pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Holy Spirit Speaking

Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

Verse Six: “When they heard the sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language”.

Jesus had been out there in the public eye during His ministry. Yes, He was a regular in the temple and synagogues, but most of His ministry was spent out in the world. In the days since Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, the disciples have gotten a bit bolder but they are still relatively quiet about spreading the good news. And then Pentecost happens.

Pentecost was originally a Jewish holiday. More properly named “Shavuot”, it occurs fifty days after Passover and celebrates the end of harvest season. Also known as the “Feast of Weeks”, this holy event drew pilgrims to Jerusalem from all over the world. This is why the list of places in verses nine through eleven is so long.

The Holy Spirit, the gift that Jesus has promised, arrives large and loud. No more quietly spreading the good news. With a “sound like the blowing of a violent wind”, the Holy Spirit enters the house where the believers have gathered. We assume that the group numbered about 120 or so. Tongues of fire fall on each one and they begin speaking in many languages. The noise of the Holy Spirit’s arrival drew a large crowd of Jews and these people from all over the world hear the Word of God proclaimed in their own native tongues. The Holy Spirit allowed ministry to happen. Peter goes on to preach to the crowd and about 3,000 are added to their number that day. The church grows by leaps and bounds as the Holy Spirit moves the church out into the wider world.

This same Holy Spirit wants to be at work in our lives as well. This same Holy Spirit wants to speak through you and me to draw others to Jesus Christ. This same Holy Spirit will give us the “language” we need to use to share the story of Jesus, the good news, with all we meet. Holy Spirit, pour out upon all of us today, allowing each of us to be used to speak the hope and love of Jesus into the lives of the unsaved and the hurting. Use us today, O Lord.

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Prayer for Disciples

Reading: John 17: 6-19

Verse Eleven: “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one”.

In the moments before going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before being arrested, Jesus offers this prayer for the disciples. He knows what lies ahead for Himself and the impact His death and resurrection will have on His followers, so He prays for them.

This prayer begins with thanks for the relationships that He has developed with these disciples. Jesus is thankful for the opportunity to pour into them and to help them know that He was sent by God. Through these three years together, the disciples have witnessed Jesus living amongst and loving fully all kinds of people.

In the first half of verse eleven Jesus acknowledges that it is time for Him to leave the world. The disciples will remain in the world and will be charged with continuing the building of the church. In the second half of verse eleven He prays, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one”. He is praying for these disciples who are no longer of the world to be protected by God. He is also praying for unity. Jesus knows the trials and persecution they will face. Unity with God and with Jesus and with each other will carry them through all the world can throw at them. They will each remain protected and in unity up to the time of their death.

In the bigger sense, Jesus is also praying this prayer for all of the believers who come after the disciples. He is praying it for you and for me. Once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are not of this world any longer. Our home is in heaven. Our lives here are but a mist compared to eternity with Jesus. But in the meantime, we do have a role to play. Jesus sent the disciples and He also sends us into the world. In unity with God and Jesus and each other, may we too faithfully go out into the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ. The world needs to hear this message of hope and love. May we share it well.


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Barriers and Boundaries

Reading: Acts 8: 26-40

Verse 27: “He met an Ethiopian eunuch… this man had gone to Jerusalem to worship”.

I would love to know the faith back story of the eunuch. He lives in a place far from Jerusalem yet worships God. I would love to know how this man came to know and worship God. Did he learn of God from a Jewish person living in Ethiopia? Did he hear of God from a merchant or businessman passing through the court of the queen?

Whatever the case, his faith in God leads him to come to Jerusalem, the home of God, to worship. But he clearly did not know all the ins and outs of the Jewish faith as he left Ethiopia. He now understands a bit more. The eunuch traveled all that way only to discover that he was not welcome at the temple. He did not meet their requirements. Many others did not either.

