pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Hope and Restoration

Reading: Ezekiel 37: 1-14

Verse 3: He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live”?

Ezekiel walks and walks amongst​ the dry bones.  There are literally millions of Bones strewn across the valley – enough to make a vast army.  As he walks among the bones, to him they are at first just dry old bones scattered across the valley.  There are no grave markers to identify who exactly is where.  These bones are symbolic of Israel.  The bones and their dryness indicate the state of Israel in exile.  They are long in exile and have lost touch with the faith and with God.  The bones coming back to life and standing as a vast army is symbolic of how God will bring His people out if exile one day and will restore them as a nation.

In sending Ezekiel among the dry bones, God is acknowledging the state of affairs with His chosen people.  All are cognizant that their choices, their sins, have led to where they currently find themselves.  It is what it is.  But in this vision, God is saying, “I am not done with you yet.  This is not the end of the story.  I will restore you.  I love you”.  God see what will be once again.  God wants to share this hope with Ezekiel, His prophet to the people, so that the people can hold onto and look towards hope and restoration.

Isn’t this still the story today?  Isn’t this still the message that all who are ‘dry’ or are out in the valley need to hear today?  There are lots of people who feel lost or not connected to God.  They desperately need the breath of life to breathe into them.  There are lots who feel defeated.  They need God to pick them up, to strengthen them, so that they can stand once again.  There are others who feel that God has forgotten or abandoned them.  They need to be reconnected to the source of life.  There are many who need to hear the story.  There are many.  Who will you share the story if hope and restoration with today?


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Healing

Reading: Matthew 11: 2-6

Jesus’ response to John the Baptist’s question is interesting.  Jesus speaks of the restorations prophesied about in Isaiah 35: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are healed…  All of these things listed are physical limitations.  Make no mistake, throughout the world people are healed every day from physical afflictions, all in the name of Jesus.  The work Jesus began continues through His followers.  Jesus’ response is interesting because the true healing Jesus brought was for our inner healing.  Ultimately Jesus Christ came to free us from the powers of sin and death so that we could one day enter eternal life.

When John preached in the wilderness, h called for people to repent of their sins and to make straight paths for the coming of the Messiah.  John challenged people to be rid of the sin in their lives so that they were ready to welcome the Messiah.  Jesus’ response to John’s question is about change in the physical sense.  John predicted one who would come to bring healing in the spiritual sense.

Jesus speaks of a healing that I think most often must come first.  Before people can hear the good news of Jesus Christ, they must first have their basic needs met.  It may be one of the physical limitations that Jesus speaks of that is a barrier to their spiritual lives.  It may be a physical limitation such as food or shelter or clothing.  Jesus certainly addressed our call to meet these needs as well.  By bringing healing and restoration in the physical realms, we open the way to healing and restoration in the spiritual realms.  This day, through our words, prayers, and actions, may we each bring healing to our broken world, all in the powerful name of Jesus Christ.


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New Heaven

Reading: Revelation 21: 1-6

Today’s reading reminds us that one day there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  In this new and restored creation God will dwell among His people, just as He did at the beginning of creation when He walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden.  All things will be made new and there will be no more pain or tears or violence or anything else that is sinful.  All will dwell in God’s love and presence.

At times, when experiencing a very difficult trial or when our health becomes very poor, we long for this new heaven and earth to be here now.  The idea of such a place where all is right and new sounds so good in the midst of the valley.  For many whose faith is solid, death is simply the first step into God making them new and whole again.

But this passage is not only about a time and place somewhere in the future.  It is a present tense promise as well.  In verse five it reads, “I am making everything new!” and in verse six we are promised water from the spring of eternal life.  God will not only restore the whole earth one day, He wants to begin to make each of us into a new creation in Him.  God’s desire is for us to begin living into this new life now.  Once we enter into a personal relationship with God, He offers new mercies each day, a restoration of the brokenness in our lives each day.

The days of abundant and joyous life do not have to wait until we enter heaven or until when the new heaven and earth comes.  God wants us to begin to experience a taste of that life here and now.  Through trusting in God now, we begin to experience His promises and blessings now.  May we live each day with God’s love and restoring power as a daily, present reality.


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Love

Reading: John 18:1 to 19:42

The Jewish religious authorities are wise.  They know their own laws inside out and use their own interpretation to build a case against Jesus.  It is a flimsy case at best, which Pilate sees right through.  They do not even state the laws Jesus ‘broke’ but instead remain vague.  Pilate is sharp enough to realize that Jesus has not really committed any crimes.  But he is also insecure and the Jewish leaders are well aware of this.  They understand the political game and have seen the consequences of being against Caesar.  So they play Jesus’ claim to be king against Pilate’s fear of Rome to force an execution.

Just as Caiaphas had earlier stated that it would be better for one man to die, Pilate maybe sees the current situation with Jesus this way too.  Better for one man to die rather than the Jews and possibly the whole city to be in an uproar, to draw attention from Rome.  Pilate’s guilt is easily set aside and Jesus helps by not defending Himself.  This is why He came; He will not interfere with God’s plans either.

