Saturday, May 23, 2020

Acts 1:1-14

In my first volume, dedicated to our dear friend Theophilus, I spelled out everything Jesus did and taught from the beginning, 2 right up to the day when he was taken up into heaven. Before he ascended, the Holy Spirit empowered Jesus to give his chosen agents some final instructions. 3 After his death he kept appearing to them over a period of 40 days -- convincing them that he was alive and explaining to them about God’s regime. 4-5 Once, during a meal, Jesus ordered them to wait in Jerusalem for the Father's promised gift -- the Holy Spirit. He said, “I'm not saying anything new. You've heard this before. John baptized people with water, but in just a few days you'll be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

6 When they heard this, those gathered asked Jesus, “Master, does this mean that the time has come for you to re-establish the kingdom of Israel as a superpower?”

7 Jesus replied, “That information is way above your pay grade so don't fixate on figuring out the timing which the Father has established by his own authority. 8 But know this, the Holy Spirit is going to come to you. At that time you'll be empowered as my witnesses, first in Jerusalem, and then throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. From there you will move out to the entire planet with the news of what you have seen and heard from me.”

9 After Jesus finished these final instructions, as they were watching, he was lifted up and engulfed in a cloud that hid him from their sight. 10 While this was happening and they were looking up -- straining to see him in the sky -- two white-robed men rather suddenly appeared next to them. 11 They said, “Hey Galileans, are you going to stand here all day staring into the sky? Jesus is no longer here with you because he's been taken into heaven. But he'll be back. As certain as you saw him go, you can be certain that he'll return.”

12 They then returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives -- about a half mile walk from Jerusalem. 13 Once they got back into the city, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. Peter, John, James, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James, Alphaeus’ son; Simon the zealot; and Judas, James’ son -- 14 together they turned their attention to prayer. And they were not the only ones. Some women (including Mary the mother of Jesus) and Jesus' brothers were in the group, too.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

John 1:1-14

In my first volume, dedicated to our dear friend Theophilus, I spelled out everything Jesus did and taught from the beginning, 2 right up to the day when he was taken up into heaven. Before he ascended, the Holy Spirit empowered Jesus to give his chosen agents some final instructions. 3 After his death he kept appearing to them over a period of 40 days -- convincing them that he was alive and explaining to them about God’s regime. 4-5 Once, during a meal, Jesus ordered them to wait in Jerusalem for the Father's promised gift -- the Holy Spirit. He said, “I'm not saying anything new. You've heard this before. John baptized people with water, but in just a few days you'll be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

6 When they heard this, those gathered asked Jesus, “Master, does this mean that the time has come for you to re-establish the kingdom of Israel as a superpower?”

7 Jesus replied, “That information is above your pay grade so don't fixate on figuring out the timing which the Father has established by his own authority. 8 But know this, the Holy Spirit is going to come to you. At that time you'll be empowered as my witnesses, first in Jerusalem, and then throughout the regions Judea and Samaria. From there you will move out to the entire planet with the news of what you have seen and heard from me.”

9 After Jesus finished these final instructions, as they were watching, he was lifted up and engulfed in a cloud that hid him from their sight. 10 While this was happening and they were looking up -- straining to see him in the sky -- two white-robed men rather suddenly appeared next to them. 11 They said, “Hey Galileans, are you going to stand here all day staring into the sky? Jesus is no longer here with you because he's been taken into heaven. But he'll be back. As certain as you saw him go, you can be certain that he'll return.”

12 They then returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives -- about a half mile walk from Jerusalem. 13 Once they got back into the city, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. Peter, John, James, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James, Alphaeus’ son; Simon the zealot; and Judas, James’ son -- 14 together they turned their attention to prayer. And they were not the only ones. Some women (including Mary the mother of Jesus) and Jesus' brothers were in the group, too.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

John 14:1-14

Don’t let any of this stress you out. Just as you trust in God, trust me. 2 My Father has a huge spacious house. Why do you think I said that I'm headed there to prepare a room for you? Do you think I'm just making this stuff up? 3 Once things are ready I'll be back to get you so that we can live there together. Yes, we'll be together. 4 You have the directions to where I'm headed so you know how to get there.”

