Sunday, May 27, 2018

John 3:1-17

There was a prominent Jewish leader by the name of Nicodemus. He was a member of the Pharisee party, a group of men known for their piety and attention to the scriptures. Nicodemus was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest council of the Jews. 2 One night he met up with Jesus and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a God-sent teacher. No one could do all those miraculous God-revealing signs unless God empowered it all.”

3 Jesus responded, “Amen to that. You’ve nailed it with your God-given insight. Unless someone is born from above it would be to impossible see that I’m directing people to God’s kingdom.”

4 Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus’ comment about being born from above and thought that he was talking about a literal rebirth. So he asked, “How is it possible for an adult to be born? Can he crawl back into his mother’s womb for a second birth?”

5 Jesus redirected Nicodemus to his point -- “You can be certain of this -- unless someone experiences life-giving birth through both the water of creation and the Spirit’s recreation you can’t participate in God’s regime. It’s both water and Spirit. 6 Whoever is developed through the natural human process of pregnancy emerges as a being of flesh. On the other hand, the person born through the rebirthing process of the Spirit becomes a living spiritual being.

7 So don’t be surprised when I say that, ‘You must be born from above.’ You need to have a spiritual rebirth. 8 And God’s Spirit blows like an unpredictable wind with a mind of its own. You can hear it swooshing about but you can’t nail it down -- where it’s coming from or which direction it will go next. This illustrates how things work for all who have a Spirit-generated birth.”

9 Nicodemus said, “I still don’t get it. Explain how all this works.”

10 With a twinkle in his eye Jesus responded, “You’re a big shot teacher of all things Israel and you don’t already know this stuff? 11 We’re not messing with you. We know this because we’ve actually seen it ourselves. But we’re having a hard time getting you all to accept what we say. 12 So, if you don’t accept the down to earth clear as day stuff I’ve been saying, how are you ever going to accept what I tell you about heavenly things? 13-15 No one has taken a round trip up to heaven but the Uber Man has come down from there. So look up to him. You remember the story in Numbers 21:5-9 about how the Hebrew people during the wilderness wandering complained against God; and then they were attacked and bitten by poisonous snakes. Many died. So Moses made a bronze replica of one of the snakes and attached it to a pole. He then lifted it up and those who had been bitten were healed as they looked at it. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Uber Man be lifted up on a pole. That way everyone who looks up to him and believes will be healed into a whole and lasting life. 16 God’s love for the world he created was so great that he offered up his one and only Son. And everyone who looks up to him and believes will escape the grip of death into a whole and lasting life. 17 For when God sent his Son into the world his mission was not to condemn the world. Rather he was sent to save the world.”

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Romans 8:22-28

All the screaming, groaning, and pain associated with childbirth makes us think that something terrible is happening. But… The whole of creation is at that point where the birth pangs feel overwhelming. 23 And it’s not just all of the cosmos that is in excruciating pain as the new creation prepares to be born; we experience it internally, too. As a foretaste of the good to come, God has already filled us with his Spirit. So we eagerly anticipate the coming day of delivery -- when our bodies will be set free and (please excuse the mixing of metaphors) we come into our own as adopted children of God. That’s what all the groaning is about -- a vocalization of our hope for delivery -- salvation. 24-25 Hope is the starting point for this salvation. That is, if the delivery were already complete we’d no longer be hoping. By nature, hope has to do with patiently waiting for what can’t be seen because it is still coming.

26 Yet, at the point where we feel overwhelmed and traumatized by the pain of life, the Spirit jumps in to do his thing. We’re so exhausted in the midst of this painful waiting that we don’t even know what to pray for. But the Spirit intervenes, and citing our unexpressed groans, he pleads with God on our behalf. 27 This is actually to our benefit because God and the Spirit are on the same wavelength at the deepest possible level. So, when the Spirit is pleading on our behalf -- coaching us through the birth -- he is doing so in a way that is totally consistent with God’s agenda. 28 Because of this, we know that he will work out everything, from the joyous to the tragic, to the benefit of those who are in love with God -- those people who are called to live out his agenda.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

John 17:6-19

“Father, you have entrusted some people of this world to my care and I have shown them who you are. Now, if they want to know what you’re like, what’s important to you, and what you’re up to, all they have to do is look at me. Because of our tight connection your people are my people. And they have done as they were told -- remaining faithful to your word. 7 They now realize that everything I have done and said is direct revelation from you. 8 I gave them the message that you gave to me, and they’ve come to accept it. Again, they most certainly understand that I’ve come from you. They believe that you sent me!