On this day when we remember the trial and crucifixion, let us also remember the message of the cross.  Jesus, the perfect lamb, was willing to die for our sins.  Nothing says “I love you” more than this. God, through Jesus, is all about love, relationship, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and restoration.  This is the message we need to share with the world.

We must be careful to not be like the Jewish leaders, bending and picking and choosing the Law to meet our own needs.  The Bible is vast and contains a wide array of ideas.  We cannot pick out parts we like and ignore parts we do not like to manipulate others or to justify and rationalize ourselves.  It is a whole story – the story of God’s redeeming love.  It is a love letter from God to us all, inviting us into a deeply committed, loving relationship with Him.  This is good news to share.


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Salvation

Reading: Psalm 118: 14

Salvation, as it was often used in the Old Testament, has a slightly different connotation than how it is primarily used in the New Testament.  Whereas in general Christians see salvation as a personal and eternal matter, to the average Jew of the time salvation was more communal and concerned life in the present time and place.

In the Psalm there is a sense of tragedy and despair that God has rescued them from.  During this time the psalmist felt trapped, limited.  It was as if the world has closed in tight and it was hard to breathe.  It is a feeling we all can surely relate to.  For the psalmist, God’s act of salvation rescued them from despair and restored their hope in this life.  Part of this rescue is the liberation from that which constricted or oppressed them so that they can again have the abundant life that God intends for us all to live.  For the Hebrew community, salvation was something that could happen over and over and over again.

As Christians, we also see God’s presence and interaction with us as a regular, daily event.  We also view God as active and engaged in our daily lives.  We see God as present with us as individuals as well as with our faith communities and world.  God listens to our praise, our cries, our thanksgivings, and our pleas.  He responds to our needs and rescues us from trials so that we can live a life that is abundant and joyful, filled with His many blessings.

In both the Old Testament and in the New Testament, salvation has a saving character to it.  In the Old Testament it mostly had to do with God’s hand at work in their world, saving people from their struggles.  For us as New Testament people, we still see God at work doing this, but we also see salvation as the work that saves us from sin, death, and their consequences.  For both of these aspects of God’s salvation, I am thankful.  Praise be to God!


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One Word

“Ephphata!” – be opened.  With a touch and this one word, Jesus restored a man.  The man brought by his friends was both deaf and mute.  One word from Jesus later and he was healed.  With one word his life was forever altered.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to be blind.  It would be very different as I rely so much on what I see.  From reading to observing people to writing to playing music – I am dependant upon my sight.  To not have the ability to talk and sing and shout would be very difficult as well.

Up to this point the man has been dependent on friends and family.  A job would be impossible so he would beg or impose.  To the Jews, he was ceremonially unclean so he could not enter the temple to worship.  Other than those closest to him, many in society would have shunned him or ignored him at best.

Some people in my world need restored and healed.  They need to be connected to a community to care for and guide them.  They need healing and restoring from a wide variety of things.  For some it is addiction, for others a significant loss.  For some it is broken relationships, for others it is a string of poor decisions.  The list goes on.  We all know people who need much.  All need healed and restored.

Friends brought the man to Jesus.  With a word Jesus restored and healed the man.  Faith grew that day – for the man, for his friends and family, and for all who heard the story.  We all know people who need healing and restoration.  May we all be a part of bringing people closer to Jesus so they can hear Him speak the one word they need to hear: “Come.”  Share Jesus so that the restoration and healing can begin.

Mark 7: 31-37


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At the Table

Today’s text is a little troubling.  As a fellow pastor said at the lectionary study yesterday, “It makes me uncomfortable.”  In today’s text Jesus calls the woman who has come to beg for her daughter’s healing a “dog”.  It was not likely a racial insult in Jesus’ day.  We are used to Jesus sparring with the Pharisees and calling them ‘hypocrites’ but this seems different.  The loving Jesus who seems to accept all who come to him is trying to rudely dismiss this woman.  This version of Jesus makes me uncomfortable too.

Perhaps it makes me uncomfortable because at times I have thought less of another as well.  This is often a means to justify not helping them or to rationalize not taking the time to be present with them.  In essence I too am calling them a ‘dog’ in my mind and in my analysis of their worth.

Yet in this story I also find hope.  In my sin I come before God seeking healing and forgiveness much like a dog.  Slinking up to Him, head bowed low, I approach knowing I am unworthy to be in His presence.  Like this woman, I do not and cannot argue with my position because in my sin I am lowly.  So like her I approach humbly.  In her the hope I find, though, is also in her boldness.

This woman is bold in asking for her daughter’s healing.  She just asks for a ‘crumb’.  She knows that just a little bit of Jesus’ power is enough to heal her daughter.  And it does.  I too approach boldly.  Although made low in my sin, I too can boldly ask to be healed, to be made new, to be washed by His blood.  And just like that I too find healing and restoration.  And in God’s great love and mercy, I am no longer under the table.  As a child of God I am restored back to the table.  For this, I say thanks be to God!

Scripture reference: Mark 7: 24-30