pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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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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The Catch

Reading: Luke 5: 1-7

Verse 4: “Put out into deep water, and let down your nets for a catch”.

Our passage begins with the words, “One day…”. The words sound so casual, so happenstance. Jesus is there by that lake that day because that is the day and place that He is going to call His first disciples. Jesus could have been many places that day. As Jesus is teaching the crowds build. He steps into a boat. There were two boats. Jesus steps into Simon Peter’s boat and asks Simon Peter to put out a bit. The boat was empty, just like the second boat. In putting out, Peter had to join Jesus in the boat.

Jesus finishes teaching and asks Simon Peter, “Put out into deep water, and let down your nets for a catch”. He asks His captive audience to do something that is probably the last thing on his mind. Peter does call Jesus “Master”, showing some recognition of who Jesus is said to be. But Peter is tired and just wants to go home. Yet Peter chooses to honor the request that Jesus has made of him.

In the request, Jesus has told Peter what is going to happen. Jesus says, “for a catch”. He knows how many fish will swim into Peter’s nets. Jesus is not in that boat with that man by happenstance. He is about to do a miracle that will change a man’s life forever. It is something that we see Jesus do often in His ministry. But often the role is reversed. The blind man calls out to Jesus for sight. The lepers cry out to Jesus to be healed and made clean. The friends bring the lame man to Jesus. Today Jesus is the seeker. Today Jesus is the one calling out.

Some of us have perhaps sought Jesus – in the midst of a devastating loss we turned to Him. Or in the depth of a life-threatening illness, we cried out to Jesus. But most of us were like Peter, aware of who Jesus was, heard a few of the stories. But just going through life. And then suddenly Jesus is there and He climbs in our boat. Almost unexpectedly we meet Jesus up close and personal. We did not see it coming, but we cannot deny the relationship that has suddenly burst to life.

The miracle that Jesus offers is amazing. It is not just a catch – a few fish for lunch. It is not just a good catch – enough to sell and earn some wages. The catch is enormous. It was so big that Peter needed help containing it. It is like when Jesus catches us – we are filled with Him to overflowing and we just want others to know of this Jesus that called us to new life. We want to share this amazing thing that has happened in our lives. Can you remember that day, that season?

Connect to the day that you were the catch. Recall the emotion. Recapture the energy and the passion. Then go out and tell the story of how Jesus caught you over and over.

Prayer: Lord, rekindle that fire within me today. May I again be so filled with you that you overflow. May I tell the story of your love and power in my life today and every day. Amen.


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The Powerful Name

Reading: Acts 4: 5-12

Verse Ten: “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who you crucified… that this man stands before you healed”.

Leading into today’s passage, Peter and John have been arrested by the religious leaders for preaching about Jesus and the resurrection of the dead. They had healed a crippled beggar and the man danced joyously in the temple, drawing much attention. This drew an audience for Peter to preach to. Verse four reports that the number of believers grew to about 5,000 men that day. The healing and preaching we’re powerful and effective.

The leaders begin by questioning Peter and John, asking, “By what power or what name did you do this”? Peter must have sensed that he had the advantage. This question leads into his strong defense. He asks if they are being called into account for showing kindness to a man who had long been crippled. Well, certainly not. Who would ever think this a bad thing to do? As he reels them in, Peter discloses the name by which the crippled man was healed: Jesus of Nazareth.

The evidence is overwhelming: clearly the crippled man is healed. It is rock solid evidence. So the leaders cannot argue with Peter’s claim as to the source of the power. It is a power that continues to do amazing things to do this day. It is a power that is at work in our lives as well. Just as the Spirit led Peter and John to engage the crippled man that day, so too will the Spirit lead us to those in need of Jesus.

When we attune ourselves to the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit, then we too will experience the power of Jesus at work. Our words of comfort may bring peace to a hurting soul. Our acts of service may help someone to find hope in their lives. Our story of faith may help another to seek a relationship with Jesus. Our touch and prayer may even bring healing and wholeness to a broken person. As we go forth this day may we call upon the mighty and powerful name of Jesus, allowing Him to work in and through us. Doing so, may we bring much glory to God. Amen.


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Patience

Reading: 2 Peter 3: 8-15a

Verse Eleven: “What kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live holy and godly lives.”

The followers of Jesus that lived in His lifetime thought that He would return very soon – in weeks or maybe in months.  But as the months turned into years and the years into decades, it became harder and harder to wait.  Not only did Jesus not return, but the Jews and other non-Christians were more than willing to remind them.  Over time the faithful began to wait with a patient and enduring hope.  Peter writes of this, saying, “He is patient… not wanting anyone to perish”.  Maybe God has not allowed Jesus to return just yet because there are still more souls to be saved.

