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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Praise the Creator

Reading: Psalm 104: 24-34 and 35b

Verses 24 and 35b: How many are your works O Lord! … Praise the Lord.

Our Psalm today opens with a great reminder about Creator God: “How many are your works O Lord”!  All that there is – from the largest to the tiniest, all that covers the land and swims in the waters – was created by God.  The psalmist then offers praise for God’s provision.  At just the right moment, God provides for the needs of what He has created.  His love in reflected in His care.  And the Psalm also acknowledges that life ends, that breath is no more and life returns to ashes.  As created beings, we too live within this cycle of life.  We are created by God, we are loved and cared for by God, and one day our human bodies draw our last breath and we too return to ashes.

The psalmist then opens up the praise in verse 31.  In the simplicity of life we can see the glory of the Lord.  We are amazing creations, as is all of life.  Just as in the beginning God was pleased with all He had made, God continues to be pleased with the work of His hands.  Our response?  Verse 31 sums it up well: “I will sing praises to my God as long as I live”.  Because God continues to be active and engaged in our lives and world, He is worthy of our praise.

Today may we join with all of creation in praise of the mighty works of God’s hands!


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All

Reading: 1 Peter 3: 18-22

Verse 18: Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

During His time on earth, Jesus ministered to all who came or called out to Him in faith.  To all who demonstrated faith in Him as the Messiah, Jesus offered healing and restoration.  For some it was physical, for some it was emotional, and for some it was spiritual.  Jesus me all who came to Him in faith wherever they were at and gave of Himself all that He could.  It’s just who Jesus was and is today.  “Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God”.  This verse speaks of the Jesus we know throughout the Gospels – the One who simply came to love us as His own.  Jesus continues to love us each day.

Although His body was killed, He was “made alive by the Spirit”.  The Spirit is for us the essence of Jesus.  In life, Jesus set an example for us to follow.  We read His words and the stories about him in the Bible and we are called to go forth to live a life that follows Jesus.  We too are to offer healing and restoration to a broken world.  Ultimately that comes through a personal relationship with Jesus.  The Spirit leads and guides us in bringing others to Jesus.  The nudges, the whispers, the shoves – these are all Jesus saying, “Go – do what I did.  Love one another”.  It is through this that others will meet Jesus themselves.

As the Spirit leads us out into the world, we all go with the same mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  As we share Jesus with the world, the world will come to know Him.  The waters of baptism will wash over new believers to welcome them into the family of God.  The waters of baptism begin our journey into Jesus and eventually all who believe in Him as Lord and Savior will be “saved by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.

We are all the unrighteous.  Jesus died for all.  The only one who was pure and without sin took on sin for our sake.  He did it for all so that all can one day be saved.  This is good news indeed.  May we go out and share this good news today so that others may begin their journey with Jesus too.


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Bear Witness

Reading: Acts 7: 55-60

Verse 55: Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Stephen is certainly one filled with the Holy Spirit.  He has taught and performed miracles.  He stood in the Sanhedrin and successfully defended and explained the faith he professes.  He is so filled with the Holy Spirit that he even condemns the most powerful body of Jewish leaders for their role in the death of Christ.  This so outrages them that they are furious and gnash their teeth.  What happens next is today’s reading.

Stephen is a man who will stand up for his faith and belief in God no matter what.  He is a man who will speak the truth, even if it offends others a bit.  He is a man living life fully under the control of the Holy Spirit.  He is a man who trusts his very life to God’s plans and purposes.  All I can say is, “Wow”.  To look in the mirror and to see a slight reflection of who Stephen was would give me pause.

Who do you know that lives like Stephen?  Is there someone in your life that lives fully trusting God and fully obedient to God’s will?  These men and women are few and far between.  Most Christians, myself included, dabble with this type of faith.  We may step outside our routine or our comfort zones every once in a while to make an impact for God.  We may show a depth of faith that at times pleases God.

Just as they are preparing to drag him out to stone him, Stephen “full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God”.  God blesses him with this vision and the one to come next.  It strengthens Stephen.  It reassures him.  It affirms what he has spent his last years preaching and doing.  As they stone him, he calls for Jesus to receive his spirit and prays for those killing him.  He dies just as he lived – bearing witness to his God to the very end.  In doing so, Stephen continues to bring much glory to God.  May we go and do likewise today.


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Bread

Reading: Luke 24: 28-35

Verses 30-31: He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.

Jesus walked and talked with these two men.  Despite their personal time with Jesus and His amazing knowledge of the Scriptures, they did not yet recognize Him.  Many of us have been Christians for a long time.  We know the Scriptured pretty well and we have spent lots of time getting to know Jesus.  Yet at times we too fail to recognize Jesus.

As Jesus sits at the table with these two Emmaus travelers, He takes the most common element at meals in that day: bread.  Bread was both a common element and a precious one – it sustained life.  It was manna in the desert; it was what the widow made for Elijah to survive; and it was what fed the thousands.  Even in our world today, bread is an integral part of many people’s diets.  As food, bread is a necessity for life.

At the table, Jesus “took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him”.  There is something about this ritual that triggers the opening of the two men’s eyes.  They recognize Jesus as He shares the bread with them.  In the church we too celebrate this practice that Jesus himself initiated.  Every time we break the bread of communion, we remember what Jesus did on the cross and we give thanks for His act that brings us forgiveness and redemption.  In doing so, our eyes are opened.  Our eyes are opened to our brokenness and this leads us to see our own need for Jesus in our lives.  This draws us in and helps us to see Jesus in our midst.

The breaking and sharing of bread can also open us up to see Jesus in other ways.  When we share bread with those in need, whether by inviting them in or by going to them, it allows us to invite Jesus to be there.  Every time we extend welcome to the stranger, regardless of color, ethnicity, or whatever, we​ are opening the door for Jesus to be present.  Through the bread we are able to find common ground and to meet others where they are at.  In these moments, Jesus is always present.  It is an opportunity to share Jesus and sometimes we are even blessed to see Jesus Christ in the face of another.  May we ever have willing hearts to share our bread and the Bread of Life.


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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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Share the Breath

Reading: John 20: 19-23

Verses 21 and 22: Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!  As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”.  And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

We live by faith and not by sight.  Our faith, like the faith of Christians for the past 2,000 years, is built upon the witness of others and on our own experiences with God in our lives.  Faith is not fact so we grow in our faith as we interact with God, others, and the world.

Jesus’ disciples knew for a fact that Jesus had been crucified.  At least one, John, had stood with the women and saw Jesus draw his last breath.  Maybe some were still there when the body was taken down or when it was laid in the tomb.  This experience was in stark contrast to the miracles they had been there to see.  Bling men saw, lepers were healed, the dead came back to life.  They saw and believed even though they could not explain how these things happened in human terms.

Their witness is partly what we build our faith upon.  We have also done things and observed people do things that are difficult to explain in human terms.  We see the couple who takes in the homeless man to help him get back on his feet.  We observe God at work in his life as he becomes an active member of passing God’s love on to others.  We have felt God’s presence there with us when life both draws it’s first breath and it’s last breath.  We have been a part of surrounding the surviving spouse with a community of love and support.  In these ways we too are becoming part of another’s faith story as we build our own.

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!  As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”.  And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.  He comes and stands among us too.  As the Holy Spirit lives and breathes in us, may we ever share the breath of life with others, so that they too may be filled with the Holy Spirit.