Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Prophets Speak

Today's readings are from Isaiah 5, 6, 7, 8

This reading plan is called a "Historical Plan". It's based on reading - more or less - as the Bible was written. While reading about the Kings of Israel and Judah we can see that their failure to trust God, and instead to turn to idols, other "gods", and their own power moves resulted in repeated confrontation with the Prophets of God.
One of those prophets, and perhaps the most famous of all, was Isaiah. The context of his writings is in chapter 6, and the vision he receives, while very well known among Christians, was received in the setting of world powers breathing down on Israel's borders. Isaiah sees the problem, not as political, or military, or threats of invasion; but rather as a faith issue.

That's the real lesson of reading this section. We may fear many things, but Jesus reminded us, the only legitimate fear is the "fear of the Lord".

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sorry, Still Reading

Hi.
A quick note to let you know I'm sorry I've been tardy on getting notes out that let you know where we're still reading in Scripture.

I am still using the program for Reading through the Bible in a Year and have continued to read. I've just not been faithful in posting where, what, etc...

SO...if you're still interested in reading along, today's readings are from 2 Kings 23, 24, 25.

We come to the end of 2 Kings and the story is a rather sad one as it recounts the decay and death of the nation as Judah, the last of the nation of Israel is taken into captivity. The writer makes it clear: it all could have been prevented, but they simply refused to turn in truth to God.
2 Kings 24:1 and following says,
1 During Jehoiakim's reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he turned against Nebuchadnezzar and rebelled.2 The Lord sent Babylonian,t Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by his servants the prophets.3 Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord's command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done,4 including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive.

While Josiah's rule is righteous and delays the judgment, nevertheless it moves towards that after his death. It's a sobering passage to read.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Prayer and Politics

Today's readings are from 2 Kings 18 & 19

18.5 Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.

The story of Hezekiah as King is a story of a leader whose trust in God is unparalleled in it's depth of commitment. The summary statement at the beginning of 2 Kings 18 is amplified in the story that follows. The northern 10 tribes - Israel - come under the invasion threat of the Assyrian Kingdom led by the armies of Sennacherib. Hezekiah is King of Judah in the southern territories. It's interesting that Hezekiah, even though listed as King of Judah, is said to have trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel.
Israel was the name given to those northern tribes. It was the failure of the Northern tribes to follow the Lord that ultimately led to their demise. It's a simple principle, but an important one - choose to live without God and a person, or in this case, an entire group of people invite warfare.

Over the last few years there's been a tug and pull between voices that have argued for an against Christian involvement in political power and the mechanizations of government. Some have argued that "if good people do nothing, then evil will ultimately prevail"; and others, that "the idolatry of political power is much different than the work of the Kingdom of God." The pendulum of involvement and withdrawal never seem to end. The Kingdom of the World is concerned with power, control, material wealth and it's own survival. The Kingdom of God is above all of the Kingdoms of the World. It is neither part of it, nor subject to it. It alone has authority and power over all things - in spite of the lack of muscle flexing and saber rattling. There will always be those who see their primary role to be in the halls of politics, and there will always be those who see their primary role to be quietly in the background working for Christ outside of the politics. Those who want to argue for the dualism one way or the other probably fail to appreciate the depth of commitment God has made for restoration in creation. Politics, under Christ, might seem to be an impossible, or oxymoron, choice. Why? Has there ever been an area of the world where God has seemingly been indifferent towards?

Hezekiah sees his role as a leader to primarily lead through prayerful trust in God. Sennacherib's armies come to the gate of Jerusalem, boasting of their overwhelming success in accomplishing whatever they have wanted to in the past.
31 "Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern,
32 until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!
"Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, 'The Lord will deliver us.'33 Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?


The truth is that up until that time the Assyrian armies have prevailed every time. What has been seems to dictate what will be...so we think.

At what point do we both lean back into a trust of God? In 2 Kings 19:1...
1 When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord...
15 ...And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: "Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.
17 "It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands.19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.".


It is not easy to navigate our faith in the midst of worldly concerns. We take sides, we have opinions, and, most of all we want to imagine a world where God truly rules. It seems that we have to navigate carefully between working for God and working within the reality of the world around us for God's purposes. The question is: what does that look like? A prayerful process that is directed by trust in God, and not in the power structures of the world must be - for us as followers of Jesus - to rule the day.

Prayer and Politics

Today's readings are from 2 Kings 18 & 19

18.5 Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.

The story of Hezekiah as King is a story of a leader whose trust in God is unparalleled in it's depth of commitment. The summary statement at the beginning of 2 Kings 18 is amplified in the story that follows. The northern 10 tribes - Israel - come under the invasion threat of the Assyrian Kingdom led by the armies of Sennacherib. Hezekiah is King of Judah in the southern territories. It's interesting that Hezekiah, even though listed as King of Judah, is said to have trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel.
Israel was the name given to those northern tribes. It was the failure of the Northern tribes to follow the Lord that ultimately led to their demise. It's a simple principle, but an important one - choose to live without God and a person, or in this case, an entire group of people invite warfare.

Over the last few years there's been a tug and pull between voices that have argued for an against Christian involvement in political power and the mechanizations of government. Some have argued that "if good people do nothing, then evil will ultimately prevail"; and others, that "the idolatry of political power is much different than the work of the Kingdom of God." The pendulum of involvement and withdrawal never seem to end. The Kingdom of the World is concerned with power, control, material wealth and it's own survival. The Kingdom of God is above all of the Kingdoms of the World. It is neither part of it, nor subject to it. It alone has authority and power over all things - in spite of the lack of muscle flexing and saber rattling. There will always be those who see their primary role to be in the halls of politics, and there will always be those who see their primary role to be quietly in the background working for Christ outside of the politics. Those who want to argue for the dualism one way or the other probably fail to appreciate the depth of commitment God has made for restoration in creation. Politics, under Christ, might seem to be an impossible, or oxymoron, choice. Why? Has there ever been an area of the world where God has seemingly been indifferent towards?