Exclusion remains an issue today. Even in the modern world some institutions and places and groups of people exclude others based on color of skin, gender or sexual preference, language, social class, educational level… We can also exclude because “that’s not how we do it here” types of traditions and practices. There are many other ways that we can create barriers and draw boundaries.

Amazingly, the eunuch’s faith is stronger than the rejection he felt at the temple. He is found reading from Isaiah 53. Led by the Spirit, Philip engages the man and answers his question. Philip explains that the passage is speaking of Jesus and then he goes on to share the good news that a relationship with Jesus Christ offers. As they near some water, the eunuch asks to be baptized. Philip baptizes the eunuch. This foreigner, this eunuch, this rejected man is fully accepted by God. In this passage we see that God does not draw barriers or boundaries. All are His beloved and all are welcome to a saving relationship with His Son, Jesus.

The story ends with Philip being taken away to evangelize elsewhere and the eunuch continues his journey, rejoicing in his newfound faith in Jesus Christ. It is a good ending, but we cannot stop here. We must take time to look within and ponder how our churches exclude others. When I look at my church, I see that it does not match the diverse demographics of the community. Does your church match your community’s diversity? If not, you have the same question as I do: why?


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Too Good

Reading: Luke 24: 36b-40

Verse 38: “He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds'”?

I can remember when I first re-met my wife. I had a big crush on her in high school and then we went off to college and to begin adult life thereafter. Then one night her and a friend happened into the place I and a friend were. Without going into much detail, I found myself on a late night stroll at the camp she was working at that summer. I could not believe what was happening. My head reeled as I drove home.

It had been three great years with Jesus. The things He taught and did would stay with them forever. But then there was the trial and the crucifixion and placing the definitely dead body in the tomb. And oh the hurt that was felt and the tears that were cried these last three days. What they could not believe could ever happen now felt so real and permanent. Then there were some saying Jesus was risen and two others said they met and walked and talked with Him. But the last three days are so real.

Jesus steps into the disciples’ presence and says, “Peace be with you”. The disciples were startled and frightened. The last three days felt so real. They had begun to have those ‘what now?’ conversations and to consider the possibility of what they would do or return to. Jesus entering their lives again was not one of the things they considered.

As I drove home that night, I thought it all too good to be true. I was sure she would not even take my phone call asking for a date. And I was more sure she would not say yes.

“He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds'”? The better question is why wouldn’t they be troubled and doubting. We too would have been in the same place mentally and emotionally. So Jesus offers them some proofs, saying, “Look at my hands and feet” – don’t you remember where they put the nails? And then Jesus invites them closer: “Touch and see”! He is among them, flesh and bones and all. It is not a ghost. Touch and feel and see Jesus right then and there.

The men and women in the room that day will take what they see and touch and feel and they will go out into the world to witness to what they know. They will go forth to share the good news that Jesus defeated sin and death and will help all who believe to do the same. It is good news still today – yes, almost too good to be true. We too are called to help all to hear this good news, to know the risen Christ. May we go forth to bear witness this day and every day.


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Easter People

Reading: 1 John 1:1 through 2:2

Verse 1:7 – “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin”.

Just seven days ago we celebrated Easter. It is all on clearance in the stores. Whatever did not sell is now available at 60-80% off. For some who came to church last Sunday and even for some who return today, Easter is done and over. The good news that we were selling on Easter Sunday seems like old news and is already deeply discounted.

Yet for all believers everywhere, Easter still echoes in our hearts and minds because we are an Easter people and the news is still good. We know that because of Jesus Christ we are loved and forgiven and are freed from the chains of sin and death. At times we are broken and sinful, but Jesus’ love always conquers our failures. Because we walk daily with Jesus, we are given grace and are made into a new creation over and over, each day becoming more Christ-like.

As Easter people we seek to live in unity with one another. Yes, we do have disagreements and at times we do not see eye to eye, but we do strive to live in community as one body, because “if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin”. It is through Jesus that we have community as ‘one body’ and it is through Jesus that we are forgiven and justified. We find wholeness, both corporate and personal, through Jesus Christ.

