Saturday, March 25, 2017

Genesis 13:1-18

So, Abram, his wife Sarai, nephew Lot, and their households, packed everything they owned and left Egypt. They head back north toward the Negev desert. 2 Abram was very well off -- rich in livestock, silver, and gold. 3-4 His entourage camped along the way, as they had done when they passed that way traveling south. They passed through the Negev and up to the sacred place near Bethel. That is, they stopped at the spot between Bethel and Ai where Abram had first pitched his tent and earlier built an altar. He again worshiped the Lord there.

5 Now Lot, who was sojourning alongside Abram, was also well heeled -- loaded with his own flocks, cattle, and tents. 6 Together their assets were so great that there wasn’t enough pastureland to support both Abram and Lot. They needed to put some distance between the two operations 7 because the shepherds working for Abram and those working for Lot were constantly quarreling with each other. On top of that there were still Canaanites and Perizzites living off the same land.

8 Abram said to Lot, “We’re close relatives! We can’t allow our herders to continue quarreling. 9 I mean, look at all the land out there in front of us. Let’s split-up. Choose where you’d like to be and I’ll move our operation in the opposite direction. If you choose to go north, I’ll go south; and if you choose to go south, I’ll go north.”

10 Lot looked around and took note of the vast Jordan Valley. It had plenty of water and reminded him of what the Garden of the Lord must have been like. The whole stretch down to Zoar was as lush as Egypt. (Of course, this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah).

11 So Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley. He then set out toward the east, and they put some distance between each other. 12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot settled near the cities of the valley, pitching his tent close to Sodom. 13 That was perhaps not the smartest thing -- more about that later. But for now -- let’s just say that the Sodomites were EVIL people -- scorning the Lord with their blatant sin. 14 After Lot left, the Lord again spoke to Abram, “You’re at a vantage point where you can see to the north, south, east, and west. 15 All that land you see out there, I hereby give it to you and your descendants. It’s yours forever. 16 Furthermore, I’m going to give you so many descendants that no one will be able to count them all. They will be as numerous as the dust of the earth. Who can count all the gritty grains of dust on the planet! 17 Get up and walk the territory -- the length and breadth of the land. I want you to see what I am giving to you.”

18 Abram once again pulled up his tent pegs -- traveling this time to the sacred Oaks of Mamre near Hebron. That’s where he settled. And Abram built an altar to the Lord there.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Genesis 12:1-5a

The Lord called Abram aside and said to him, “I want you to go from this place you call home, leave your clan and your father’s household, and move to a land that I will eventually reveal to you. 2 If you follow these instructions, I will bless you and transform your family into a great people. Your name will be famous and respected. Your assignment is to go be a blessing.

3 I will be with you on this journey and will bless those who bless you. Those who make light of you will be treated with contempt by me. And all the families of the earth will follow your example and continue passing along the blessing associated with your name.”

4 Abram obeyed and left Haran just as the Lord instructed him. Abram’s nephew Lot accompanied him. Now Abram was no spring chicken when he moved out. He was 75 years old! 5 His contingent included his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, (with their many possessions), and all those people who had become members of Abram’s household while they were sojourning in Haran. They plotted a course for the land of Canaan (the very place which Abram’s father Terah had been headed when he got stuck in Haran).

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Matthew 4:1-11

Reminiscent of the desert wanderings of the ancient Israelites, the Spirit then led Jesus out into the wilderness for the test that the devil was about to give him. Or might we say -- THE TEMPTATION! 2 After Jesus was out there fasting from food for forty days and forty nights, he was quite famished. 3 That’s when the tempter showed up and started offering him advice, “If you are God’s Son, all you have to do is tell these rocks to morph into bread and it will happen.”

4 Jesus replied, “It’s written in Deuteronomy 8:3, It takes more than a loaf bread. To live we need to continually pay attention to what God is saying. Heed all his words.

5 A second test followed; the devil led Jesus to the highest point of the temple in the holy city of Jerusalem. And he said to him, 6 “You could demonstrate to everyone that you are God’s Son if you’d jump from here; for it is written about you in Psalm 91:11-12, God will dispatch his angels to catch you. You’ll touchdown on pillows. Think about the impression it would make as you float to the ground.”

7 Jesus replied, “I can quote scripture, too. Deuteronomy 6:16 says Only an idiot would try to administer such a stupid test to the Lord.

