of Halloween is largely gone, the world we live in still has plenty of darkness.  The world brings each person their share of hurt and pain in life.  It is part of the otherwise beautiful and loving world.  As Christians we can better face the forces of evil and the times of pain and suffering because we know the end of the story.  Today, in Revelation 7, we get a peak into the end of the story.  We see praise and worship around the throne.  We see those that have gone through the great tribulation – they have been redeemed and their robes are white as snow.  They join the elders and the angels in worshipping God and the Lamb.  It is a wonderful and beautiful image of the end of life as we know it here on earth.

Through the victory of Jesus Christ we know that “never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst”.  It will be a time of light and love as we dwell with God and the Lamb.  All will be amazing as we join the heavenly choir singing our praises to the Lord our God.  The Lamb will lead us by springs of living water and God will wipe away every tear.  This is the vision, the hope, the promise that we hold onto as we dwell in this time and place.  Thanks be to God for the victory won by Jesus Christ!


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The Blood

Reading: Exodus 12: 1-11

Verse Seven: Take some of the blood and put it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses…

After many years of slavery in Egypt, God is about to free His chosen people.  He has heard their cries and has sent Moses to free them.  Nine plagues have hardened Pharaoh’s heart but the tenth will set them free.  It will become a touchstone moment for the Israelites.  This event is so important that God resets the calendar to zero to begin the next stage in the history of His people.  It is an event that continues to be celebrated yearly in Jewish homes.

God gives specific instructions for this night – select a lamb or goat without defect and care for it for four days in your home.  Slaughter it at twilight and roast the meat over a fire.  Do not boil it or eat it raw.  Eat or burn all of it.  Eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.  Eat it in haste – with your cloak tucked in and sandals on your feet and staff in hand.  Be ready when Pharaoh relents.  And the blood.  “Take some of the blood and put it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses”.  Take the blood from the sacrifice and use it to mark yourself as mine, says God.  Celebrate the meal exactly this way.  Trust in God and the plan He has laid out.  Trust and follow the plan.  Know that God is with you and will go with you wherever you will go.  Every year Jews celebrate the Passover, remember God’s promises, and look forward to continuing to live in His promises.

The same imagery and message come on the cross.  Remember the blood of the Lamb.  Remember how Jesus bled for you and for me.  Celebrate the blood that washes away our sin and marks us as holy and pure in God’s sight.  And remember the promises: the cross is because I love you.  I will be with you always.  I will never leave you or forsake you.  I love you.  Thanks be to God for His everlasting promises of love and grace.  We are and always will be His.  Thanks be to God.


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The Blood

Reading: Matthew 27: 11-26

Verse 23: Why? What crime has he committed?

Today we read of the “trial” before Pilate, the Roman governor.  Like a few stops along the journey to the cross, we could ask if Jesus had to die.  Couldn’t there have been another way?  Pilate had the authority to free or to condemn Jesus.  The decision concerning life and death rested in his hands alone.

The religious authorities that have been pushing the action to this point in the story would say that Jesus has to die.  They have traded barbs with Him over the last few years and it has increasingly become an “us or Him” type of situation.  They have schemed and trumped up a charge.  They have the crowd whipped up and ready to influence Pilate.  All goes according to their plan.  Even though Pilate senses Jesus is innocent, the crowd is too much for Pilate.  They roar for Jesus’ death even as he asks them, “Why?  What crime has he committed”?  Pilate condemns Jesus to desth, but washes his hands of Jesus’ blood.

Is it all going according to their plan?  Did Jesus gave to die?  The plan being followed is not the religious authorities’ plan.  It is God’s plan.  To die, to be our sacrifice, is why God sent Jesus in the first place.  It is hard to understand why a father would send a son knowing his fate on the cross.  But God has a few years of experience with humanity.  God has sent prophet after prophet, priest after priest, king after king to try and lead the people to live in a right relationship with God.  He has seen dove after dove, lamb after lamb, cow after cow sacrificed on the altar.  None brings atonement.  None removes the guilt of our sins.  None ultimately changes the relationship between God and the people.  Mankind is sinful.  We are of the flesh so we struggle with sin.  We live in a constant battle with sin.  The old covenant left humanity captive to sin and death.