5 Thomas interrupted, “Wait, Master, we still don’t know where this place is. How can we know which road to take?”

6 Jesus answered, “I’m the road -- the road paved with truth and life. And I’m the only road to the Father’s house. You can’t get there otherwise. 7 Knowing me is how you know the Father. Indeed, you do know him and you’ve seen him in as much as you know and have seen me.”

8 Philip said, “Master, if you’d just show us the Father we’d be satisfied.”

9 “Philip!” Jesus replied, “even after all this time I’ve been with y’all, you still can’t see it? If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10-11 Don’t you realize that the Father and I are so interconnected that I am in him and he’s in me? So, everything I’ve said to you isn’t just flowing from me but it’s all from him. If nothing else, believe it because of all the miracles you’ve seen me do. They flow from the Father who lives in me. 12 And if that were not enough -- get this -- because it’s the truth; anyone who believes in me will do the same miracles I do -- yes, even more significant miracles. Because I am going to be with the Father you’ll be carrying on the work. 13 And I will do through you whatever you ask that is consistent with me and my agenda. In that way the Father will be honored through the Son. 14 Just ask along these lines -- no limits -- I’ll do it.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

1 Peter 1:13-25

13-14 So, clear your heads and engage your brains. As you're doing that, make the coming appearance of Jesus Christ the focus of all your hopes and aspirations. For the extent of God's kindness will be revealed at that point and you will start to realize how generous he is. IOW, instead of sliding back into the old ways (where you couldn't help but give into every craving and desire) behave yourselves like obedient children.

15 Live lives completely and exclusively dedicated to divine service. This is the life for which God chose you. 16 In Leviticus 19:2 God says, “Since I'm all about a purpose that is exclusively different from the goals of the world, so you must be, too.”

17 Don't go thinking that the heavenly Father (the one to whom you direct your prayers) will let you get away with all kinds of mischief because you're his "favorite child." In this sense God has no "favorites" to whom he turns a blind eye. Certainly not! As sure as he rewards obedient behavior he will not put up with sloppy living. So you must revere and honor him during your time here in this strange place where you don't fit in. 18 You realize, don't you, that God actually paid a lot to get you out of this hell-hole life into which you were born. And we're not talking about money. You weren't ransomed with gold or silver 19 but with the precious blood of the chosen one -- the faultless and perfect sacrificial Lamb who came from God. 20 This was no after-thought on God's part. Long before the world began he had already designated the chosen one to be the ransom for us. But now, in these last days, way down the pipeline of history, God has revealed him to us. 21 Through this chosen one, raised by God from death and lavished with glorious honor, you have started to put your trust in God. And, indeed, you have remained faithful to him.

22 You've cleaned up your lives by acting on the truth. So now take the next step and start living out genuine love amongst your Christian siblings. Let the love freely flow from the depths of your purified being. 23-24 For you have been born all over again into a life that is endless. The old life ends at death, but your new life, triggered by the unending enduring message from God, will last forever. As we read in Isaiah 40:6-8,
“People are in their prime for such a brief time -- really when you think about it, no different than the grass, or a beautiful flower in a field. How long does the grass last before it withers or the flower before it fades and dries up?

25 In contrast -- and here's the point -- God's word is constant from now and through all eternity.”
And this message from God is our Good News for you.

Friday, April 3, 2020

John 20:1-18

Before dawn -- way early on Sunday morning while it was still dark -- Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. And she saw that the big rock which had served as a door to the tomb had been moved. 2 So she ran to Simon Peter and the other apprentice (the one whom Jesus loved) and reported, “Someone has broken into the tomb and stolen the Master's body. We don’t know where they’ve taken him!”

3-4 Peter and the other apprentice bolted out to the tomb. They ran neck and neck part of the way but eventually, the other apprentice picked up some steam and outran Peter. 5 Arriving first, he bent down and looked into the tomb. He saw the uninhabited burial linens lying in there but he didn’t go in.