9 “So I’m praying for them. This prayer isn’t for the people who identify with the world system but it’s for those special people you’ve entrusted to me. They are your people. 10 You and I share everything -- including these people who bring me honor.

11 “This phase of my work is about over so my residency in the world is concluding. However, as I’m heading back to my place with you, these people remain in the world to carry on the work I started. So, Holy Father, tap into everything you are -- everything that we are together -- to take care of them. Might they be united in the same way that you and I are united as one. 12 When I was among them, I acted on your behalf to watch over them. This was the assignment that you gave me. And indeed I kept them safe. None of them were lost, except the one who wasn’t really with me to begin with because he was an agent of destruction -- which is his destiny. This all happened so that the things spoken of in scripture would come about.

13 “Now before I leave the world and head back to you, I have something to say so that they can share in my complete and total joy. 14 When I gave my message to them our people had the same negative experience that I had. The haters jumped all over them because our people identified with me rather than this world. We don’t belong to this world system. 15 But I’m not asking that you pull them out of the world -- just that you guard them -- protect them from Satan, the evil one. 16 Again, we don’t belong to this world system. 17 Help them to live according to the ways of their home territory. Use your message of truth to refine them into peculiar people defined by truth. 18 In the same way that you sent me on a mission into the world, so I am sending them on a mission into the world. 19 I have dedicated myself to them so that they would dedicate themselves to a life defined by truth.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Numbers 6:25

May the Lord catch your eye with his all-consuming smile so that you can start to see his unrelenting mercy and generosity.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Psalm 98:1-9

Sing a new song to the LORD. Sing about all the great things he has done. For he has used his matchless power to win the victory!

2 This is no local secret. The LORD has revealed his salvation -- how righteous and just he is -- to the people of all the nations who are willing to see.

3 God has been constant in his love and faithfulness to the family of Israel. Hey everyone! Yes, even those in the most remote places on the planet -- look up and see the saving activity of our God.

4-5 And then, all you earthlings, give a big shout out to the LORD! Get hysterically loud in your praise. Belt out a song!

Get out your ukuleles and sing happy praises to the LORD. Make music for him accompanied by all kinds of instruments -- harps, trumpets, ram horns... 6 Blast out to God. Fill the air with praise to the LORD, who is the king!

7-8 And nature -- you need to join this happy chorus, too. Let the oceans and all the sea creatures join together with everything and everyone on dry land to roar in praise. Clap your hands, all you rivers. Do a happy dance, all you mountains. Make harmony before the LORD.

9 It’s now evident that the LORD is on the move with his worldwide justice crusade. He will put things right around the globe. And finally, all people will be treated fairly as he establishes his just regime.

Friday, April 27, 2018

1 Corinthians 15:1-58

Brothers and sisters, I know that you have all heard this so many times before but I want to go over the core of the good news message that I preached to you -- that which you embraced as your own and on which you are taking your stand. 2 For if you continue forward with this message that I gave to you, you will continue to experience salvation. If you abandon this message, any kind of faith you had will become null and void -- useless. 3 The message that I received and which I delivered to you focuses on the essentials:

  • Christ died for our sins just as the scriptures said he would,
  • he was buried,
  • and on the third day after he died, he rose from the dead. This resurrection also lines up with what the scriptures say.
  • 5 He appeared to Cephas (aka Peter) --
  • then to the twelve core apprentices of Jesus.
  • 6 Afterward, the risen Jesus appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once. And if you want to fact check that, most of the five hundred are still alive -- although some have died.
  • 7 Then he appeared to James,
  • then to all the apostles,
8-9 and last of all he appeared to me -- the late bloomer and least important of the apostles.