Hezekiah sees his role as a leader to primarily be lead through prayerful trust in God. Sennacherib's armies come to the gate of Jerusalem, boasting of their overwhelming success in accomplishing whatever they have wanted to in the past.
31 "Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern,
32 until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!
"Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, 'The Lord will deliver us.'33 Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?


The truth is that up until that time the Assyrian armies have prevailed every time. What has been seems to dictate what will be...so we think.

At what point do we both lean back into a trust of God? In 2 Kings 19:1...
1 When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord...
15 ...And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: "Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.
17 "It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands.19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.".


It is not easy to navigate our faith in the midst of worldly concerns. We take sides, we have opinions, and, most of all we want to imagine a world where God truly rules. It seems that we have to navigate carefully between working for God and working within the reality of the world around us for God's purposes. The question is: what does that look like? A prayerful process that is directed by trust in God, and not in the power structures of the world must be - for us as followers of Jesus - to rule the day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 39 - In Between

Today's reading is from Luke 23:55-56, and Matthew 27:57-66

It is Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Often referred to as "Holy Saturday", it was a tradition in the early church that young believers would be baptized on this day. Their sins were taken care of on the cross and the blood of the lamb has been spilled for redemption. Now in preparation for a "new life" they were baptized - Easter was soon to come.

"In between"...it's a good way to describe where we are in life. We have the fruit of Christ's redemption...our sins are forgiven. There's no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...BUT, we do not have the bodies of the resurrection. We are "in between"...redeemed and waiting redemption. Our soul and spirit long for, groan Paul says, to have Christ fully formed within.

It's Holy Saturday...the day of preparation as we await Christ's return for us.

Maranatha, even so come Lord Jesus.

Peace

If you're reading through-the-Bible-in-a-year with me, today's readings are from 2 Kings 9, 10, 11


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 38 - Good Friday

Today's reading is from Mark 15.

Good Friday is the name we give to the day of Christ Jesus' crucifixion. It doesn't seem like a good day at all; but it is for us.

Jesus' arrest was sham. His trials before the Sanhedrin were based on one purpose - to justify killing him and getting rid of his influence over the population. Before Pilate he is submissive and even though Pilate doesn't know what to do with him, it all ends with Jesus being crucified.

What a horrendous picture Mark portrays: Mark 15:16-20 (NIV)
16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers.
17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him.
18 And they began to call out to him, "Hail, king of the Jews!"
19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him.
20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.


Scourging involved a flagrum - a which with long, leather tails...sometimes with tack like nails attached. It was meant to rip the flesh from the body of it's victim. The Romans were experts in the art of torture. The crown of thorns and the mock regal robe all meant to humiliate and cause intense pain and suffering.

They led Jesus with a cross of wooden beams to Golgotha - a hill of public torture just outside the city. Mark's gospel is brief and pointed. Two thieves are crucified with him. To the Romans Jesus is nothing but a public nuisance. The nails driven through the wrists separating the hand joint from the arm would have severely damaged the nerves, again for the purpose of intense pain. It also served the purpose of stopping the victim from being able to support himself while hanging. Jesus' body hung limp, his lungs filling with fluid.

Mark 15:33-34 (NIV)
33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.
34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"


It is Noon, as we know it, the sixth hour and darkness settles over the whole land. The pain, suffering, torture are nothing compared to the abandonment Jesus felt in the Father's withdrawal. This suffering was his alone. There were no angels to surround and protect; no disciples to stop the proceedings, no miraculous intervention.

Mark 15:37 (NIV)
37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

The deed was done. "It is finished", John tells us Jesus said. The cross was the brutal sacrifice of the Messiah, Jesus, for the sins of the world. Our sins, My sins, Your sins.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

For us, IT IS A GOOD FRIDAY. Thank You Jesus,

Peace,

If you're reading along in the-Bible-in-a-year with me, today's readings are in 2 Kings 6,7,8

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 37 - The Trials

Today's readings are from Luke 22:66 - 23:25 & John 18: 28-40

There were six trials that took place in a few hours of time that early Friday. The first, recorded by John in 18:12-14, was before the aged, former High Priest, Annas. The second trial was before Caiaphas, the High Priest at the time. Caiaphas had little trouble convening a council in the wee hours of the morning. The trial was a sham since Jesus' fate was already determined. The Sanhedrin - the council of leaders - broke all the rules to make sure Jesus was convicted. According to their law, a person was presumed innocent unless corroborating evidence was brought by credible witnesses - each of which had to give their testimonies separate from each other to make sure they were not conflicting.
The High Priest was to remain neutral, presiding over the trial much like a debate - to hear the various charges, listen to the evidence, and lead the members in making a just decision. It was Jesus himself who gave them what they were looking for: Luke 22:52 (NIV)
52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs?

The Romans would never have allowed them to kill Jesus accept for the charge that he was trying to overthrow Caesar and leading a rebellion to become King. The council knew what the real issue was: Luke 22:66-71 (NIV)
66 At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them.
67 "If you are the Christ," they said, "tell us." Jesus answered, "If I tell you, you will not believe me,
68 and if I asked you, you would not answer.
69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God."
70 They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied, "You are right in saying I am."
71 Then they said, "Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips."


The issue wasn't an earthly Kingdom, it was the issue of Messiah, Deity, Incarnation. That they couldn't, wouldn't believe. Yet the charge was of insurrection. Luke 23:1-3 (NIV)
1 Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate.
2 And they began to accuse him, saying, "We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king."
3 So Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.


The two trials before Pilate were broken apart by Pilate's decision, and hope, to resolve this by sending him to Herod Antipas. By this time Jesus had been beaten repeatedly. He would be beaten more. John 18:33-40 (NIV)
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
34 "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?"
35 "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"
36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
37 "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
38 "What is truth?" Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him.
39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release 'the king of the Jews'?"
40 They shouted back, "No, not him! Give us Barabbas!" Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.


Pilate faced a choice countless others, including us, have faced over centuries of time: Seek the truth and live by it, or compromise to get what you want and live the lie. Barabbas means "son of a father". Not much of an identity. Much like "John Doe". Perhaps that is the point. Jesus stands in the place of the ordinary person. Pilate knew that to release Jesus was to invite an insurrection among the leaders, and by now, the people. These same people who five days earlier had laid their cloaks and palm branches in his path, and sang his praises as the coming King, now turned their backs on him and shouted "CRUCIFY HIM"!!!