I read a story in my devotional this morning about a woman who also held onto hope.  The militia had arrested her husband and son three years before, yet she continued to come every Monday, to the local police station, to hold a prayer vigil for her husband and son.  One day a guard mocked her and she replied with faith: “God’s justice will never fail.  It may come today or it may come in a 1,000 years, but it is coming”.  Her rock-solid faith allowed her to stand in the face of beatings and other persecutions to continue to pray for her family.  She stood on God’s promise to one day return and make all things new.

While all this is to say that God is patient, Peter also reminds us that the return will come like “a thief in the night”.  It will be quick and unexpected.  This idea makes me think of the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 attacks.  The Wall had seemed to stand forever – as long as anyone could remember.  Then one day, it was suddenly torn down.  The twin towers had always seemed to be in the skyline view, then one day they suddenly were not.  In light of this unknown time, Peter asks us, “”What kind of people ought you to be?”  Without pause he continues to answer the question, saying, “You ought to live holy and godly lives.”  He calls us to live as Jesus lived, holy and godly.

Yes, we will fall short at times.  Yes, we lose our grip on the promise now and then.  In our last verse, Peter adds a word of encouragement that we need to hold fast to: “Bear in mind that the Lord’s patience means salvation”.  It is a love that never ends and a mercy that washes over sin after sin.  Thanks be to God for your steadfast love and your patient mercy.


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His Strength

Reading: Matthew 16: 21-23

Verse 23: You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.

Jesus is preparing the disciples for what is to come in Jerusalem.  In today’s passage He plainly tells them what is about to happen.  Soon enough Jesus will be crucified, glorified, and resurrected.  This is great news from our vantage point, but from the immediate audience’s perspective, this is not good news.  Peter pulls Jesus aside and behind to rebuke Him.  “Never, Lord!” Peter says.  Then the one who had just gotten the gold star for declaring Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God” now hears, “Get behind me, Satan”!  Head of the class to under the bus in short order!

What led Peter to try and rebuke Jesus?  What led him to try and tell Jesus that God’s plan should not happen?  Mostly fear.  The one who they gave up all for and have lived with for three years and have grown to love deeply has told them that soon He will die.  None of the disciples want to consider life without Jesus.  Peter is just the one to voice it.  Just like all of the disciples we too have felt the fear that rises up from the unknown that lies just ahead.  We have certainly faced it with the loss if one we love but the fear can also come equally in lesser situations.

Fear is one of Satan’s greatest weapons.  Go and share my faith with him?  But what if he rejects me or ridicules me or asks me a hard question?  Bring a meal to that family?  But what if they break down or if their pain causes them to lash out?  Help with Sunday School?  But what if the students are unruly or if they do not like me?

Jesus says to Peter, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men”.  Fear is not from God.  Into our fears and doubts, God promises to always be with us.  He says to trust in Him.  God is always preparing us and is always giving us opportunities to keep the things of God on our hearts and minds.  May we ever seek His presence and step out in God’s grace and love, allowing His strength to lead us into ministry to others and to our world.  Trust in His strength.


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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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God’s Plan

Reading: John 18:1 to 19:42

Verse 19:30 – Jesus said, “It is finished”.

Good Friday is here!  Jesus has been arrested and has been brought before Annas and Caiaphas.  Before this parade will move on to Pilate, Peter will deny Jesus three times – just as Jesus said.  Before the high priest Jesus asks, ‘What did I do wrong’?  Jesus reminds them that He taught in the temple and said nothing in private.  Yet early in the morning, Jesus ends up before Pilate, the Roman governor.

It is interesting that Jesus ends up here.  They are asking a political leader to offer a solution to their religious conflict.  On at least a few occasions, these same leaders have picked up rocks to stone Jesus.  It was an option.  It was a practice used by the Jews to punish certain sins.  The blasphemy they accuse Jesus of would qualify.  But the crucifixion fulfilled the words Jesus himself had spoken about His own death.  It was another example of how God was fully in control of what was unfolding.

Peter’s denials also fit into this category.  It seems odd that the one on whom Jesus would build the church would be the same one to deny even knowing Jesus.  God’s plan at work.  In a short time, the risen Jesus will ask Peter three times if he loves Him.  Three times to wash away the three denials.  Jesus restores Peter and now he is ready to be the Rock.  God’s plan even includes Pilate.  Pilate declares Jesus innocent.  His is an important statement.  Yes, an innocent man will die.  Jesus used the word ‘truth’ with Pilate and it must have stuck.  Pilate has a sign prepared and placed on top of Jesus’ cross.  It reads: “Jesus of Nazareth.  King of the Jews”.  It was written in three languages so that all could read it and take in the truth of it’s message.  All in God’s plan.

As death approaches, Jesus offers one last act of love.  He provides for His mother’s care.  It is a beautiful gesture.  Now that all is right in the world and now that all has gone according to God’s plan, Jesus is ready to die.  He says, “It is finished” and breathes His last.  The tomb awaits.  But He won’t be there long!