Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mark 4:35-41

After a long day of teaching, healing, and problem-solving, Jesus turned to his apprentices and said, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.”

36 So they left their places amongst the crowd and joined Jesus in the boat from which he had been teaching. And as evening arrived they set out across the lake -- with a few other boats joining them to form a flotilla.

37 Suddenly, a fierce squall developed over the sea. It was so intense that the boat was rapidly filling with water as the wind-driven waves crashed against the side of the vessel. 38 Jesus seemed oblivious to the situation and was napping on a cushion in the stern. The panicked apprentices finally woke him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re about to die?”

39 So Jesus got up and gave an order to the wind and the lake, “Silence! Calm down!”

The wind suddenly stopped. An eerie silence replaced the howling, crashing, and creaking.

40 Jesus asked the apprentices, “Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you yet figured out that you can trust me?”

41 Their fear gave way to terror and they asked each other, “Who is this guy? Even the wind and the waves follow his orders!”

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus then went on to tell another seed story, “This is what God’s reign is like. A farmer scatters his seeds onto the ground. 27 He then does nothing but sleep and wake up -- day after day. Yet, in spite of his inattention, without explanation, the seeds sprout and start to grow. 28 It’s as though the earth all by itself is producing the crop. First, the stalks start to poke up from the ground. Then mysteriously, heads of grain start to form on the plants. And eventually, those heads are packed full of grain. 29 At that point, as the crop is ready, it’s harvest time and the farmer goes out into the field to cut the grain.”

30 Jesus mused, “Let’s see, what would be another good image for God’s reign? What story should I tell to explain it? 31-32 Think of how the reign of God is like a teenie-tiny mustard seed -- the smallest of seeds -- especially when compared with what they become. The seeds are scattered on the ground. But then they grow and form huge tree-like plants. The branches are so substantial that the birds land from the sky to take advantage of the shade. And they build their nests in them.”

33 Jesus continued to spin stories to teach the people -- lots and lots of stories. He taught them until they couldn’t listen anymore. 34 Jesus limited himself to speaking in stories when addressing the crowds. But when he was alone with his apprentices he unpacked each story, explaining the in-depth meaning embedded in each one.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Mark 3:20-35

Jesus was so popular that even when he went home the crowd followed him -- all the way into the house. They were so demanding that Jesus and his crew of apprentices were unable to eat.

21 When Jesus’ family heard how out of control things had become they decided to intervene and whisk him away because the family figured that he had gone crazy and lost his mind.

22 Some religious legal experts who had come all the way from Jerusalem were stirring things up even more. They kept claiming that Jesus had such supernatural power because he was under the control of Beelzebul (aka Satan). “The chief demon gives him power to send the demons packing.”

23 Jesus called everyone together and told the crowd a parable that poked at the logic of the religious lawyers: “If I’m working for Satan, why would I be overpowering the agents of Satan? 24 That doesn’t make sense; for a kingdom divided by civil war is already history. 25 It is inevitable that a family characterized by internal conflict will fall apart. 26 So if the family of Satan is fighting against itself the effects can’t be reversed. He’s already defeated -- bound and tied. 27 A home invasion robbery only works if the robbers first overcome and tie up the able-bodied people. Once that is accomplished they can proceed to burgle the house.

28 “You can be certain of this -- people will be forgiven for all kinds of stupid behavior -- sins and insults of every kind -- 29 EXCEPT -- there is no forgiveness for those who insult the Holy Spirit by attributing his work to Satan. The guilt of such a sin is permanent -- even into eternity.”

30 Jesus said this because the legal experts were claiming that he was working for Satan.

31 Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived at the house and sent word asking him to step outside to meet with them. 32 He was surrounded by a crowd of eager learners when the messenger stepped up and informed Jesus, “Your mother and your siblings are outside wanting to meet with you.”

33 He replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my siblings?”

34-35 Jesus dramatically turned his gaze toward those seated around him and scanned the circle.

“Look,” he said, “These people are my family. Indeed, whoever does what God wants done is my brother, sister, and mother.”

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Mark 2:23-3:6

2:23 Jesus and his apprentices were moving through some wheat fields on a Sabbath day. As they were walking along they plucked some heads of wheat to snack on.

24 The Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look at that! How is it that your apprentices are violating the Sabbath rules?”

25 Jesus responded by challenging the Pharisaical understanding of the rules and their nature. He asked the Pharisees, “Haven’t you studied scholars ever read in 1 Samuel 21:1-7 about what David (who would become the greatest king in Israel) did when he and his men were hungry? 26 During the era of Abiathar the high priest, David entered God’s house -- the Tabernacle. He then ate some of the holy bread kept there -- in spite of the rules which clearly state that only the priests are allowed to consume sacred bread. Furthermore, David gave some of the special bread to his companions.”

27 Jesus then interpreted the story as explaining how rules function in God’s eyes -- “The Sabbath, and by association, the rules defining Sabbath day activity, were created for the benefit of humans; humans weren’t created to benefit the Sabbath. 28 Likewise the Uber Man isn’t subservient to the Sabbath and Sabbath rules. Rather he is Lord over both the holy day and the rules defining it.”

3:1 After that, Jesus returned to the meeting center, where he met a man with a deformed hand. 2 Now, that whole encounter was a setup because the Pharisees were looking for an opportunity to charge Jesus with some rule violation. Specifically, they were keeping a close eye on him to see if he’d do some healing on the Sabbath.

3 Jesus had the man with the deformed hand step up in front of the crowd -- just to make sure that everyone could see what was about to happen. 4 Then he asked the crowd -- and specifically the religious leaders -- “Which are lawful Sabbath activities -- to do something good or to do something evil? -- to save a life or to plot murder?”

No one said a thing. 5 And as Jesus looked around at them he was both angry and deeply saddened by the hardness of their hearts in regard to the man’s situation. So he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”

The disabled man did as he was told and suddenly his hand was restored to mint condition.

6 With steam venting from their ears, the Pharisees made a hasty exit and began colluding with their arch-enemies, the supporters of King Herod, to take down Jesus.

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.