pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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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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He Is Alive!

Reading: John 20: 1-18

Verse 18: Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news, “I have seen the Lord”!

In the original garden, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God.  They had a close, personal relationship.  Their sin cost them much: they were forced from the garden.  With sin, death also entered the world.  We fast forward to another garden, this time the garden of Gethsemane.  In a moment of weakness, we find a human Jesus worried about death.  He does not want to die.  The physical part of Jesus knows what it will be like to be crucified.  But Jesus masters the fear and prepares to walk to the cross.  The divine Jesus triumphs and He is willing to drink of the cup for us.  The cup represents the new covenant, made with His blood.  This cup of forgiveness is for all who call on Jesus as Lord and Savior.  His blood was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).  The sin that had entered in the first garden is defeated by Christ on the cross.  In the new covenant, we are freed from the power of sin.

Today’s story takes place in another garden.  Hope seemed lost.  Mary and the disciples have seen that the tomb is empty, but the do not understand.  The one they called “Messiah” – Savior of the world – was gone.  Mary stands alone, weeping.  Then angels appear, almost to announce what happens next.  Mary turns and asks for the body.  “Mary”.  Jesus speaks her name.  “Mary”.  With her name spoken, suddenly she knows it is Jesus.  She knows His voice.  He calls her by name.  In John 10:14, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me”.  At His voice, Mary knows it is Jesus.  On the cross, Jesus defeated sin.  From the grave, He defeats death.

Jesus continues to call out, calling us each by name.  He calls us by name, into a personal relationship with Him.  When we open our hearts to Jesus, He comes and dwells within us.  In this relationship, we know Jesus, just as He knows us.  In this relationship, we experience what He experienced – victory over sin and death.  May we join many, proclaiming what Mary proclaimed: “I have seen the Lord”!  Hallelujah and amen!  He is risen!  He is alive!!


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Lent and Ashes

Reading: Psalm 51: 1-17

Lent begins today on Ash Wednesday.  We mirror Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness with a season in which we too prepare ourselves and look forward to Easter, when we celebrate our risen Lord.  On this Lenten journey we pray, study, meditate, fast, and repent as means of preparation.  We begin this journey with ashes.  As we repent and work to mirror Jesus, we must work to prune away all that is impure and force certain parts of ourselves to die.  The mark of the cross on our foreheads reminds us that we belong to Jesus.  The one we seek to follow and emulate walks with us.  As we undertake this Lenten journey, we know that we do not walk alone.

Psalm 51, the Ash Wednesday choice forever, opens with, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love”.  Verse three reminds us, “My sin is always before me”.  We live each and every day with this reality.  We are always in a battle with temptation and sin; Satan remains vigilant, always seeking to derail us, to draw us away from God.  We seek and desperately need God’s mercy because we fail.  We are assured of God’s unfailing love.  This is a beautiful thing.  In verse ten we read, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me”.  These words will be said often tonight.  This is our goal in this life – to live with a pure heart.  Creating a pure heart is the focus of our Lenten journey.  May we use verse ten often as a prayer to God in this holy season of Lent.

Lent is certainly a time to look inward and to prepare for the risen Christ.  But we must also look outward.  We do not live in a vacuum.  We live as a part of humanity.  As such, we are all connected together.  Verse thirteen reads, “then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you”.  We are called as Christians to shine the light of Jesus out into the world.  Many are broken and hurting.  Each needs to experience God’s unlimited mercy, unfailing love, and endless forgiveness.  As we journey through Lent, preparing ourselves, may we also help others on their journey, bringing friends and strangers alike to the cross so that they too can know our risen Savior.


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D

Reading: 2 Peter 1: 16-18

Like almost all the other stories of Jesus, someone was there to remember the event, to tell others about it, to one day record it.  I’d imagine most of the stories, particularly the miracles, were talked about quite a bit.  This is a large part of why Jesus drew such a crowd at times.  They had heard.  At Jesus’ baptism there were some onlookers there to see the Spirit descended and to hear the “this is my Son” declaration.  But the transfiguration story is so much more.  Jesus’ appearance changes, Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Jesus, the voice of God again speaks.  In all of this, we gain confirmation of Jesus’ divinity and authority.  But, for the time being, this story goes untold, as per Jesus’ instructions.