6
Once Simon Peter arrived, he actually entered the tomb and like his companion, saw the burial linens lying there. 7 Peter also saw that the face cloth which had been on Jesus’ head was neatly folded and separate from the linens. 8 Then the other apprentice, the one who had arrived first, also went inside the tomb. When he saw that the tomb was really empty he believed. 9 (At that point they didn’t yet understand the biblical teaching about the necessity of Jesus rising from the dead.) 10 Then the two apprentices went home.


11 On the other hand, emotionally-distraught Mary maintained a vigil outside the empty tomb. During an episode of tears she bent down to look inside. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting on the shelf where Jesus' body had been laid. One sat where his head had been and the other where his feet rested. 13 “Dear woman," the angels asked her, "why all the tears?”

She replied, “They've moved my master's body, and I don’t know where they’ve taken him.” 14 No sooner did these words slip from her mouth when she heard something behind her. Mary turned around and saw Jesus standing there -- except she didn't realize it was him.

15 Jesus said to her, “Dear woman, why all the tears? Who are you looking for?”

She mistook him for the gardener and replied, “Sir, if you've moved his body, please tell me where he is and I'll go take care of him.”

16 Jesus said to her -- “Mary.”

She did a double-take and exclaimed in Aramaic, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

17 She wrapped her arms around him as though she’d never let him go. Jesus said to her, “Don’t get all clingy. I've still got to go meet-up with my Father. I want you to go tell my brothers and sisters that, ‘I’m on the way up to my Father -- who is your Father -- to my God -- who is your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went and informed the apprentices, “I’ve seen the Master.” She then told them what he had said to her.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Ezekiel 37:1-14

The Lord’s power fell over me and while I was overcome his Spirit led me to the middle of a certain valley full of bones where he set me down. 2 The Lord showed me all around and everywhere I went there were bones -- very dry bones -- a gazillion very dry bones strewn about on the valley floor.

3 He asked me, “Man, what are the chances that bones like these could live again?”

I replied, “LORD God, that question is definitely above my pay grade. You’re the only one who knows.”

4-5 Then he told me, “Deliver my message to these bones, and say to them, ‘Dry bones, listen to what the LORD God declares! I am about to put the breath of life in you, and you’ll again come to life. 6 I’ll wrap you with muscles and attach meat, which I’ll cover with skin. Once I put the breath of life in you and you’re alive, you’ll truly know that I am the LORD.’”

7 I declared the words of the LORD over the bones -- saying exactly what he told me to say. And as I spoke, there was an awesome rattling sound as the clanging dry bones came together -- piece by piece, bone by bone. 8 In front of my very eyes the assembled bones gained muscles and meat -- and then skin. But they were not yet alive for they were breathless -- spirit-less figures.

9 Then he said to me, “Man, deliver my message to the winds, ‘The Lord God commands you to blow from every direction and to breathe life into these corpses, so they can live again.’”

10 I delivered the message exactly as he commanded. And as his words were declared wind entered into the bodies. They came to life and stood up at attention -- a huge army.

11 He then said to me, “Man, these bones are a metaphor for all the people of Israel. They’re saying, ‘We’re done for -- dried up bones without hope.’”

12 So, deliver my message to these people saying, “The LORD God declares: ‘I’m freeing you from your graves! I’m raising my people up from the dead and I will return you to the land of Israel. 13 Once I open your graves and raise you from the dead you’ll realize that I am the LORD. 14 I’ll blow my Spirit -- my breath of life into you and you will live! I’ll give you rest on your own land and then you’ll realize that I am the LORD. I promise that I’ll do what I’ve said.’ This is the word of the Lord.”

Saturday, March 21, 2020

John 9:1-41

As Jesus was walking along he came across a man who had been blind from birth. 2 Jesus’ apprentices asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused this guy to be born blind -- his or his parents?”

3 Jesus responded, “This has nothing to do with anything he or his parents did. Think outside the blame box. Look at this as an opportunity to demonstrate how God does miracles! 4 We’ve got to stay on task while we can and carry out the assignment of the one who sent me. Pretty soon it will be so dark that no one can do this work. 5 While I’m here in the world you can count on me to be the illuminating light for the world. That’s who I am.”

