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.”

Thursday, March 12, 2020

John 1:1-18

Way back at the very beginning was the Word. The Word existed with God -- indeed, the Word was God. 2-4 So, in the beginning, the Word and God were already inseparable. You can’t really talk about one without talking about the other. Everything that was created transpired through the Word, nothing was created apart from the Word. So, the Word created all of life. And if that were not enough he gave light to everyone so that all could live enlightened lives. 5 And this light is still shining -- breaking apart the darkness. For the darkness is powerless against the light.

6-7 God sent a man named John (the Baptizer) to direct people to the light, so that everyone who hears what he says will start to put their faith in the light. 8 John himself wasn’t the light. His mission was just to point people to the light. 9 For the genuine light that enlightens all people wasn’t to be found among the created but needed to enter into the world from the outside.

10 And he did! The light came into the world -- the very world which came into being through the light. Yet, the world failed to recognize the light. 11 The light came to his own people, but on a whole his own people failed to extend hospitality -- no red carpet, no handshake, no kiss, no embrace. 12-13 But there were some who welcomed him with open arms, putting their faith in him. And he adopted those believing people as his very own children -- children of God -- children born into his family not through a passionate sexual encounter between a man and woman -- not through a planned or unplanned pregnancy -- but born from God.

14 The Word became flesh and blood, moved into our neighborhood, and set-up his home among us. We’ve actually seen the glory-glow emanating from him. The glow of his father -- genuinely and graciously reflecting the glory as only an only-son can do. Don’t miss the resemblance.

15 John the Baptizer gave enthusiastic testimony about him, “He’s the one whom I’ve been telling you about -- the one who is greater than I am -- for he existed before me.”

16-17 We’ve all had loads of grace heaped up high on our plates. Moses served us Law. Then Jesus Christ piled on the grace and truth. 18 While no one has ever seen God, the one and only Son, who is God, and who is in intimate fellowship with the Father, has revealed God to us.

John 1:29-42

The next day John the Baptizer saw Jesus walking toward him and blurted out, “Here he is! The sacrificial lamb sent from God to neutralize the sins of the world! 30 He’s the one I’ve been talking about. Remember when I said, ‘There is someone coming after me who is more significant than me -- someone who existed before I was born.’ 31 Even I didn’t realize that he was the one. I was just doing my job -- baptizing with water so that the people of Israel, once they were cleaned up, might recognize him as he revealed himself.”

32 Then John wrapped up his testimony about Jesus, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven to land on him -- just as a dove circles in from the sky to perch. 33 That clinched it for me. Up to that point I didn’t realize that he was God’s Chosen One, but the one who sent me out baptizing with water told me, ‘When you see the Spirit dropping down to rest on someone you’ll know that he is the one who will be baptizing with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I’ve now seen this happen to Jesus and solemnly swear that he is God’s Son.”

35 The very next day John was hanging out with two of his apprentices 36 when Jesus again walked by. “Here he is!,” John exclaimed, “The sacrificial lamb sent from God!” 37 The two apprentices heard -- REALLY HEARD -- what John was saying; so they left him and followed Jesus.

38 When Jesus noticed that he was being followed he asked the two, “What do you want?”

They said, “Teacher, where are you staying?”

39 He replied, “Come along and see for yourselves.” So they tagged along, and not only saw where he was staying but they stayed with him. (That all happened about 4 PM.)

40 One of the two apprentices who heeded John’s advice, shifting to follow Jesus, was Simon Peter’s brother, Andrew. 41-42 He’s the one who then went to find his brother with the news, “We’ve found God’s Chosen One!” (which is translated Christ). Andrew led Simon to Jesus.

When Jesus saw him, he said, “Simon Johnson, I’m going to call you Cephas.” (Cephas is the Aramaic equivalent to the Greek name Peter -- which, of course, means “Rock.”).

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

My dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I was frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t talk with you as I would with spiritual people. But I had to talk with you as infants in Christ -- people totally lacking in spiritual maturity. 2 I bottlefed you baby’s milk because you were unready for solid food. 3 And now it appears that you’re STILL not ready -- STILL void of spiritual maturity. Your jealousy and quarreling indicate that you’re unspiritual brats -- acting no different than all the other babies -- doesn’t it?

4 So, when one person shouts, “Well, I’m better than you are because I’m in Paul’s group,” and then someone else whines, “Oh yeah, well, I’m in Apollos’ group,” aren’t you behaving like spiritual toddlers? 5 I mean, really, who is Apollos anyway? And who is this Paul guy? The fact is that we’re just the household help who led you by the hand to faith.

Of course, each of us had God-assigned chores: 6 I plant seeds and then Apollos waters them -- BUT it’s God who makes them grow. 7 It’s not about us! The one who plants is nothing. And the one who waters is nothing. The only one who really matters is God -- the one who makes it all grow!

8 Of course, the planter and the waterer work together, with each being paid for what they do. 9 We are God’s coworkers, and you are God’s field -- or to illustrate it differently, you are God’s building project.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Isaiah 11:1-10

A fresh green shoot of growth will emerge from the stump of Jesse. There will be a new branch sprouting from the roots of King David’s family. 2 The Lord’s Spirit will be with him -- creating within him wisdom and understanding -- powerful leadership that knows and respects the Lord. 3 He’ll delight in honoring and obeying him because that’s where his heart is. This leader will be able to look beyond mere appearances and with deep insight will make decisions based on actual facts. 4 He’ll deliver justice to the poor and treat the disenfranchised fairly.

His words will strike down violent people and his breath will destroy the wicked. 5 His uniform -- which he’ll faithfully wear -- will be justice and integrity.

6 Picture a world in which enemies get along -- where the wolf and the lamb live together. Leopards will sleep next to baby goats and young lions will eat alongside calves. And if that were not enough, a young child will be leading them all about.

7 Cows and bears will graze together while their young nap alongside each other. Lions will become vegetarians -- forsaking ox meat to eat oxen food -- hay! 8 Nursing children will play near the snake’s hole, while toddlers will be sticking their hands right into the serpent’s den.

9 The peace emanating from my holy mountain will be so powerful that all of this will happen without harm or destruction within its realm. And just as water spans the globe, so will the world be covered with people who know and respect the Lord.

10 Oh, what a day! The root of Jesse will have an arm waving people back to the glorious dwelling of the Lord. Even the Gentile nations will pick up on the signal and seek out the Lord.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Luke 17:5-10

Upon hearing Jesus’ command to practice extreme forgiveness, some of his Authorized Messengers responded, “This is too much. We can’t do this. Give us more faith!”

6 The Boss replied, “Don’t sweat it. Even if you have faith the size of a teeny-tiny mustard seed you’ll be okay. With that small amount of faith you’ll be able to order a huge mulberry tree to pull up its roots and then to go jump in the lake. It would do as directed.

7 “Suppose” Jesus went on, “that one of you had a servant who had been tending sheep or plowing the field. Upon returning to the house, would you invite him to sit down for dinner? 8 Of course not, you’d have him fix your dinner, dress up and then serve your meal. After you’re done with coffee and dessert he could then finally take his meal at the servant’s table in the kitchen. 9 And you certainly wouldn’t make a big deal about how thankful you are that he did his job. 10 Think like that servant who isn’t expecting some kind of special trophy for simply doing his duty. In the same way, after you’ve done everything expected of you, just say, ‘Hey, no big deal. We’re servants doing our job.’”