pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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All in All

Reading: Philippians 3: 10-14

Verse 12: I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

There is great power in today’s passage.  There is great hope.  There is great promise.  There is great encouragement.  Pail is fully rooted in Christ and in His love.  He has given his all for the gospel and is willing to suffer and even give his life if that will advance the gospel and bring glory to God.  Paul opens today with a clarion call for all believers: “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection”.  Like Paul, we also want to know these two things.  We want to know Christ for this earthly life so that we can love and serve others as Jesus did.  We want to know the power of His resurrection for this life and the life to come.  In this life, the power of Jesus’ resurrection brings us victory over sin.  Jesus’ resurrection power defeats the guilt and shame and chains of sin so that we can be made holy and pure in this life.  It is a power we call on again and again.  Jesus’ resurrection power also looks to the future – His resurrection power enables us to defeat death and to live eternally with Jesus in heaven.

Knowing all of this is what allowed Paul to be sold out for Jesus and the gospel.  It is what allows us to have the faith and the courage to live as sold out, all in Christians.  If we believe in the power of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, we too can live as Paul did: willing to do anything and willing to face anything to advance the kingdom here on earth.  This is what Paul is talking about when he writes, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”.  Christ took hold of Paul to give him a hope, a love, a promise, a future.  Paul did not take hold of all this and sit on it to keep ut for himself.  He gave his all and eventually his life so others would gain it too.

Paul concludes today with these words: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God had called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”.  Hear these words – straining ahead, pressing on, the prize, called, in Christ Jesus.  Paul’s life reflected the fact that Jesus Christ was his all in all.  May our lives and faith reflect this as well, all for God’s glory and the building of His kingdom here on earth.

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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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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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Living as Easter People

Reading: Acts 2: 14a and 22-32

Verse 24 – God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep it’s hold on Him.

Yesterday was Easter.  Chronologically speaking, the next day Jesus appears to the disciples inside a locked room.  This must have removed any doubt that a few may have been holding onto.  They had all heard Mary’s testimony but had not seen Jesus for themselves.  A week later Jesus again appears to reassure Thomas, who had been absent a week prior.  Today’s passage occurs several weeks later.  Over the forty days since His resurrection, Jesus has appeared multiple times, teaching and performing miracles.  Just before ascending into heaven, Jesus gave the promise to send the Holy Spirit.  Right before today’s text, this has been fulfilled.  The Spirit descended on the believers and the have spoken in tongues, sharing the Word with all of the Jews gathered to celebrate Pentecost.  It is at this point that Peter stands to address the crowd.  They are amazing at the work God has done right before their eyes.

Peter addresses the crowd that day with a message that connects the words of Joel and David to what they have just experienced.  From the prophet Joel, Peter recalls Joel’s vision of God pouring out the Spirit on all people.  He also quotes Joel and reminds the people there that all who “call on the name of the Lord will be saved”.  In today’s text Peter speaks of Jesus’ death and resurrection and backs it up by quoting David from Psalm 16.  In this Psalm, David writes of the Lord being ever before him and of the Holy One not seeing decay.  Peter is connecting two Old Testament texts into what has just occurred, to help those present to make sense of what they have just heard and experienced.  He is connecting what the Jews there know to what they have just witnessed.

Yesterday was Easter.  Many felt and experienced the power of Jesus Christ in and all around them.  Worship was moving and impactful.  It was like Pentecost for the crowd in our passage today.  Verse 24 reads, “God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep it’s hold on Him”.  This we know to be true.  Many experienced it yesterday.  Some are like those there on Pentecost – needing a bit more explanation to help them believe.  How will we live as Easter people today, helping those who felt and experienced to come to know and believe?


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Sunday Is Coming

Reading: Matthew 27: 57-66

Verse 65: “Take a guard,” Pilate said, “Go, make the tomb secure as you can”.

It has been a busy week.  Palm Sunday got things started with a big, celebratory parade.  There was excitement and energy.  There was also anxiety and nervousness as well.  The religious leaders’ nerves were on edge.  As the week progressed, Jesus has remained front and center, His ministry to the people moving full steam ahead.  The tension with the religious leaders has escalated as the week progressed and culminated Thursday with Jesus’ arrest.  The trials and crucifixion buzzed through Thursday night and Friday.  By mid afternoon Jesus is dead and would soon be laid in a tomb.  The religious leaders must have breathed a huge collective sigh of relief as they sat in their homes on Friday night.

