Thursday, August 23, 2018

Proverbs 16:18

Over-confidence in your own abilities will destroy you. And arrogance will take you down.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Ephesians 2:8-16

The faithfulness of Christ has paid off big time for you. Through him God has generously gifted you with salvation. This salvation isn’t something you possess -- rather something which possesses you. 9 Again, it’s not something you’ve accomplished -- the basis for pride. 10 Rather, collectively we are GOD’S masterpiece. He has re-created us so that through our connection with Christ Jesus we’ve become a part of his new creation. He did this so that we can implement the agenda that he drew up for us long long ago -- the agenda filled with good things (in contrast to the shady agenda of the world).

11-12 So, for example, remember how you used to be considered Gentiles because of your non-Jewish heritage. The Jews, for whom circumcision was considered to be the physical marker of who was included in God’s promises, called you all the “uncircumcised.” So, you were definitely outsiders. Of course, at that time you were not connected to Christ. In the context of Israel you were merely low-status foreigners -- people without the standing of those who are citizens. That is, as outsiders, God’s covenant promises didn’t really apply to you. You had nothing in this world -- no status -- no hope -- no God. 13 But now, through the blood of Christ, you have a pathway to citizenship. Thanks to Christ Jesus, you who were once despised outsiders are now beloved insiders.

14 Christ is our peace. He brought both Jews and Gentiles together into one group. We all used to hate each other, but when Christ’s body was nailed to the cross he destroyed the walls of hatred that separated us from each other. 15 He abolished the detailed rule system of the Jewish Law in order to create a new kind of person. There used to be two kinds of people but now through the peace of Christ he has created one kind of person from the two. 16 The cross of Christ, which put an end to our hostility toward God, has also brought us together as one body -- ending the hostility between different kinds of people. This reconciliation is the masterpiece.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Mark 6:14-29

It seems that everyone was talking about Jesus. So it’s no surprise that Herod the puppet king over the territory north of Galilee heard about the things he was doing. Some people were saying, “Jesus is John the Baptizer -- raised from the dead -- which is why he has such miraculous powers.”

15 Others were saying, “No, he’s got to be Elijah, the most eminent Hebrew prophet -- the one who lived in the 9th century BC.”

Still others were speculating, “He’s one of the other ancient prophets.”

16 When Herod heard all the conjecture, he chimed in, “Jesus has got to be John, whom I murdered. He must be back from the dead.”

17 This thought was gnawing at Herod because he was the one who had arranged for John’s arrest and imprisonment. He did this at the insistence of Herodias -- his illegitimate wife. She had been the wife of Herod’s brother Philip but Herod took her for himself and “married” her. 18 So John gave Herod grief over the adulterous situation and told the king, “It’s against the law spelled out in Leviticus 18:16 and 20:21, to take your brother’s wife!”

19-20 This did not set well with Herodias, who apparently liked being king Herod’s wife. So she was scheming to kill John. But she couldn’t pull that off because, strange as it sounds, Herod was protecting John.

You see, Herod had great respect for John, believing him to be a right-living and holy man. So you can see how confused Herod was about him. What John said to the king was disconcerting -- but at the same time he enjoyed listening to him.

21 Finally, the moment she had been waiting for arrived. It was a birthday bash for Herod -- a huge feast to which everyone who was anyone was invited -- government muckety mucks, military brass, and the elites of Galilee.

22 Herod’s daughter, also named Herodias, put on a dance performance that thrilled both Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and it’s yours.” 23 Then caught up in the moment, he turned his offer into a vow, “I swear -- anything… Whatever you ask I’ll give to you. Ask for half my kingdom and it’s yours!” 24 The young Herodias left the banquet hall and sought her mother’s advice, “What should I ask for?”

“John the Baptizer’s head,” the older Herodias replied.

25 The girl rushed back to the king and blurted out in front of the guests: “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptizer on a plate -- and I want it right now.”

26 The king was distraught but didn’t try to weasel his way out of the promise he had made in front of all his guests. 27 So Herod ordered a guard to fetch John’s head. The guard went to the prison, did the deed, 28 brought the severed head on a plate, and handed it to the girl. She in turn handed it to her mother.

29 When John’s apprentices heard what had happened, they came and claimed his dead body. They then gave him an honorable burial in a tomb -- in spite of his shameful death.

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.