6 Jesus then spit on the ground and made mud from the saliva -- which he then smeared over the man’s non-functioning eyes. 7 After that Jesus told him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam, a word with messianic overtones, literally means the person who is sent). So the man left, and as instructed washed in the pool. He then returned to his spot as a sighted-man.

8 The formerly-blind man’s neighbors and those who were used to seeing him as a street beggar, were scratching their heads, “Isn’t this the blind beggar who used to sit right here?”

9 “It’s him!” some insisted. But others speculated, “No, it’s his doppelgänger.”

The newly-healed man jumped into the fray, “Hey, it’s me! I’m the very same guy.”

10 “Well, what happened to you that you can now see?” they asked.

11 He answered, “A man named Jesus made some mud and smeared it over my eyes. He then told me to go to the Pool of Siloam to wash. And when I did that -- I could see!”

12 “Well, where is he now?” they asked.

“I don’t know,” said the healed man.

13 The people then dragged the once-blind man to the Pharisees. 14 Now the backstory here is that Jesus did all of this healing -- making the mud and smearing it over the man’s eyes -- on a Sabbath day. That is, a day of rest when people are prohibited from working. 15 So, the Pharisees, who saw themselves as enforcers of religious regulations, started to grill the man to find out exactly how he was able to see.

He told them, “It’s simple. Jesus put mud over my eyes, I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some Pharisees declared, “This Jesus isn’t from God! He’s a law-breaker, working on a Sabbath in violation of the Sabbath law.”

Others responded, “Hold on! If Jesus were such a sinner how could he do this kind of a miracle?”

Since they were divided 17 some of the Pharisees asked the man who had been born blind to render an opinion. “It’s your eyes that were healed, so what do you have to say about Jesus?”

He gave a simple answer, “He’s a prophet.”

18 Not believing that the man had been blind and received his sight, some of the Jewish leaders summoned his parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked them. “Are you saying he was born blind? How is it that he can now see?”

20 His parents answered, “Well, we know that he is our son. And we know that he was born blind. 21 But we don’t know how it is that he now sees -- and we certainly don’t know who healed his eyes. Ask him. He’s old enough to speak for himself.”

22 The parents said this because they were intimidated by these Jewish authorities. They understood that the authorities had already decided that whoever acknowledges Jesus to be God’s anointed -- the Messiah -- would be expelled from the synagogue. 23 And that’s why the parents weaseled out of the situation by saying, “He’s a grown-up. Ask him.”

24 So, they summoned the formerly-blind man a second time and said to him, “Swear to God on a stack of Bibles and tell the truth. We know that this Jesus guy is a sinner.”

25 The man answered, “I don’t know whether he’s a sinner. However, there is one thing I DO know: I was blind -- but now I see.”

26 Then they started in on the questions again: “What did he do to you? How did he heal your eyes?”

27 He replied, “I’ve answered those questions but apparently you weren’t listening -- unless you’re trying to figure out if you want to become one of his apprentices, too.”

28 They lambasted him: “So, you are an apprentice of Jesus. Well, we are apprentices of Moses. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t know where this Jesus guy is from.”

30 The man answered, “Incredible! You don’t know where he is from -- yet he healed my eyes! 31 We know that God doesn’t lend his ear to sinners but to those who love him and are living according to his agenda. 32 This is the first time in history that the eyes of someone born blind have been restored. 33 So if Jesus wasn’t sent from God, he couldn’t have done this, right.”

34 They responded with disdain, “You’ve been a sinner from day one and you dare to lecture us?”

They then expelled him from the synagogue.

35 Jesus heard what had happened to the man and went to find him. When he did he asked the newly-sighted man, “Do you believe in the Uber Man?”

36 He answered, “Master, who is he? I want to believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You’re looking at him. ‘Tis moi -- talking with you right now.”

38 The man exclaimed, “Master, I believe.” And he worshipped Jesus.

39 Jesus said, “I came into this world to render judgment -- that is, to give sight to the blind and in doing so showing those pretentious jerks who think that they see better than everyone else, that they’re really the blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who overheard the conversation connected the dots. “Are you calling us blind?”

41 Jesus said to them, “You nailed it! As long as you continue to claim to see you’re stuck being blind -- indeed, stuck in sin.”