Actually, I don’t even deserve to be called an apostle, because I harassed God’s church. 10 That makes me the poster child for God’s grace -- and that grace has paid off. In fact, I’m the hardest working apostle of all -- although it’s not really me at work but God’s grace working through me.

11 So then, it doesn’t really matter whether you heard the message from me, the other apostles, or another follower of Jesus, what I’ve outlined above is the essential message we’ve been delivering and it’s what you have believed.

12 So think about it a minute, if the message that we’ve been pushing has the resurrection of Christ from the dead at the core, does it make sense when some among you say, “The idea of a future resurrection is a grand metaphor for spiritual enlightenment and there’s not going to be an actual literal resurrection of dead bodies”? 13 Are you seeing the disconnect? If the physical resurrection of dead bodies is an impossibility, then Christ’s body hasn’t really been raised either. 14 And if Christ’s body hasn’t been raised, then our message is useless and your faith is good-for-nothing. 15 Of course, that makes us into perjuring liars about God. For our whole testimony is about God raising Christ Jesus from the dead.

16 So, if the dead can’t be raised then Jesus wasn’t really raised from the dead. 17 And if Christ hasn’t been raised, then your faith is as worthless as our preaching -- and you’re still stuck in the compulsory-sin zone. 18 On top of that, even more tragic is that those Christ-trusting people who have already gone to the grave are forever gone. 19 If our hope in Christ only has some kind of inspirational value in this life, then we are the most pathetic victims of the greatest April Fools joke of all -- totally worthy of all the ridicule that people heap on us.

20 But the truth is that Christ, corpse and all, has been raised from the dead. He’s the trailblazer of the many dead whose bodies will permanently kiss their crypts and cemetery plots goodbye.

21 Death was introduced through the actions of one person. Likewise, resurrection from death to life is introduced through the actions of one person. 22 Just as everyone dies because of our connection with Adam, so also is everyone with the Christ-connection raised out of that death and back to life.

23 Notice that there is a proper order to this resurrection movement. So be patient, your turn will come. First, Christ experiences resurrection. He is like the first gift offered up to God at the beginning of a harvest -- demonstrating faith that there will be a full and complete harvest. Secondly, when he comes again, those who belong to Christ will experience resurrection. 24 Then, thirdly, with the Christ-defined resurrection life firmly established, will come the grand finale. Christ will destroy every anti-God custom and rule -- every anti-God authority and power. Finally, there will be the change of command ceremony where Christ will hand over his resurrection-charged kingdom to God the Father.

25 Meanwhile, until all this happens and as the Psalmist says in Psalm 110:1, “his enemies are knocked down and he walks over them,” Christ rules over a kingdom at war. 26 He won’t let up until all his enemies are destroyed -- the last of which will be death itself. 27 As it says in Psalm 8:6, “He controls everything. Since he is the authority everything is below him.” (Of course, this doesn’t mean that God the Father is under the authority of Christ. Christ derives his authority from God!) 28 Once all these things happen and everything is under the control of Christ, then he, the Son, will remain under the authority of God. And God the Father will make sure that everyone submits to Christ. God’s rule will be total and complete.

29 So, if the dead aren’t actually raised, why do some of you engage in that strange ritual of getting baptized on behalf of people who have already died? Regardless of whether such is a legitimate practice, it does illustrate the inconsistency of those who do that, while at the same time claiming that the dead are not literally raised. Why bother doing baptism for people whom you don’t think will see the light of day again?

30-31 And, then, what about apostles? We put our lives on the line 24/7, 365 days a year. Why would we do such a thing merely to inspire people with a quaint notion of resurrected life? Dearest brothers and sisters, because I’m proud of you and that we are intimately connected through Christ Jesus our Lord, I solemnly swear that I look death in the face every single day.

