pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Walking as Witnesses

Reading: Acts 2: 14a and 22-33

Verse 24: “God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him”.

As Acts begins, the early church is starting to take shape and to grow. In today’s passage we read part of one of the first sermons given about Jesus Christ. Peter uses Old Testament scripture to connect his audience to Jesus. In verses 17-21 he quotes from Joel 2 and in our passage today he quotes from Psalm 16. In preaching to a mostly Jewish crowd Peter is using their prior knowledge to build new understanding.

In today’s passage Peter recounts the basics of the crucifixion before turning to the reality of the resurrection. In verse 24 he writes, “God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him”. Impossible. As Peter links into all the Old Testament scripture that speaks of and prophesies about Jesus, he believes that the plan, God’s plan, was perfect. All the dots connect. Therefore it is impossible for death to interrupt God’s perfect plan. Peter then uses the quote from Psalm 16 as his proof text. He reads these words of David as words about Christ – David’s promised heir upon the throne forever.

Peter closes his case with an eyewitness claim. Not only do the scriptures speak of Jesus’ resurrection, but Peter and his fellow disciples are eyewitness – they have seen the risen Lord. Peter is so sure that he states that they are “witnesses of the fact”. Peter is as sure of what he has seen as he is of the Old Testament passages that speak of the Messiah. All of this leads Peter to the place David found too – to “live in hope”. Jesus Christ is our hope too. He is our promise of God’s love. As we begin to walk anew as Easter people, may we too walk as witnesses to the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Father God, may I bear witness to the truth of the resurrection today. May all I do and say and think point to the risen Lord, my Savior. Empower me by the Holy Spirit to bring you all the glory today. Amen.


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Poverty of Spirit

Reading: Matthew 5: 1-3

Verse 3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”.

Today we focus in on the first verses of the Beatitudes. Yesterday we read through verse twelve, hearing all of the Beatitudes. Verses one and two set up the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. The basic idea here is that Jesus goes up a mountain and begins to teach. There is an implication in this that Jesus did not just go up a few feet, but went up a ways. If one wanted to hear Jesus teach, one had to exert a little effort and head up the mountain. Figuratively, this remains the case with our faith today. It does not come easily but requires some commitment on our part. This is especially true if we want to have a faith that grows and matures and deepens.

The one Beatitude that we have today is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”. Here Jesus follows a typical teaching style, beginning with the most important or critical and then unpacking from there. For example, in the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments begin this way. God begins by establishing the singular relationship – one God, one people. This is the hinge upon which all the others rest. To be poor in spirit does not mean having weak faith. It means recognizing our weakness. It means recognizing our need for God. To be poor in spirit requires humility and honesty. The process begins with recognizing our brokenness and our need for redemption. This leads to confession and repentance of our sins, an act that requires humility. No one in the world likes to admit they are wrong or have done wrong. A right relationship with God begins by admitting this and then yielding to God’s power to make us new again. To continue to live in this cycle requires honesty. To keep looking within, to keep acknowledging our sin, to keep asking for God’s help requires honesty. The battle with sin never ends so our need for forgiveness and renewal is neverending as well.

From a place of recognizing our utter reliance on God, the other Beatitudes unfold. Being meek, hungering for righteousness, being a peacemaker… – they come out of our poverty of spirit. May our daily walk ever be grounded in humility and honesty, in our deep need for God. May it always be so.

Prayer: Lord God, give me a will to keep trooping up the mountain to be in your presence. You’re always so willing to come down the mountain and into my valleys. Make me as willing to seek you humbly and honestly. Day by day, may my hunger and thirst for you grow. Fuel the fire, Lord, fuel the fire. Amen.


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A Living Expression

Ezra and the Levites not only read the Word of God to the people, but they also explain the meaning.  In doing so, the people can do more than simply hear the Word read; they can gain an understanding of them and apply them to their lives.  In today’s passage, they were reading from the law.  Through the priests’ explanations, the people came to see that they were falling short and they mourned.

At times we too read the Bible or hear a sermon or read a devotional book and we experience conviction or motivation.  Maybe the passage is about loving our neighbor and we realize we have been less than loving to a coworker.  Maybe the message is about forgiveness and it leads us to reconcile with a friend.  Maybe the devotional for the day speaks of an act of generosity and we are inspired to clean out the closets so that we can donate some warm clothing to the local mission.  God’s Word is active and living.  When we spend time in the Word, reading or hearing it, it has to affect how we live our life as it builds our love for God.  Through the Word, we also come to know God’s love for us.

Ezra does not leave the people mourning though.  Instead he reminds them of the holiness of their gathering and of their ability to live out the Word.  He helps them to see that when they are together, it is a time of blessing.  The blessing is both from the time spent with God and from the time spent with each other as both build up their strength.  As he sends them out to the feast to celebrate, he reminds them to continue to care for one another and to be in community.  If a brother or sister is lacking, he reminds the people to provide for them so that they too can celebrate God’s presence and strength in their lives and in the community.

We too are called to hear and then doers of the Word.  May our lives each day be a living expression of all that God places upon our hearts and then calls us to do as we continue on our journey of faith.

Scripture reference: Nehemiah 8: 8-10