In the transfiguration account, we see that the God we adore and worship and praise is the same as the the One who came in the flesh.  In the power and divine majesty of the transfiguration, we see a glimpse of the Messiah who will one day return again to restore all things as He establishes the new heaven and earth.  The image in 2nd Peter also connects forward to the vision of Jesus that John has in Revelation.  Both Peter and John are so in awe of what they see that they both have trouble putting words to what they see and experience.  In between these two events we have he risen Lord, appearing in the garden, in a room, on the seashore,…  We see a loving God who reassures His closest friends that He is going back to be with His Father, but also promising to one day return in glory.

As we prepare to enter Lent, we embrace all of this – the Christ who was here before time, the human Jesus who walked the earth and was crucified for our sins, and the risen Messiah that will one day return to make all things new.  As faithful and obedient disciples, we cry out, “Come Lord Jesus, come!”


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The Solution

Reading: John 21: 1-14

In the Gospel of John, Jesus has already appeared to the disciples two times, but they have not yet been empowered.  They are still in the “now what?” stage.  Jesus is indeed risen, but…  Fear of the authorities is maybe a little less now, but it is still real.  In the midst of all this waiting around behind locked doors, Peter announces that he is going fishing.  The combination of knowing Jesus is alive and being couped up for a while may explain his decision.  But for Peter, part of it may be the emotions he is personally dealing with.  Bold and fiery Peter swore allegiance to Jesus at all costs, even death, but had denied even knowing Jesus three times that last night.

So maybe Peter was seeking to return to something he knew, to his roots.  Up until meeting Jesus he had always been a fisherman.  We all find comfort in knowing what we are doing, in the familiar.  Out on the water with his friends, Peter probably found a measure of peace.  Doing something familiar probably took his mind off his guilt.

Sometimes we are not unlike Peter.  After a tough day a big bowl of ice cream or a bag of chips sure can help a lot.  For some, addictive or destructive habits can be where they turn.  We run the gamut with our coping mechanisms.  But our root cause and solution are the same: something has created tension or angst and we want to occupy ourselves somehow, so we reach out for what we know.

When Peter is in the boat and he comes to recognize it is Jesus on the shore, he immediately jumps into the water to get to Jesus quickly.  His fishing trip didn’t really fix anything.  Peter knows Jesus can.  In our times of trial may we too quickly look to Jesus.  May we too go to Him without hesitation.  Jesus is always the solution.  Always.


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He Is Risen!

Let us rejoice – He is risen!  All hope seemed lost but hope has returned forever.  Mary Magdalene found the tomb empty and went to tell the disciples.  Peter and John found the tomb empty as well.  Mary returned and stood outside weeping.  No one knew Jesus was alive.

When Jesus calls her name, saying “Mary”, she recognizes Him through her tears.  In an instant she knows – He is alive!  Tears turn to joy!  Jesus calls her by name and instructs Mary to go and tell the disciples.  Mary is the messenger and she tells them that Jesus is alive.  There is resurrection after death.  What seemed lost has new life.

Jesus called Mary by name and He calls each of us by name.  His call is the same to us as it was to Mary: go forth and share the good news.  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Hallelujah!!

Scripture references: Psalm 118: 24 and John 20: 1-18


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To the Galilees!!!

When do you think, if ever, Mary and Mary Magdalene asked the question, “How will we move the stone?”  Clearly they have emotionally moved at least a little past the immediate shock of Jesus’ crucifixion.  They were cognizant enough to observe the Sabbath – or was it just so deeply engrained in them that they just naturally did this?  They were thinking clearly enough to gather up the requisite spices to prepare the body for burial after it had been stored in the tomb.

Matthew reports that an earthquake moved the stone.  Surely they would have felt it, but maybe not have known its purpose.  An angel (or two if you are reading Matthew) tells them not to be afraid and proclaims that Jesus is risen.  He is risen indeed!!  As they turn to go they encounter Jesus.  They clasp his feet and worship him.  He repeats the instructions to go and tell the others.  His words are to also to us – go into the Galilees of our world and share the good news:  He is Risen!!