As Easter people we also have hope. Verse two reads, in part, “we proclaim to you the eternal life”. I missed the importance of this line when I read this passage earlier in the week. Jesus is the eternal life. It connects with what John wrote in John 1 and again in today’s scripture. Jesus always has been, is, and always will be life. Jesus is the eternal life and He invites us to join Him in eternal life as well. Talk about good news! This hope of promise beyond this world was, is, and always will be good news. As Easter people, may we share this hope today and every day.


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Loving and Caring

Reading: Acts 4: 32-35

Verses 33 and 34: “Much grace was upon them all… There were no needy persons among them”.

In the early church the love of God and one another was clearly evident. In the lives of the apostles the power of God was clearly evident. These factors made the church stand out from the larger culture around them. In many ways these things were even counter-cultural. They certainly are today.

There are three outcomes of the presence of God and His love in our text today. The first is the great power that the apostles had to preach the gospel news of Jesus Christ. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the apostles were boldly proclaiming the truth and they were bringing people to faith. The second outcome was the grace that they all had upon them. They were willing to look past faults and small disagreements because they saw the community as more important than the individual. This led to a willingness to sell things to help with the common good. This led to the third outcome: “There were no needy persons among them”. All were loved and cared for.

Does this unity and level of love and care for one another typify churches today? This model is still very possible and I think exists in some of our churches today. When someone loses a loved one they are surrounded with love and care and often food. When someone experiences a tragedy like a house fire they are invited into someone’s home and needs for clothing and other necessities are met. When someone loses a job, assistance is given. We may not sell our home or some land, but there is still much love in a church that makes it stand our from the larger society.

Could our churches be closer to the model we see in Acts? For sure! Let us remember then that the church is still made up of people. So, like each of us on our own journey to become more like Jesus, the church itself is also ever on a journey to become more loving and more caring. The church is only as loving and caring as the individuals that make up said church. That brings us to a question: how am I becoming more loving and caring so that my church becomes more loving and caring?


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News to Share

Reading: 1st John 1:1 to 2:2

Verse 2:2 – “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins; and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world”.

1st John opens with some excitement in the writing. In his words we can still sense the excitement related to the recent resurrection. John bases his authority to proclaim the gifts of eternal life and salvation from sins on his firsthand experience hearing, seeing, and touching Jesus. The opening section concludes with, “We write this to make our joy complete”. John receives joy from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Coming off Easter Sunday we too should be full of good news to share with those in our world. Yesterday we joyously celebrated the risen Lord. Will we go out into the world sharing the joy? Will you?

John goes on in the remainder of 1st John 1 to encourage us to walk in the light. He writes, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness”. We must walk in the light to remain connected to God. John writes of the benefits of this choice. First, we have fellowship with one another. Second, we experience the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus. For our part, we must confess and seek to repent of our sins. John also acknowledges the reality of sin in our lives. He reminds us that we do walk in darkness, in our sin, at times. John also warns us not to claim that we do not sin because then we “make Him out to be a list”. Don’t want to do that!

In 1st John 2, John goes on the address when we sin. He reminds us of two important details in our battle with sin. First, Jesus speaks to God on our behalf. He stands between God and our sins. Second, Jesus is the atoning sacrifice. He has already paid the price for our sins and, in fact, has paid the price for the sins of the whole world.

All of this is indeed good news worthy of sharing. There are none more in need of hearing this news than our broken and hurting brothers and sisters who are living lost lives. If we do not share the stories of the power of Jesus Christ in our lives, how can they come to know the healing and redeeming power of Jesus Christ in their lives? Yesterday we were reminded that we are Easter people, that we are resurrection people. The good news is always good. It is always worthy of sharing. May we each live our love of Jesus out loud each and every day, helping others to walk in the light of God’s love. Lord, give us the strength and courage so that it may be so. Amen.