It is Friday morning, and Pilate orders Jesus scourged. The day has just begun with the sunlight streaming over the mountains to the east. It is the day of Atonement..."This is the day the LORD has made..."

Jesus.

Peace


If you're reading along in the "bible-in-a-year" with me, read 2 Kings 3 & 4.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 36 - The Arrest

Today's reading is from Matt. 26: 47 - 75

A Harmony of the four Gospels gives slightly differing accounts of all that happened in Jesus' arrest and the subsequent trials. Matthews account is simple. In order to bring Jesus to trial, they had to arrest him. In order for there to be an arrest, two things had to take place. The cooperation of Judas, and the location of Jesus. They tried to grab him on other occasions, but he always alluded their arrest. So Judas agreed, for 30 pounds of silver, to betray Christ. It was the cost of a common slave, a very cheap price. But for 30 pieces of silver, Judas really sold himself, not Christ.

Matthew 26:48-54 (NIV)
48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him."
49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed him.
50 Jesus replied, "Friend, do what you came for." Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.
51 With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"


Judas' kiss has gone down in history as a way of explaining any person who is a traitor. He would soon regret what he did, but too late. We know from the other Gospels that it is Peter who decides to fight back, but Jesus makes it clear, there is no rebellion occurring here...He did not come to fight through fleshly means...there was a work of God beginning to be done.

Matthew 26:57-68 (NIV)
57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled.
58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.
59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death.
60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward
61 and declared, "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'"
62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?"
63 But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."
64 "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.
66 What do you think?" "He is worthy of death," they answered.
67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him
68 and said, "Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?"


There was not one trial for Jesus, there were six! They were not all Jewish, half of them were Jewish and half of them were Roman. First there was Annas. Then there was Caiaphas, with a body of men making up the Sanhedrin. And then third, there was this official band called the Sanhedrin. All these were Jewish trials. The whole question of treason is not even verbalized.
When it goes to trial number four, Pilate the governor, this is where they accused him of treason because they were before a Roman Civil Court. And ultimately, after trial number five, which was really a clowning experience in front of Antipas (all he wanted to see was some tricks by Jesus), he came finally to Pilate again, his sixth and final trial. Because of pressure from his wife, and because of Rome, Pilate gave the death sentence to Jesus. Pilate was never convinced of his guilt by the way, and the only half-way fair trial that Jesus got was before Pilate.

The institutional response - the power over response - was to find a way to get rid of the nuisance, the threat, the one who was rocking the boat. To the Jewish leaders, Jesus threatened their authority and dominance, as well as their sources of income. To the Romans, Jesus threatened the "Pax Romana" - the Peace of Rome. He was a source of discord in a country they hated, but were determined to rule over.

Judas had made it possible to grab Jesus without the crowds to worry about, knowing that only a few of his disciples would easily be overcome. What they didn't expect was how submissive Jesus would be.
The personal response of Judas' betrayal is mirrored by the personal response of Peter's disloyalty.

Matthew 26:69-75 (NIV)
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said.
70 But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth."
72 He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!"
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away."
74 Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed.
75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.


We have all experienced those moments of time where instead of standing for Jesus, we shrunk back and refused to say out loud what we believe about the one who has loved us without regard. We can understand Peter's response...and we can understand his weeping afterwards. He went away, covered in guilt and shame; but in that resurrection morning, Jesus' words reminded him, and us, that "nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus."
Mark 16:6-7 (NIV)
6 "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.
7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"


AND PETER...AND ELLIOTT...AND _______________(fill in the blank).

Peace

If you're reading "through-the-Bible-in-a-year" with me, today's readings are in 2 Kings 1, 2, 3.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 35 - In The Garden

Today's reading is from Matt. 26: 36 - 46

Jesus' time with his disciples in the Upper Room is ended. They make their way through the city of Jerusalem streets until they climb the stairs to the familiar garden on the edge of the Mount of Olives called "Gethsemane". It is an Olive grove and the word for which it gets its name means "to press". Olives are picked and pressed to squeeze the rich oils and fats they contain. Here Jesus is pressed.

He asks his discipls to pray for him while he also goes on to pray. Matthew 26:37-38 (NIV)
37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
38 Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."


Jesus disappears into the darkness of the Olive grove, but his sorrow, and the groans of the weight of what he is beginning to bear all begin to be felt. Matthew 26:39 (NIV)
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

He is not unwilling to "bear the cup", but he is beginning to be filled with the terror of the separation from the Father he has never experienced. The sins of the world begin to become real...more real than perhaps they ever have before. It is a weight that no one before, nor anyone after, would ever experience.

We ask the question: "Why did he not succumb to the desire to walk away?" He says to the three when he returns to find them asleep: Matthew 26:41 (NIV)
41 "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

It is difficult to not let the body rule the spirit. That is the reason many a believer has fasted from time to time...just to train the soul that the Spirit should rule over the body and not the other.

For Jesus, the cup of the sins of the world is overwhelming. This cup stands for much more than the physical suffering, as terrrible as that would be. This cup was bitter, because it meant not only the sins of mankind, but also the abandonment and separation from his Father.
This was the reason he entered into the world to begin with, and his submission to the will of the Father is greater than his desire to walk away: Matthew 26:42 (NIV)
42 He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."

God the Father did not take away the cup, for the cup was His will. What he did take away from Jesus was his fears and agitation. When his prayers are finished Jesus is ready: Matthew 26:45-46 (NIV)
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
46 Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"


Judas is leading a large crowd and the night is going to get much darker, and the day ahead also.

Peace

If you're reading along in a "through-the-Bible-in-a-year" with me, today's readings are from 1 Kings 21 - 22

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 34 - The Promise

Today's reading is from John 14: 15 - 31 & 15: 26 -27

On the last earth night Jesus spent with his disciples, he shared from his heart. Chapter 13, he washes feet and tells them the greatest thing they can do to show who they were as disciples was to love one another. Chapter 14 he tells them that they shouldn't worry, because he was going to prepare a place for them, and that he and the Father know what is happening.