8 The devil then brought him to a very high mountain for a third test. He pointed out all the glorious kingdoms of the world. 9 Then he offered, “They’re all yours. All you have to do is kneel and worship me.”

10 Jesus responded, “Get outta’ here, Satan. As it is written in Deuteronomy 6:13, Worship and serve only the Lord your God. No one and nothing else -- period.11 The devil backed down and left. Then angels came and took care of Jesus.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Matthew 17:1-9

Six days after the Lord had rebuked Peter for his lack of perception, Jesus arranged a field trip for Peter, James, and his brother John. He led them away from all the people to the top of a very high mountain. 2 While they were up there, Jesus suddenly began to glow. His face was as bright as the sun and his clothes were as dazzling white as light. This transformation took place right in front of the three apprentices.

3 And then, all at once, the Old Testament prophets Moses and Elijah were standing there talking with Jesus. 4 The whole thing was surreal and Peter, ever the man of action, always eager to organize Jesus’ life, interrupted, “Lord, it’s a good thing that we’re here. If it’s okay with you, I’ll build three shrines to commemorate this great event -- one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5 While Peter was still babbling, suddenly a bright cloud dropped down and engulfed them. A voice from somewhere deep in the cloud bellowed out, “This is my dearly loved Son, the pride of my life. Listen to him!” 6 Hearing this, the three terrified apprentices dropped to the ground and buried their faces in the dirt as they cowered.

7 Jesus walked over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 As they looked around, the only person they could see was Jesus.

9 As the four of them were making their way down the mountain, Jesus instructed the apprentices to say nothing about what had just happened -- “at least until the Uber Man is raised from the dead.”

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Matthew 5:38-48

I know that you’ve been taught the ancient law of retaliation. It’s even a part of our own law in Exodus 21:24; limit yourselves to an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39 But my instruction to you is to take this matter to the next level and skip retaliation altogether. If someone does something mean to you don’t even try to get even with that person. For example, if someone insults you with a slap to the right cheek, turn your face so he can slap your left cheek as well. 40 Or, let’s say that someone takes you into court and sues you for your shirt. Don’t just begrudgingly hand it over; voluntarily hand him your coat, as well. 41 A soldier is well within his legal right to force you to carry his pack for one mile. If he does that, go on with him and carry it an extra mile. 42 And what about the people who ask you for stuff? Your natural reaction should be to give. When they want to borrow -- lend! Live generously!

43 People commonly say, “Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.” 44 But I am telling you to take love to the next level and love your enemies, too. If anyone mistreats you, pray for them. 45 When you do this, you will be acting like your Father in heaven. Doesn’t he make the sun shine on both good and bad people? Does he restrict the blessing of rain only to people who live rightly? Both the good and the bad receive his gifts. His love is that wide!

46 Do you think that God will be issuing bonus points when you show love to those who already love you? Is that so different from the scruple-less low-life tax collectors who manage to love their friends? 47 If you exchange greetings with only those in your circle of friends and relatives, what’s so great about that? Even unbelievers love the most loveable. 48 But I’m calling for something more extreme -- greater love -- more complete love -- the kind of which your Father in heaven shows. Don’t miss an opportunity to act like him.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Jude 20-15

But you, dear friends: instead of buying into all that nonsense, pour yourselves into building one another up. Build on the foundation of your unique faith which is fully about serving God. As you pray for each other do so using the power and insight that is from the Holy Spirit. 21 Then, march together, keeping one another in cadence with God’s love. This love also defines the destination of your march. As you move forward wait patiently and confidently for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to play out. He’s going to give you life that is both unending and unmatched in richness.

22 Some people will get swallowed by their doubts. Instead of harshness, approach them with the tender mercy that characterizes our faith. 23 In this way some will be saved from the judgment fire. Of course, you’ll want to maintain a healthy respect -- might we even say fear -- of God. Yes, extend mercy to those who will accept it, but be careful that you don’t find yourselves enticed by similar sinful desires. Without being all judgy, offer love and mercy to sinners, while you protect yourself by loathing everything about the sin.

24 - 25 All glory, majesty, power, and authority belong to the one and only God. His greatness is timeless. He is our savior and he will keep you standing so that when the march is done and you end up in his glorious presence, you’ll be there dancing with joy -- instead of answering for a long list of sins. He makes it all happen through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Jude 1-19

From Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James (the leader of the Jerusalem church -- and I won’t even mention how that makes me a brother of Jesus himself).

