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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The Flock

Reading: Luke 15: 1-7

Today’s passage begins with Jesus acting in a countercultural way.  He is associating and dining with those who would not be welcome at the Pharisees’ tables and who the Pharisees see as outcasts.  Who could you bring to the family dinner table or to sit beside you in your pew at church that would make others uneasy or would make them frown or tisk-tisk you?

Instead of arguing with the religious leaders, Jesus tells a story that all there could relate to.  Being a shepherd was a very common job.  Although it was a job at the bottom of the scale, all would be familiar with this occupation.  Each gathered there would understand that all the sheep in the flock were of worth and value.  So when one sheep goes missing, of course the shepherd goes and looks for it.  Naturally, the shepherd is happy when the sheep is found.  Although just a story, probably all there were happy for the shepherd too.

Now that Jesus has all in the audience to this common point of understanding, He adds an analogy.  He says that in the same way God rejoices when one lost sinner repents and is returned to the fold.  I think the Pharisees would agree with this concept as well.  If a fellow Pharisee sinned, God would rejoice when they made the requisite sacrifice, became ceremonially clean again, and returned to the group.  Their ‘flock’ is the circle of people who are just like them.

If you walked into church tomorrow with someone who had not attended in a while, the flock would rejoice and say, “Welcome back!” to the lost sheep.  While someone returning to church is a good thing, I think Jesus is making another point.  Jesus’ understanding of “flock” is much bigger than ours or the Pharisees’.  By ‘sinner’ Jesus means all people who sin, not just church members who sin.  Jesus’ vision of flock is ALL people.  Red and yellow, black and white, sinner and saved, believer and non-believer… all are precious in His sight.  Who is outside your circle that you need to bring in?


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Cast Love

Reading: Luke 12: 49-53

Love is patient, love is kind.  Love is not rude, love is not easily angered.  Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  These words from 1 Corinthians 13 seem so appropriate when we consider today’s passage.  Jesus’ words today seem harsh and challenging.  “I have come to bring fire to the earth” sounds ominous and destructive at first.  He states He came not to bring peace but to bring division.  The passage ends telling of the hardest division: the division of families.

I come not to be served but to be served.  Let me wash your feet.  Love thine enemies.  How can Jesus speak these words elsewhere in the Bible and then say He came to divide families?  While all Jesus did and said was based on love, He knew that not all would choose to follow Him.  Jesus knew that many would reject Him.  He also knew the choice to declare Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior was a personal and individual choice.  Because of all this, Jesus knew division would come as we each make our own decision concerning following Him.

The dividing line between follower and nonfollower is sharp.  As followers of Christ we are called to a radical life of love, self-sacrifice, and absolute dedication to our faith.  One cannot be half way dedicated to following Jesus – lukewarm is not following.  So Jesus knew this decision would cut across family lines, through friendships, and would come to define where we stand and who we are.

Over this reality we cast love.  The great commission calls us to go forth to make disciples of all peoples.  Our faith calls us to go forth in love, as Jesus went forth.  Just as He loved the outcast, the sinner, the anyone, so too are we to love all we meet.  In doing so we become the conduit through which Christ’s love reaches others.  It is a love that conquers all fear, doubt, hate, mistrust.  It is a love for all people.  Perhaps this is the fire Jesus wants to bring – His love spreading like wildfire across the communities in which we live.  Today may we cast out love.


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Labels

Reading: Luke 7:36 to 8:3

Labels are a dangerous thing.  Labels are barriers that can inhibit ministry.  Simon the Pharisee labels people.  The woman is a ‘sinner’.  This means to keep away from her lest she make him unclean as well.  Jesus is a ‘teacher’.  He has some good things to share and maybe a few are even applicable to Simon’s life.  But teachers are human, just like him, so they require no allegiance, no commitment, no special status.  And this ‘teacher’ allows a ‘sinner’ to touch Him, so Jesus is almost a sinner too; certainly He is at least ‘unclean’.

We too like to label.  We like to label people because it allows us to put them in boxes and because it allows us to keep them at a distance.  And like the Pharisee, these labels sometimes allow us to dismiss people from our thoughts like he did with the woman.  She was invisible to him even though she stood crying in his own home, right there in front of him.  How often have we driven or walked past a homeless person with a sign asking for help?  How often have we ignored the unkempt woman sleeping in the back pew during church?  We notice them briefly, apply our label – lazy, drunk, outcast… – and move on.

Jesus said to Simon, “He who is forgiven little lives little”.  For the woman she is forgiven much as Jesus restores her to righteousness.  As a new creation she can now go on to love others as Jesus first loved her.  For Simon, he is unwilling to see past a label so he cannot even begin to offer forgiveness for the judgment of others that he had in his heart.  Therefore he will also live others little.

What allowed Jesus to look past ‘sinner’ and to see the brokenness inside the woman?  What can we do to look past lazy, drunk, outcast… to begin to know what is broken inside of others?  The key is in the reverse of Jesus’ statement to Simon.  May we, as followers of Christ and as witnesses to His love, also offer much love to those in need of healing so that they too can begin to experience His forgiveness and can then begin to find healing for the brokenness in their lives.  May we not stop at the label but step beyond the barriers that keep us from sharing Christ with the world in need.