Now here, in the rest of chapter 14, and the end of 15, he tells us that we will not be left alone - literally, left as orphans - but that the promised Holy Spirit, the Comforter, will come to be with them, even after he goes. Who is this comforter?

He is the Spirit of Truth: John 14:16-17 (NIV)
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--
17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.


God puts a premium on truth telling, because the enemy is a liar, a deceiver, one who does not tell the truth. God tells truth because in truth there is freedom.

He is the one who makes Christ real to us: John 14:23 (NIV)
23 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Our obedience to Christ is made possible through the work of the Holy Spirit...prompting, encouraging, even rebuking and exhorting us when we go astray.

He is the one who continues to remind us, teach us the ways of God.
John 14:26 (NIV)
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

He is the one who gives us peace in the midst of the storms of life: John 14:27 (NLT)
27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

I love the way this chapter ends. Jesus is focused on doing the Father's will, and he knows what is about to happen. He does not shrink back from the assault of the enemy. The words speak volumes:
John 14:28-31 (NLT)
28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am.
29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.
30 “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me,
31 but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going.


Peace,

If you're reading along in the-bible-through-the-year today's reading is in 1 Kings 18,19,20

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 33 - The Arrest

Today's reading is from Mark 14.

This reading is occupied with various things: the anointing of Jesus by the woman of expensive perfume; and the first Lord's Supper Jesus had with his disciples; the prediction of Jesus of the disciples denial and abandonment of him; the agony of Jesus in the garden of Gesthemane; and finally his arrest by the Jewish authorities.

What Jesus does is prepare his disciples for the inevitability of what is about to occur. He knows that he will be arrested, falsely accused, tried and convicted and then killed. He knows this is to occur; but they do not yet comprehend what his final work is to be. So, in many ways, all of the things early on are to make them aware later on that all that happened was supposed to happen.

Among the things that occurred that evening we can see the coming "agony" of Jesus in Gethsemane. Mark 14:34-36 (NIV)
34 "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.
36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."


The "hour" was the entire event that was about to occur. His prayer was not to escape it; but that he wanted to submit to the awfulness of it and get through it as he should. Gethsemane was a picture into the humanity of Jesus, and the reality of Philippians 2 when Paul said, "he emptied himself". There he gave up all authority and deity was restrained...set aside to accomplish this work of righteousness on the cross.

The arrest to follow and the first appearance before Caiaphas was not going the way the Jewish leaders had envisioned...that is until Caiaphas himself asked the question: Mark 14:61-64 (NIV)
61 ...Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"
62 "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
63 The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked.
64 "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?" They all condemned him as worthy of death.


With two words Jesus seals his fate and yet speaks from the beginning of time who he is: "I Am"
Yahweh is that word and it is the truth of who he is and yet the words bring about the very thing the Jewish leaders needed...here was "a man" declaring himself to be "God"...that is enough.

Down through the ages this remains the stumbling block that stops many people, or ushers many into the Kingdom...is this man, Jesus, truly God? If a person answers unequivocally yes! then the truth is within them.
What Peter does afterwards Jesus reminds him, and us, he was going to do. It was not pre-determined that he would do this; it was Peter's choice and yet Jesus prepared him before hand for what he could not conceive of actually ever doing. We all need the grace that comes with our denials, and we all need the truth that comes in our confession: Jesus, our Savior, is Lord, and that is all I need.

Peace


If you're reading through-the-bible-in-a-year with me, today's readings are in 1 Kings 12, 13, 14

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 32 - The Watch

Today's reading is from Mark 13.

Among the many things that accompanied the last days Jesus spent upon the earth is the discourses on the future. In Mark's gospel, there is a long record of this...
Mark 13:1-8 (NASB)
1 As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!"
2 And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down."
3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,
4 "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?"
5 And Jesus began to say to them, "See to it that no one misleads you.
6 "Many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He!' and will mislead many.
7 "When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.
8 "For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.


SInce I've been a Christian, now 40 years, there has been a great deal of interest among many Christians on the end times. Made popular in the 80's by folks such as Hal Lindsay, and through the books of Tim Lahaye, there's been much speculation as to whether or not these are the end times. Many feel they are.

A couple of clear things from the text, and bible:
1. The Bible is clear, Jesus is going to bodily return to the earth.
2. There will be an end of time as we know it, with eternity comes with God among his restored creation.
3. The end of days will be marked by crisis, a great deal of calamities and confusion upon the earth.

Beyond that, much is not known. For example, Jesus said himself in Mark 13:32 (NASB)
32 "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

I think it's best to stay true to that and refuse all speculations on "when" this is to occur...even among faithful believers who point to this sign or that sign. The truth is, in every generation since the beginning of the church, faithful believers have believed that Jesus may come back in this generation. I don't have any problems with the convictions of Christ's return. I do have a problem with the speculations on politics, disasters, wars, etc...as a convincing proof that it is now.

What interests me as a student of Jesus is what I am to do with this information. Jesus summarizes it in the end...Mark 13:32-37 (NIV)

32 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.
34 It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.
36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.
37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'"


What does it mean to us to watch? Jesus' exhortation is to live purposefully; to live with awareness; to live with expectation. Much of our Christianity in the western world suffers from passivity, randomness, and lack of purpose. That is not the mark of a person "watching".

In the last few weeks news reports have surfaced of air traffic controllers asleep in the towers as planes attempt to land at airports during the night. It doesn't leave any of us comfortable to think that we might have a pilot who has to land a plane "blind" because he has no idea of what is going on in the runway. To fall asleep on the job is cause for firing, and it should be. To fall asleep as a Christian is to not watch.

Peace

If you're reading "through-the-Bible-in-a-year" with me, today's readings are from 1 Kings 10 & 11.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day 31 -

Today's reading is from Mark 12. During Lent we are reading the Gospel of Mark.

In the midst of parable telling, Jesus' point begins to sink in to the Pharisees. The story of the landowner who sent his servants to the farmers who rented it from him, only to have those same farmers kill his servants is only a prelude to the real point - that same landowner sends his Son to them: "surely they will respect my son." They did not, Jesus says. They killed him.

