pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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He Died for Us

Reading: Romans 5: 6-8

Verse Six: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

To me, today’s three verses speak to the depth of God’s love for all of humanity.  The key words are ‘love’ and ‘all’.  It is an amazing, mighty, almost unfathomable love that would send His Son, knowing He would die a painful death.  And speaking of unfathomable – Jesus died for sinners, for you and me, plus all those who hate God and those who deny God and those who refuse to acknowledge God’s existence…  To die for the sinners we all are is one thing.  To die for the haters, the atheists, the non-believers… is a whole other level of ‘all’.

Verse six reads, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”.  In His infinite wisdom, God initiated His plan to save us at ‘just the right time’.  God’s hand is often at work in the world.  Sometimes it happens in big ways, like this, and at other times God’s hand is at work in smaller ways, like the time that person said that thing to you at that time in your life.  There is another truth in this verse.  We are powerless.  Before the cross humanity was trapped in our sin and held captive by death.  But through the cross we find forgiveness and hope.  As Christ conquered sin and death, He opened the way for us too.  Through a personal relationship with Jesus we can claim salvation and eternal life.

In the next two verses, Paul returns to the idea of just who Christ died for.  He notes that maybe some would die for a good man.  I think some are even willing to die for a good cause.  But no one would be willing to die for an enemy or for a cause they do not believe in.  Jesus died for both.  “While we were sinners” – separated from God – He died for us.  That’s amazing, but it goes farther.  Jesus knew we would continue to sin.  He knew His death would not end sinning.  But He died anyway.  We, by our imperfect nature, are prone to sin.  And Jesus died for each and every one of us anyway.  Thanks be to God.


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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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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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The Blood

Reading: Matthew 27: 11-26

Verse 23: Why? What crime has he committed?

Today we read of the “trial” before Pilate, the Roman governor.  Like a few stops along the journey to the cross, we could ask if Jesus had to die.  Couldn’t there have been another way?  Pilate had the authority to free or to condemn Jesus.  The decision concerning life and death rested in his hands alone.

The religious authorities that have been pushing the action to this point in the story would say that Jesus has to die.  They have traded barbs with Him over the last few years and it has increasingly become an “us or Him” type of situation.  They have schemed and trumped up a charge.  They have the crowd whipped up and ready to influence Pilate.  All goes according to their plan.  Even though Pilate senses Jesus is innocent, the crowd is too much for Pilate.  They roar for Jesus’ death even as he asks them, “Why?  What crime has he committed”?  Pilate condemns Jesus to desth, but washes his hands of Jesus’ blood.

Is it all going according to their plan?  Did Jesus gave to die?  The plan being followed is not the religious authorities’ plan.  It is God’s plan.  To die, to be our sacrifice, is why God sent Jesus in the first place.  It is hard to understand why a father would send a son knowing his fate on the cross.  But God has a few years of experience with humanity.  God has sent prophet after prophet, priest after priest, king after king to try and lead the people to live in a right relationship with God.  He has seen dove after dove, lamb after lamb, cow after cow sacrificed on the altar.  None brings atonement.  None removes the guilt of our sins.  None ultimately changes the relationship between God and the people.  Mankind is sinful.  We are of the flesh so we struggle with sin.  We live in a constant battle with sin.  The old covenant left humanity captive to sin and death.

In Jesus’ death and resurrection God established a new covenant with humanity.  On the cross, Jesus took on the sin of the world.  He took on sin that was, sin that is, and sin to come.  In His sacrifice Jesus paid the price for our sin.  We do not have to offer sacrifices any longer.  Jesus is our sacrifice.  He chose the cross so that the sins of the world could be washed away.  Through His blood our sins are washed away.  Jesus fulfilled His statement: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.  Through the name of Jesus we can claim eternal life.  In His name, our sins are forgiven.  Thank you God for the blood of the Lamb.


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God on Display

Reading: John 9: 1-23

Verse 11: So I went and washed, and then I could see.

Today’s story makes us think.  It is a story that wrestles with the ‘why’ questions.  Why does the world work the way it does?  Why does God?  God created us with intelligence and curiosity.  We want to know how and why things work.  We want to understand things.  Life and death and what happens in between have long been mysteries that mankind has sought to explain, understand, …  Yes, we certainly know much more than we did even twenty years ago.  Yet there is still much we cannot explain or understand or begin to answer the ‘why’ questions that we have.

The cycle often repeated in the Old Testament is: following God, becoming disobedient, receiving punishment, returning to God.  So when the people considered why someone was born blind or deaf or why someone had leprosy, the natural conclusion was that it must have been punishment for something.  It was a short leap from stories such as Miriam’s disease for disobedience to applying this logic to all cases of affliction.  What caused this affliction?  Sin!  So when the man was born blind, all assumed someone in the family had sinned and this man’s blindness was the eventual consequence.