But then the thoughts crept in.  One or two or perhaps many began to recall some of Jesus’ words.  For those that did, they soon realized that the events of the past days have gone just as Jesus said they would.  And even though they thought they were running the show…  Didn’t Jesus say something about three days…

The religious leaders go to Pilate early on Saturday morning, on the Sabbath, to ask for soldiers to guard the tomb.  They call Jesus ‘that deceiver’ as they quote Him saying, “After three days I will rise again”.  The religious leaders then make a statement that is not entirely correct but contains truth.  In reference to the resurrection, they say, “This deception will be worse than the first”.  Yes, the effect will be worse for them.  Rising from the dead will be the ultimate verification that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.  Just as the recent events unfolded as Jesus said they would, so too will the resurrection.  Pilate has had enough and easily gives them a guard, saying, “Take a guard and make the tomb as secure as you can”.

The entire Roman army could not keep the tomb secure enough to prevent the resurrection.  It is not done by human hands.  No matter what Pilate, the religious authorities, the guard, anyone… tried to do, Sunday was coming.  Yes indeed!  Sunday is coming!


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To the Cross

Reading: Luke 23: 33-38

As we draw near to the end of our season in the Gospel of Luke, we come to the cross.  In a way it is odd to come to the cross as we prepare to celebrate Advent, a time when we remember Jesus’ birth.  Yet it serves to remind us of why Jesus needed to be born and to live among us.  After all, Jesus came to die.

Oh how the people wanted to have a Messiah who would rid them of the oppressive Romans.  They were looking for a new King David.  During Jesus’ ministry He brought much healing and offered some great teaching on how God really wanted humanity to live together.  For all who saw and heard Jesus or even just the stories, they all knew that Jesus was something special.  But Jesus was not the kingly Messiah they wanted so they mocked Him on the cross.  He did not meet their expectations so they ridiculed and abused Him, releasing some of their own frustrations with their current situation.

It would have been so tempting to lash out from the cross and maybe even to really save Himself.  But Jesus came for a far greater purpose.  To save Himself would have been selfish.  Jesus always placed God first, others second, and Himself last.  To save Himself would have gone against all that Jesus was and is.  Instead, Jesus chose to give Himself.  Instead of releasing His human form from the cross and wiping out the Romans, Jesus unleashed His divine self and defeated an enemy far greater and much stronger than any human empire.  On the cross and in His resurrection, Jesus defeated sin and death.  Sin and death had been ruling since the first sin entered the world through Adam and Eve.

This is why we come to the cross just before we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  It is the greatest gift mankind has ever been given – the freedom from sin and death.  Thank you Jesus.


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Prophets

Reading: Jeremiah 1: 4-10

The opening lines of Jeremiah are powerful.  The Lord is staking a claim on Jeremiah’s life.  God tells him that before he was formed in the womb the claim had been made.  And Jeremiah was not just claimed as a child of God.  The Lord informed him that he had been set apart to be a prophet to the people if God.  Powerful and encouraging words.  Intimidating and frightening words.

Webster’s defines ‘prophet’ as, “a member of some religions who delivers messages that are believed to come from God”.  For Jeremiah, who is speaking directly with God in today’s passage, the message is surely from God.  The timed certainly dictated a need for God’s intervention.  Jeremiah’s place in history was one of turmoil, fear, and threats from outside.  Nations around them were growing in power and the nation of Israel was divided.  Instead of turning to God, the Kings of Judah and Israel tried to make alliances with other kings.  In the end, because of a lack of trust in God’s protection, both nations fell and many were taken to exile in Babylon.

We live in a time when our world needs to hear the Word of God and to experience the love of Jesus Christ.  Beginning in Genesis and running through Revelation we have the inspired Word of God, found in the writings of the Old Testament and the New Testament.  We too have a message to share that comes from God.

Jesus was clear that He was just the beginning.  Starting with the disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit, the work of Jesus was continued.  Paul, Timothy, and others joined in, filled with the same Holy Spirit.  The Word of God was proclaimed and lives were changed.  The world was changed.  Right up to today many have gone forth into the world to share their faith in Jesus with a world in need of love, hope, and light.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow prophets of God’s Holy Word, we too are called.  May we each go forth, armed with God’s messages of love, hope, forgiveness, and resurrection to change lives and to change our world.