It's a picture of the coming days ahead for Jesus. The father had sent Prophets as messengers for centuries and each of them had been, at best, ignored; at worst, killed. Now God's own Son was here and what were they about to do...kill him.

Mark 12:9-11 (NIV)
9 "What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.
10 Haven't you read this scripture: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
11 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?"


It is a reference to Psalm 118 that Jesus quotes from. The cornerstone is the most important stone in the building. It guarantees that the rest of the building will be true. Take Jesus out of the building and what you have is a building without truth, without correctness, without balance and symmetry.

The rest of the chapter only highlights the differences between the religiosity and outward veneer of religion from the real heart of faith. After many encounters with religious leaders, mostly trying to trick Jesus into being a traitor, or a blasphemer, the real picture of faith emerges...a widow offering her gifts of freewill offerings. It is a gift, not a necessity and her two pennies represent both a sacrifice and her heart - to honor God with what she had.

The Pharisees, Saduccees, and scribes all held on to their positions as privileged ones...wealthy because they could exploit the people, and unwilling, unbending, hardened in heart and mind to the revelation of the Son of God; while the widow, quietly, faithfully, sacrificially gives to God what is from the heart. The one has faith, the others reject the person that represents the object of faith.

Let's watch our hearts. It is so easy to get trapped into a religion of outward show. It is so easy to be a people who "manage sin" instead of confess it. It is so easy to make a pride filled stand on how good we look instead of a humble place of sacrifice and service. What we want, what I want, what I hope we each want, is to serve one person...God. Nothing else really matters.

Peace

If you're reading along in the-bible-in-a-year with me, today's reading is from 1 Kings 8 & 9

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 30 - Knowing The Father

Today's reading is from John 14: 6 - 14.

John 14:6-14 (NIV)
6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
8 Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."
9 Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.
12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.
14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.


Jesus' response to Philip reminds each of us that the goal of our lives is to live in such a way that God is real to us. Jesus says to know Him is to know the Father. Many a believer has wondered what the Father is like. Pictures of a Charlton Heston prophet like old man, with long white hair, and flowing robes, who holds lightning in his hands and looks stern, judging, unbending...those were the pictures I had of God. Jesus says, if you see me, know me, you'll know what the Father is like.

Philip Keller wrote the book, The Prodigal God, to remind us that the Father is like the Prodigal son's Father. He is faithful, kind, forgiving, merciful and loving...and loves to throw a party to his children.

John's gospel used the word "know" over 140 times. Yet, he uses that word in four different ways.
> There is the "knowing" that has to do with facts. I know 2 + 2 = 4
> There is the "knowing" is to understand the truth behind the knowing. In otherwords, you not only know something, but understand how/why it works that way.
> There is the "knowing" that is of relationships where we get to really know a person. That in itself is a knowing that is personal, believing things about the person.
> Finally, there is that "knowing" that means to have a deep relationship with the person, a oneness of knowing deep down. This kind of knowing is like a husband and wife.
It was Paul who wrote to the Philippians that he wanted "to know Him".

It is our great need, wouldn't you agree? There are so many things that draw us away in life. There is money, ambition, goals and plans...the desire to be significant, to be important, to have money, etc...
Jesus isn't rebuking Philip in answering him. He's simply reminding him, and us, that to know him - deeply, personally, intimately - is the most fulfilling thing we can do with our lives.

Peace,

If you're reading along in through Bible-in-a-year with me, today's readings are from 1 Kings 6 & 7.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 29 - The Comfort of the Way

Today's reading begins at John 13:36 through John 14:6

John 13:36-14:6 (NIV)
36 Simon Peter asked him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later."
37 Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you."
38 Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
4 You know the way to the place where I am going."
5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.


This is one of those times when stopping at the end of a chapter and not reading on would break the flow of what was occurring.

It is the evening of Jesus' arrest. He had gathered with his disciples to celebrate the Passover feast. He had broken bread with them and it was here that the Lord's Supper was given to them as a permanent expression of his presence, and the remembrance of what was soon to happen in his death on the cross.
He had also washed their feet and reminded them (and us) that love is wrapped in humble service to one another. It was here that he spoke of the deep love he had for them, and the desire - even command - that they/we love one another also.

It is Peter who begins to realize the implications of this talk...that something was about to happen that they would not control, and that Jesus was talking to them in a manner that let them know he would not physically be with them anymore. It is Peter who speaks up and says, "Lord, where are you going?"..."Why can't I follow you now?"..."even if I have to die with you!" It is Peter who speaks up, but it is Jesus' mercy and grace that remind Peter that he has to do this alone, and even though he is going to deny him, later on he would indeed come after him.

The chapter breaks the flow, but Jesus' words continue on to let them know, it's all ok. He is going on ahead "to prepare a place for you". Can we understand their confusion? Can we put ourselves into their shoes and recognize how unsettling it all is?

We only need to realize how people today find the idea of their life transitioning from the physical life here on the earth to life in heaven at times troubling. How? What will happen? Yes, I know there is eternal life - that life is going on right now even as I live physically these days upon the earth. But how will it all occur? It is a mystery of what happens at death, and what heaven will look like.

Jesus' words point to a reality that he knows to be true, even if the disciples can only accept it by faith. Isn't it most important to hear Jesus' words, "I am the way, the truth, the life...I am the way to the Father"? Yes...our confidence is not in figuring out how it all looks, or how it will all take place. Our confidence, and faith, is in Jesus as the way. We do not know, but he does know the way, and that is enough.

Remember back a while ago of the little boy who experienced heaven? It's a heartwarming picture that unfolds. Take a look at it here:


Peace

If you're reading along in the-bible-in-a-year with me, read 1 Kings 3, 4, 5 today.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 28 - Love Wins

Today's reading is from John 13: 21 - 38

The night of Jesus' arrest - Maundy Thursday - he washed his disciples feet. From the text it's clear, that means he washed Judas' feet also. The lesson of washing feet came at an important time. It was one of the last clear lessons he disciples received from Jesus. When it was over he declares....

John 13:21 (NIV)
21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."