Today we know that this is not the case.  But we are still often left with the ‘why’ questions.  Why did he die so young?  Why did my spouse leave me?  Why did my position have to be the job that was eliminated?  All of these types of questions can eventually lead to the bigger one: why did God…?  It is a difficult question.  It is a question that may not be answered for years.  It is a question that is sometimes never answered.

God created our world and set it in motion.  God created the weather systems, for example.  The system was designed and set into motion.  We experience hot and cold, snow and rain, sun and clouds.  No one would argue that God individually and personally forms each of the zillions of rain drops that fall each day.  Our world operated much the same way.  Our bodies grow and they decay.  We get colds and the flu.  We lose our site or our hearing.  We get cancer and Alzheimer’s.  People make decisions that affect others – sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad.  The lightning strikes and causes a forest fire.  Much we cannot explain.

But in and through it all, God seeks to be present.  In and through it all we can trust God, we can cling to Him, we can walk with Him.  We know that God will give us just what we need for the day or situation at hand.

The blind man needed to see.  He believed what Jesus said and he received what he needed.  Through him, the glory of God was displayed.  No, he didn’t really know ‘why’ Jesus touched him and he couldn’t explain ‘why’ he could now see, but He did and  he could.  When we trust, when we have faith, when we are faithful, God is true.  Then God will be displayed in our lives as well.  May it be so.


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Rejoice, Be Glad

Reading: Psalm 32

The confession of our sin is an essential part of our faith.  It always has been the key to restoring our relationship to God and to finding renewal in our innermost being.  When we fail to confess our sins, we carry around within us a weight or a shame or guilt that inhibits us from truly living life.  The psalmist calls us blessed when our transgressions are forgiven.  The writer contrasts this with his experience when he did not confess – his bones wasted away and he groaned day and night.  We to experience similar consequences when we hold onto our sin.

Even more important than avoiding the negative consequences of holding onto our sin, which we can do, is the forgiveness and grace we experience when we do come to God with our sins.  In verse five, the psalmist writes, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, you forgave the guilt of my sin”.  He speaks of the guilt being forgiven and of the protection he felt after being made right again with God.  The psalmist describes it as being surrounded with songs of deliverance.  When we confess our sins and allow Jesus to remove the guilt and the burden, we too feel both a sense of relief and also a sense of elation at once again being in a right relationship with the Lord our God.

Today in many of our churches we will celebrate communion.  It is our time to confess our sins, to repent, and to be forgiven as an individual and as a community of faith.  We trust God to hear the words of our confessions and to then restore us to holy and pure.  In verse ten the psalmist writes, “the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts Him”.  This day and each day, may we be people of confession and repentance, ever seeking to be in a right relationship with God, ever desiring to walk within God’s blessing and protection, so that we too, like the psalmist, may rejoice and be glad.


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One Man

Reading: Romans 5: 12-19

In today’s reading, we have the first Adam and the second Adam, Jesus Christ.  In both Adam and Christ we are all connected together.  By all, I mean all people – not just Christians.  The choices that Adam and Jesus made affects all people, not just believers.

Adam chose to sin and through that sin death entered the world.  In this one act of disobedience, Adam brought death to humanity.  We will all one day die as a part of this earthly existence.  Whether or not you believe in God or in Jesus, one day death will come.  Death comes not just to our human bodies.  Sin also brings death to our relationships, to our dreams, to our connection to God.  All of humanity shares in these realities.  Adam’s choice brought sin into the world.  In turn, sin brings condemnation and death.

Christ made a different choice.  Christ’s choice was also made by one man, but in obedience to God.  Through Christ’s decision, true life entered the world.  It is not the earthly life we now experience but the glimpse of eternal life that all who call on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will one day experience.  Verse nineteen reads, “Through the obedience of the one man many will be made righteous”.  Jesus, in His obedience, paid the price of our sin and instead of condemnation, God now offers us justification.  Through the body and blood of Jesus, we can be made whole again, righteous in God’s sight, because Jesus washes away our sins.

Just as Adam’s choice affected all of humanity, so too does Christ’s choice.  We also know from Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.  We know from all four Gospels that Jesus always operated from the place of love.  Jesus’ love was extended to all people – to tax collectors, to prostitutes, to Pharisees, to lepers, to any and all who came to Him.  In the same way, Jesus offers eternal life to us all.  To me, a sinner.  To you, a sinner.  To all.  It is a free gift, generously given to one and to all.  Thank you Lord Jesus for this amazing love.