32 Even those looking at this issue from a shallow and simplistic perspective have to wonder, what do I gain by wrestling with these crazy animals here in Ephesus? Is wrangling with these people the best use of my time -- that is, if the dead aren’t really raised?

If there is no resurrection we should party on like those accused by the prophet in Isaiah 22:13 -- They said, “Gorge yourselves on food and wine because tomorrow we’re all dead. That’s it. There is nothing more.” 33 Don’t buy into that nonsense by hanging out with bad actors. Even solid people are dragged down when they keep company with those of questionable character. 34 So sober up and start acting like people who believe in an actual resurrection. Stay away from sin -- and the shabby thinking which leads us down that dark rabbit hole. Frankly, some of you know nothing at all about God. Quit pretending. Shut down your racket and own up to the shame of your con job!

35 Now, some infidel will certainly ask, “How does this whole resurrection thing work? If people are raised from the dead what kind of bodies will they have? What will they look like?”

36 Don’t be such a moron! When you plant a seed in the ground it’s “dead” before it springs to life. 37 And obviously, the bare grain or seed that you plant doesn’t have the form that it will develop once it sprouts to life.

38-39 God, who has a rich imagination, casts things as he chooses. He gives each barely visible seed its own unique shape. So even at that level, there isn’t so much uniformity. And then when it comes to bodies there is a lot of variance. Human beings have one type of body. But animal bodies are different, and bird bodies are even more distinct from that of humans. And then what about the fish? The flesh of a fish is different from that of a bird or an animal or a human. 40-41 Even the galaxy illustrates the diversity in God’s imagination. The stars in the sky are wondrous in one way (although even each star has its own unique beauty) and the planet earth where we live has a wonder all its own. Consider the peculiar glory of the sun -- or that of the moon. All these bodies are different from each other.

42 It’s the same with the resurrection of the dead. The rotting body that is put into the ground is different in substance from the body when it’s raised from the dead -- never to decay. 43 The body is at its worst, without a hint of honor, when it’s planted in the ground. But when it’s raised, the body is at its best -- full of glory. It’s weak and pathetic when it’s buried, but it’s awesome and powerful when it’s raised. 44 When a dead body is put into the ground it is defined by its physical limitations. But when it is raised from the dead the body doesn’t have those physical limitations and is defined by the spiritual transformation it has undergone. That is, physical bodies and spiritual bodies are different from one another.

45 Of course, you are familiar with the biblical passage in Genesis 2:7 where the first human, Adam, received the life-giving breath of God. Now, the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. 46-47 Note the sequence. The physical body (not the spiritual body) was the starting point. The spiritually upgraded body comes afterward. And while that first human, Adam, has his origins in the dust of the earth, the second Adam, Christ Jesus, comes from heaven. 48 We share in the dusty nature of the first man until we are resurrected to share in the nature of the heavenly man. 49 That is, we will share in the image of Christ Jesus the heavenly person in the same way that we have shared in the image of Adam, the person made from the dust of the earth.

50 I know that this sounds a bit complicated, so let me rephrase it for you my dear brothers and sisters: Bodies made of flesh and blood can’t possibly inherit God’s kingdom. Something that rots away can’t inherit something that never decays.

51 Listen up and I’ll reveal the mystery of the resurrection. Not everyone will undergo death -- although we will all undergo the transformation. 52 The final trumpet will sound -- calling us to attention -- and instantly -- in the blink of an eye -- all of those who are dead will be raised. We will exit our graves with transformed bodies that are immortal and immune to decay. 53 It’s essential that our rotting bodies be upgraded with flesh that can’t decay -- that our dying bodies be upgraded to flesh that can’t die. 54-55 And once that happens -- once we are clothed in the new flesh -- then -- and only then -- these prophecies in scripture will be fulfilled: 

  • “Life is victorious -- swallowing death.” [Isaiah 25:8] 
  • “So, Death, you aggressive little bee, you’ve stung once; but now the stinger has been yanked from your abdomen and that’s the end of you. You will sting no more.” [Hosea 13:14] 
(56 Think of Death’s stinger as sin and the religious code -- the Law -- as the allergic reaction which makes the sting feel even worse.) 57 But now, through the decisive action of our Lord Jesus Christ, the religious code, sin, and death have all been disarmed in one fell swoop. Thanks be to God!