A dark shadow comes into play here. Jesus knows what Judas is about to do. It does not make Jesus deviate from his decisions of what to do next. He treated Judas as he treated the other 11, with dignity and honor, washing his feet also. Judas is ruled by his own desires, his own sense of rightness, and the "truth is not in him". The others at the table are not aware of what Judas is about to do. In the style of Jesus' mysterious way of teaching, he leaves it wide open...Judas receives the foot washing, and also receives the bread and cup...along with the others. But, even in the midst of these deliberate acts of Christ, Satan still comes into Judas.

John 13:22-30 (NIV)
22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant.
23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.
24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means."
25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?"
26 Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon.
27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. "What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him,
28 but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.
29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor.
30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.


"And it was night" is an apt description of what is going on in Judas. He is a traitor, and he will soon do his deed, only to feel the remorse of it all and end up committing suicide. He makes his own choice. We must not say God destined him to do these things; nor should we say the devil made him do it. He turned his back on Jesus, and he gave himself over to do Satan's desires. At this point, evil wins.

The work of Jesus is not deterred. John 13:31-35 (NIV)
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.
32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
33 "My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."


Evil will not be gone from the earth...the creation is corrupted and it groans under the weight of it's sin and corruption. God knows that and so he sent his Son into the world to redeem it. The curse is being reversed. Satan is still real, but he cannot win. Love wins. God's glory is still that which outshines the darkness. God's glory is in Jesus' death on the cross. He goes up against evil and he defeats it. Sin, death, hell are overturned in the great act of God's love.

And so, we have this commandment...Love. In love we show the world that evil cannot win. In love we most demonstrate that Christ Jesus rules over our hearts and minds, our desires and our will. In love, we defeat the enemy of God who seeks to destroy, but cannot, because Love wins!

Peace

If you're reading along in the-Bible-in-a-year with me, we begin reading 1 Kings 1 and 2 today.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Fifth Sunday of Lent

During Lent there are no devotional readings in scripture to follow. Today is "the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." So says the Psalmist as a way of reminding us that worshipping God together in community is a great way of rejoicing... re-stating-with-joy... who are God is.

Peace

If you're reading along with me in the "through-the-Bible-in-a-year" the readings today are 2 Samuel 22, 23, 24.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 27 - The Temple

Today's reading is from Mark 11 -

Mark mentions the temple "area" in vs 15. The significance of that is that when a person entered into the "area" of the Temple, the first thing they stepped into was the area for the "ethne" - the nations, the Gentile area. It was the only part of the Temple area that Gentiles were allowed in. It was also the biggest part of the Temple area, and a Jew had to go through it to get to the part that contained the Temple building itself.

When Jesus arrives at the Temple he sees bustling traffic. He sees the money changer tables, doing a huge business in taking the money of foreign pilgrims so that they might purchase animals and grain for the sacrifices they came to offer to God. Thousands of people came to the Temple during the Passover - from all over the Roman world. The first century historian, Josephus, wrote that during Passover one year, some 255,000 lambs were brought, sold and sacrificed at the Temple area. The throngs of people within that area made it a confusing, noisy, smelly mess.

Did anyone notice Jesus that day? Did anyone see him begin to angrily overturn tables of money? When did the turmoil begin to become very public? Mark says, Mark 11:15-17 (NIV)
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves,
16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.
17 And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: "'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'"


Jesus was appalled that the very place that God had said to Solomon would be a place for all of the nations to come to for Worship, had turned into a merchandising mall.

The day this all occurs, Jesus had done an odd thing (by our quick observations). He had walked past a fig tree, and because it was in leaf, but had no figs, he spoke a curse over it...Mark 11:14 (NIV)
14 Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it.
It seems such an odd thing at first glance. Why get mad at the tree? The fig tree came to blossom during this time of the year, and little nodules of figs began to appear with the sign of first blossoms. Yet when those nodules didn't appear, it was a sign of something seriously wrong with the tree - most like a decay had set in and the tree was dying.

Growth without fruit was a sign that decay was in process, and therefore, long-term, it was only going down hill. The tree looked good on the outside, but it was not going to do what it was meant to do. What was going on in the temple that day was a picture of that tree - fruitless, decay had set in, there was nothing good going on and it was going down hill fast.

The disciples with Jesus would go back and see that fig tree again. This time Peter makes a comment to Jesus and his response is important to see... Mark 11:20-26 (NIV)
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.
21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"
22 "Have faith in God," Jesus answered.
23 "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.
24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.


The tree is a symbol of a religion without faith. And that faith is practical in it's outcomes. It is a faith that asks and believes, and it's a faith that is sincere...first looking within to see if it's genuine in it's motives, attitudes, and desires. Religious activities account for nothing when they have no fruit bearing from God. The work of the Spirit is clear... He produces love, joy, peace, long-suffering, discipline, humility, self-control...and these will never come about by mere religiosity.

Tomorrow is a day of worship gathering all around the earth. Wherever we are, let's approach it as a day that is given over to God..to love him, and to love others, seeking the very fruit of being a temple of God that each of us is called to be.

Peace

If you're reading through-the-bible-in-a-year with me, today's reading is from 2 Samuel 19, 20, 21.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 26 - The Ransom

During Lent we're reading through the book of Mark on Friday's and Saturday's. Today's reading is Mark 10.

Jesus' journey to the cross was purposeful. He never hid from his disciples the reason why he was here. He came to die. He told that to his disciples repeatedly. In Mark, Jesus had already said it twice:
Mark 8:31-32 (NIV)
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
32 He spoke plainly about this...
";
and then in the next chapter again:
Mark 9:31 (NIV)
31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise."

So also here in chpt 10...Mark 10:32-34 (NIV)
32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.
33 "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles,
34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise."