In Jesus’ death and resurrection God established a new covenant with humanity.  On the cross, Jesus took on the sin of the world.  He took on sin that was, sin that is, and sin to come.  In His sacrifice Jesus paid the price for our sin.  We do not have to offer sacrifices any longer.  Jesus is our sacrifice.  He chose the cross so that the sins of the world could be washed away.  Through His blood our sins are washed away.  Jesus fulfilled His statement: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.  Through the name of Jesus we can claim eternal life.  In His name, our sins are forgiven.  Thank you God for the blood of the Lamb.


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New Hope

Reading: Isaiah 65: 17-25

In Isaiah’s words we hear of a future with hope.  For those he lived amongst, they needed to hear words of hope.  At times in our lives, we too need to be reminded of the hope that rests in our faith.  The Israelites had plenty of trials and despair during the fall of Jerusalem and their time of exile.  Isaiah has plenty to say about this.  Life will also bring us times when we feel like we are being crushed and when we feel like we are living out in the wilderness.  In these times, Isaiah’s words speak to us as well.

In our world we certainly have death and hunger and injustice and violence and many other things that bring pain and heartache.  Perhaps you are in the midst of this pain right now.  Into this pain and heartache, God reminds us that all of these things are passing away.  God does not promise to take away the trials and sufferings that are a part of this life.  God instead tells us of the coming of a new heaven and earth.  God tells of the time that draws ever nearer when there will be no more pain or tears or hurt.  God gives us the ultimate hope in life eternal, a life that awaits all who call on God as our only hope.

Our passage today begins with “Behold”.  It is a word full of hope and promise.  Another story begins with this word: “Behold, the Lamb of God”.  This too is a story full of hope and promise.  And this is the story of hope and promise in the here and now.  In Jesus, we find one who walks with us in the midst of all life brings, one who will carry us if that is what we need.  In Jesus, we find comfort and strength in our time of need.  In Jesus, we find the compassion and love to offer comfort to others in their time of need.  In Jesus we also find the grace and forgiveness we need to make us new again when it was we who brought the pain and separation upon ourselves.  Jesus us our present hope that enables us to live towards and into the promise of a new heaven and earth.  May we hold tightly to Jesus Christ as we live with hope filled anticipation for our eternal future that is sure to come.  It is God’s promise.


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Worship

Reading: Revelation 5: 11-14

Reading of the worship around the throne in heaven makes me think of times of worship that have been powerful and amazing.  The first that comes to mind was the choir and orchestra that led worship at a big conference I attended in a Kansas City suburb.  There were hundreds on the platform and thousands in the congregation who joined together to praise our God.  Next my mind went to any number of Promise Keepers events where almost twenty thousand men would lift our voices as one and fill the stadium or arena.  The power and majesty and presence of God was real.

Of course both of these events pale in comparison to John’s description of the thousands upon thousands – literally millions – of voices gathered to praise the Lamb who was slain.  John goes on to include every being born since the creation story.  It will be quite the choir!  If we expand our ‘grandest’ worship experience hundreds on hundreds of times over, it may get us close to what John saw in his vision.

The thousands or even millions lifted in one voice, bringing praise and glory to God, surely pleases Him. There is an undeniable power felt when a large number gather for worship.  This experience occurs at large events throughout the year and at churches across the world on days like Christmas Eve.

Yet I believe God is also greatly pleased with the worship of one.  We all experience times of worship where we are the only ones there and we definitely feel the presence of God.  Maybe it is during a walk along the beach or maybe it happens sitting alone on the deck at sunrise.  Maybe it occurs during a hymn when you too have felt tears streaming down your cheeks.  In our times of worship, whether alone or with a handful or with hundreds, He is every bit as pleased as with millions upon millions in worship.  Praise be to the Lamb!  Praise to our God who is pleased when we bow and worship His Holy name!  All honor and glory is His, both now and forever!


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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!