I am writing to all who have embraced the call of God the Father -- to those who are baby-wrapped in his love -- to those who are under the protective care of Jesus Christ.

2 I pray that he would continue to pile his mercy, peace, and love on you -- pile it so high that you would be overwhelmed by his generosity.

3 Dearest friends, when I first started drafting this letter my intention was to expound on our common salvation. But I’ve had to shift my focus a bit so that I can urge you to put up a good fight for the faith. The doctrinal content of this faith has already been delivered to us, the people with a commission to exclusively serve God. Don’t accept any add-ons or adjustments. 4 Godless people have infiltrated your ranks and they’re messing with the church’s understanding of grace. For them grace means that you can live anyway and do anything you want because any infraction is already forgiven. This unbridled approach to morality is a de facto denial of Jesus Christ, who is our only master and Lord. Their names were written long-ago into the logbook of the condemned.

5 Remember what happened to the Hebrews whom the Lord rescued from captivity in Egypt. You know this story well. The Lord ended up destroying many of the very people he saved from that slavery because they became faithless. In spite of all the Lord did for them they turned their backs on him and ended up paying the price for that.

6 Remember as well that incident in the apocryphal story of 1st Enoch, where angels abandoned their posts and became traitors. They ended up under eternal arrest -- in underworld chains until the great day of judgment.

7 Likewise, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah started mimicking the reprobates in their neighboring towns. They were into loose living and all things kinky -- even the extreme stuff. Their fiery demise still warns of the punishing eternal fire that awaits modern degenerates.

8 So, how is it that the infiltrators in your midst, living in a fantasy world of their own making, act out in the same way with twisted sexual practices, rejection of authority, and slander of even the glorious angels? Preposterous!

9 Even Michael, with all the authority of the chief angel, essentially told the devil that he wasn’t going to get sucked into a pointless argument with him. Instead Michael said to him, “I’ll let the Lord rebuke you!” This happened in the Assumption of Moses, one of those apocryphal books, when the devil was with slanderous arguments trying to claim possession of Moses’ body. 10 Likewise with these infiltrators and all their assertions about how irrelevant the physical body is to spiritual matters. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Yet that doesn’t stop them from spewing slander. Their crass irrational animal behavior is contrary to what is instinctively known. They’re like lemmings running head first off the cliff! Dumber than dumb! Stupider than stupid!

11 As these guys follow in the disastrous footsteps of Cain, Balaam, and Korah they damn themselves. In Genesis 4 Cain became the father of all family conflict and in jealousy murdered his brother Abel. In Numbers 22 the greedy prophet Balaam made some bad choices and ended up blind to the Lord’s presence. And in Numbers 16 Korah rebelled against Moses and the Lord. A giant sinkhole swallowed him and his family. Then his followers were consumed with fire sent by the Lord.

12 The infiltrators are like jagged rocks just below the surface of the water waiting to rip the solid hull of your boat a part. They want to join your celebrations of the Lord’s Supper -- the love feasts. But when they get there, they disrespectfully jump to the front of the line and pile up the chow on their plates. They’re only thinking of themselves. In that sense they are like waterless clouds blown in by the wind. Or think of them as fruit trees that you’ve watered and cared for, but when harvest time comes, they have absolutely no fruit to offer. Then, if you dig the trees up to transplant them, you discover that they don’t even have roots -- dead on the top and dead on the bottom. 13 Their shame is as thick as the foam on wild waves in the ocean. They are like stars in the sky without a fixed position. As they fall from orbit they end up fulfilling their eternal destiny in utter blackness.

14 In the Book of Enoch, Enoch, just seven generations down from Adam, spoke prophetically about these posers when he said, “Look! The Lord is coming with thousands and thousands of his dedicated troopers. And 15 they are going to execute judgment on all. Every ungodly deed -- every harsh word spoken against God and what he is doing -- it will all stand as evidence to convict people and showcase the shame of their ungodliness.”

16 These infiltrators are negative people constantly looking for something they can grumble about. Meanwhile, they let their personal desires define how they live. They’re braggarts and manipulative kiss-ups saying whatever it takes to get their way.

17 But remember, dear friends, what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ have said. 18 They said to you in 2nd Peter 3:3, “In these last days there will be no shortage of mockers -- full blown godless hedonists.” 19 These divisive partisans are operating apart from the Holy Spirit -- which means that they are operating according to the world system.