There are more details this time. He tells them that it will be in Jerusalem and thtat it will be at the hands of both the Jewish and Gentile authorities. Three times in three chapters - he knew his death was an integral purpose of his incarnation. It is later in the 10th chapter that he summarizes the idea of "ransom"... Mark 10:45 (NIV)
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Jesus came to be a substitionary sacrifice. We don't know this word in English except by the idea of a kidnapping. The Greek word is "lutron", which in the first century Roman world meant to "buy the freedom of a slave or a prisoner". We don't like the idea of slavery, nor imprisoning, but the point is simple...Jesus came to pay for our sin, something we couldn't possibly pay ourselves, in order to purchase our freedom. Jesus didn't die despite God being loving, but rather he died because of God's love.

C. S. Lewis wrote this into his great story: "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe".
"When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward."

God created the world, and "it was good". The Fall brought corruption...Adam and Eve were traitors to God, and we have followed in their paths. God then sent his son, and he although the cross was a horrible site, his love changed it all...it has redeemed, and is redeeming even now today.

Peace

If you're reading through the-Bible-in-a-year with me, today's reading is 2 Samuel 16,17,18.

Day 26 - The Ransom

During Lent we're reading through the book of Mark on Friday's and Saturday's. Today's reading is Mark 10.

Jesus' journey to the cross was purposeful. He never hid from his disciples the reason why he was here. He came to die. He told that to his disciples repeatedly. In Mark, Jesus had already said it twice:
Mark 8:31-32 (NIV)
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
32 He spoke plainly about this...
"; and then in the next chapter again: Mark 9:31 (NIV)
31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise."

So also here in chpt 10...Mark 10:32-34 (NIV)
32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.
33 "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles,
34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise."


There are more details this time. He tells them that it will be in Jerusalem and thtat it will be at the hands of both the Jewish and Gentile authorities. Three times in three chapters - he knew his death was an integral purpose of his incarnation. It is later in the 10th chapter that he summarizes the idea of "ransom"... Mark 10:45 (NIV)
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Jesus came to be a substitionary sacrifice. We don't know this word in English except by the idea of a kidnapping. The Greek word is "lutron", which in the first century Roman world meant to "buy the freedom of a slave or a prisoner". We don't like the idea of slavery, nor imprisoning, but the point is simple...Jesus came to pay for our sin, something we couldn't possibly pay ourselves, in order to purchase our freedom. Jesus didn't die despite God being loving, but rather he died because of God's love.

C. S. Lewis wrote this into his great story: "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe".
"When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward."

God created the world, and "it was good". The Fall brought corruption...Adam and Eve were traitors to God, and we have followed in their paths. God then sent his son, and he although the cross was a horrible site, his love changed it all...it has redeemed, and is redeeming even now today.

Peace

If you're reading through the-Bible-in-a-year with me, today's reading is 2 Samuel 16,17,18.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day 25 - The Journey to the Cross, 2

Today's reading is from John 12: 20-50

In the few short days before the Passover, and the cross, Jesus moves steadily towards Jerusalem, and the eventual confrontation with the Roman authorities and the leaders of the Jewish religious institution.

John 12:20-21 (NIV)
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast.
21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus."


The "Greeks" (from the Greek word "Hellen" for Hellenists) were Gentiles. The "world" outside of Israel was beginning to turn to Jesus. It is a prophetic symbol of the effects of his death, burial and resurrection, that the church would come into being and both Jew and Gentile would be unified as the people of God. They went to Philip because he was from Bethsaida, a border town in the north that had many Greek speaking citizens, and so he seemed the perfect person to approach. Philip told Andrew and they went together to Jesus.

Jesus' reply to all of this is what we must hear: John 12:23-26 (NIV)
23 Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.


The kernel must go into the ground and die. Should it stay on top of the soil it will not produce, but if it falls into the ground and is buried, it will live and produce many more. Again, the symbolism is clear. Jesus is predicting his death and resulting effects of it...many more seeds, including Gentiles will come. But there is more, because what he says after this makes another point. It is not simply true of him that he must die, but also of us, and all who would choose to follow him. This is not limited to the physical death, it is the essence of "dying daily"...losing our lives for the sake of Christ' Kingdom...choosing to put his will first, in obedience, and in loving service for the sake of the Kingdom. We serve Him first and in dying to self, we live.

As a young Christian - in my early 20's - I was confronted by this and determined to do what I could to choose the will of Christ over my own wherever and whenever I could. I made up cards with the words "if it dies" on them and pasted them all over the place - the bedroom, the bathroom mirror, the countertop in the kitchen, the doors, the inside of the car...wherever I would see them daily, frequently and it kept reminding me that there is the continual need to die to self. This is the need for those of us who say we want to follow Jesus.

Unfortunately, not all want to do that. There were those in the crowd who did not all turn to him in belief. John 12:37-50 (NIV)
37 Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.
38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: "Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"
39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
40 "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn--and I would heal them."
41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him.


What does our "not believing" look like? It might be a religious veneer that covers over blindness to our own self, and deadness in the heart to the things of God. In that case there is no "seeing" and there is no "understanding"...no emotional response. It is good to ask the question, where do I no longer feel a desire to ask 'is this your will, Lord?'; 'am I doing this correctly Lord?'

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue;
43 for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
44 Then Jesus cried out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.
45 When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.
46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
47 "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.
48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.
49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.
50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."


Our response to Jesus is either conditioned by our fear of what others will say, or by our desire to know God, and therefore forgiveness of sins, and life. Jesus came to save, and judgement is not his goal. We are our own worst enemies. It is our decision...Jesus leads to eternal life and that is all there is.

Peace

If you're reading along with me in the "Bible-in-a-year" then read 2 Samuel 13, 14, 15 today.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 24 - The Journey to the Cross - 1

Today we begin to look at the last few days of Jesus' life on earth. The reading for today is from John 12: 1 - 11...

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.
3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected,
5 "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages."
6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
7 "Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "[It was intended] that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.
8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."
9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.
10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well,
11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.


It's just six days before Good Friday and Jesus knows that the authorities are out to get him, but he still returns to Bethany (just two miles from Jerusalem) to visit his friends: Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Mary's act of anointing Jesus with the perfumed oil and with her hair, seems quite unusual for any of us today. We can't imagine feeling comfortable in a scene like that...and neither did all of the disciples. But the focus is on Judas...who we know by now is looking for an opportunity to give Jesus over to the authorities.