58 So, dearly loved brothers and sisters in Christ, you can see why it is important that you persist with him. Don’t let anyone throw you off course by scaring you with fake news about a diminished resurrection. Instead, continue to excel, without interruption, in the work given to you by the Lord. You can be certain that the work you do in partnership with him will never go to waste.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Genesis 3:1-24

The snake was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lᴏʀᴅ God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really tell you that you shouldn’t eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

2 The woman replied to the snake, “We’re permitted to eat fruit from any of the trees -- 3 except for fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘Don’t eat from it. Don’t even touch it. If you do, you will die.’”

4 The snake said to the woman, “Come on… You won’t die! Quite the opposite! 5 God knows that as soon as you eat fruit from that tree, you’ll become all-knowing gods. You’ll understand everything, ranging from that which is good to that which is evil.”

6 The woman started looking the tree over and saw how beautiful it was -- loaded with obviously delicious food -- and on top of that, it would dispense wisdom. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was there with her at the tree. And he ate the fruit, too. 7 They were instantly enlightened -- and realized that they were shamefully naked. So they sewed some fig leaves together and covered themselves.

8 Late in the afternoon, the wind kicked up and the couple realized that the Lᴏʀᴅ God was moving about in the garden. The man and his wife hid themselves from him amongst the trees there.

9 The Lᴏʀᴅ God summoned the man, “Why are you hiding?”

10 The man replied, “When I heard you moving through the garden I hid. I was afraid because of my nakedness.”

11 The Lᴏʀᴅ God replied, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat fruit from that tree -- the tree from which I told you not to eat?”

12 The man immediately shifted the blame to both God and his wife -- “The woman YOU gave me, SHE handed me some of the fruit from the tree. So I ate it.”

13 The Lᴏʀᴅ God, in exasperation, said to the woman, “What have you done?”

And she replied, shifting the blame to the snake, “That snake tricked me into eating it.”

14 So, the Lᴏʀᴅ God said to the snake, “Because of your role in this catastrophe, I am separating you out from all the other animals -- domesticated and wild. You alone will have to slither instead of walk. For the rest of your days you are condemned to eat dust.

15 Furthermore, your and your offspring’s relationship with the woman and her offspring will be characterized by ongoing hostility. They will crush your head, while you strike at their heels.”

16 Then the Lᴏʀᴅ God turned to the woman, “I’m going to make the whole childbearing process more painful. It will be laborious to have children. Furthermore, your relationship with your husband will be a source of stress, too. While you are trying to direct him, he will be controlling you.

17-18 Then the Lᴏʀᴅ God spoke to the man, “Because you let your wife lead you into eating fruit from the tree that I specifically commanded you to avoid, the otherwise fertile land you farm will be cursed with weeds and thistles. Living off the land, once easy, will be a pain for the rest of your days. 19 So, you’ll be sweating to put food on the table. This will be the case until you die and your body returns to the ground. You were made from soil and in the end you will return to the soil.”

20 The man named his wife Eve, which means “life-giver,” for she is the mother of everyone who lives (in contrast to the pagan claim that Hawwat, a goddess in the form of a snake, is the mother of life). 21 The Lᴏʀᴅ God then made clothes out of animal skins for Adam and his wife -- and dressed them.

22 The Lᴏʀᴅ God said, “The human beings have now become like us in that they have experiential knowledge of good and evil.”

Lest they’d make their fallen condition permanent by also stealing and eating fruit from the tree that gives life, the Lᴏʀᴅ God exiled them from the garden of Eden. 23 He sent them to farm the fertile land from which Adam had been formed. 24 When he drove the people from the garden, the Lᴏʀᴅ God stationed sentries -- angelic cherubim armed with a revolving sword of fire -- to guard the east access pathway that leads to the tree that gives life.