Mary's act is a prophetic one. She is doing it as an act of love for Jesus. She is doing nothing more than declaring her love and gratitude for all that he has done, as well as all that he is. Her loving act fills the house with a smell that reminds everyone of the "fragrance of Christ". Mary is smiling because she is giving all that she can to Jesus...Judas is frowning, hiding, scheming, because he has decided to go his own way and get what he can for himself.

Two acts, two people, two attitudes, two different directions in their lives. Which will it be for us? We may not have bottles of perfume to pour over Jesus' feet...we do have out mind, our heart, our will, our devotion to give.

Subtlety, but never-the-less important...Jesus is surrounded by friends...Judas is in a private world that has none but the enemy around him.

The journey to the cross begins with friendship...a decision on Jesus' part to spend some time with his friends before the week unfolds. Our lives are lived for some purpose, for someone...let it be for real life.

Peace

If you're reading through the-bible-in-a-year with me, read 2 Samuel 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 23 - Avoiding the Flood

Today's readings are from Psalm 32 and John 3:14-21

There's a remarkable verse translated in the New Living Translation from Psalm 32:6. First a bit of context. This Psalm of David is written as a companion Psalm to Psalm 51. Both come out of the experience of David's sin when he had sex with Bathsheba and in trying to cover his affair up, he ended up causing the death of her husband, Uriah. For over a year David lived a lie, trying desperately to cover up the facts of what he did. When Nath;an the Prophet comes to David with a rather sad story of a man with one hundred sheep, stealing the one lone sheep of a poor man, David is indignant and rises in judgement against the rich man...only to have Nathan turn the tale into a confrontation of David's own actions with Uriah and Bathsheba. A year after the events, David confesses his sin, and in a public repentance, he comes back to a place where he replaces the weights of guilt and condemnation with the freedom of repentance and forgiveness.

Psalm 32:1-2 (NLT)
1 Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!
2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!


Joy is not just happiness. It is the freedom of a right relationship, where there are no secrets; where there is no guilt; where there is complete honesty. For some, it is seemingly too unreal. They have lived so long with their guilt and condemnation, they cannot conceive of anything else...but there is something else. There is the Spring, the sunshine, the warmer air of a life of forgiveness and freedom.

This is what awaits us when we turn to Christ with our sins at any time. David says it this way, Psalm 32:5-6 (NLT)
5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
6 Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.

It is simple...there is the joy and freedom of confession and forgiveness; or the floodwaters of guilt, inward judgment, the continual weight of carrying around the sins I so desperately need to shed.

John's gospel makes it so simple: John 3:16-18a (NLT)
16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him..."

We sing that song in Worship..."Come to Jesus". It is one of those beautiful songs of worship that reminds me that we are a prayer away from freedom. If you don't remember it, here's a link to a video on the song...take some time and enjoy.


Peace

If you're reading along in "through-the-Bible-in-a-year", read 2 Samuel 4, 5, 6, 7.

Day 23 - Avoiding the Flood

Today's readings are from Psalm 32 and John 3:14-21

There's a remarkable verse translated in the New Living Translation from Psalm 32:6. First a bit of context. This Psalm of David is written as a companion Psalm to Psalm 51. Both come out of the experience of David's sin when he had sex with Bathsheba and in trying to cover his affair up, he ended up causing the death of her husband, Uriah. For over a year David lived a lie, trying desperately to cover up the facts of what he did. When Nath;an the Prophet comes to David with a rather sad story of a man with one hundred sheep, stealing the one lone sheep of a poor man, David is indignant and rises in judgement against the rich man...only to have Nathan turn the tale into a confrontation of David's own actions with Uriah and Bathsheba. A year after the events, David confesses his sin, and in a public repentance, he comes back to a place where he replaces the weights of guilt and condemnation with the freedom of repentance and forgiveness.

Psalm 32:1-2 (NLT)
1 Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!
2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!


Joy is not just happiness. It is the freedom of a right relationship, where there are no secrets; where there is no guilt; where there is complete honesty. For some, it is seemingly too unreal. They have lived so long with their guilt and condemnation, they cannot conceive of anything else...but there is something else. There is the Spring, the sunshine, the warmer air of a life of forgiveness and freedom.

This is what awaits us when we turn to Christ with our sins at any time. David says it this way, Psalm 32:5-6 (NLT)
5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
6 Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.

It is simple...there is the joy and freedom of confession and forgiveness; or the floodwaters of guilt, inward judgment, the continual weight of carrying around the sins I so desperately need to shed.

John's gospel makes it so simple: John 3:16-18a (NLT)
16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him..."

We sing that song in Worship..."Come to Jesus". It is one of those beautiful songs of worship that reminds me that we are a prayer away from freedom. If you don't remember it, here's a link to a video on the song...take some time and enjoy.

Day 23 - Avoiding the Flood

Today's readings are from Psalm 32 and John 3:14-21

There's a remarkable verse translated in the New Living Translation from Psalm 32:6. First a bit of context. This Psalm of David is written as a companion Psalm to Psalm 51. Both come out of the experience of David's sin when he had sex with Bathsheba and in trying to cover his affair up, he ended up causing the death of her husband, Uriah. For over a year David lived a lie, trying desperately to cover up the facts of what he did. When Nath;an the Prophet comes to David with a rather sad story of a man with one hundred sheep, stealing the one lone sheep of a poor man, David is indignant and rises in judgement against the rich man...only to have Nathan turn the tale into a confrontation of David's own actions with Uriah and Bathsheba. A year after the events, David confesses his sin, and in a public repentance, he comes back to a place where he replaces the weights of guilt and condemnation with the freedom of repentance and forgiveness.

Psalm 32:1-2 (NLT)
1 Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!
2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!


Joy is not just happiness. It is the freedom of a right relationship, where there are no secrets; where there is no guilt; where there is complete honesty. For some, it is seemingly too unreal. They have lived so long with their guilt and condemnation, they cannot conceive of anything else...but there is something else. There is the Spring, the sunshine, the warmer air of a life of forgiveness and freedom.

This is what awaits us when we turn to Christ with our sins at any time. David says it this way, Psalm 32:5-7 (NLT)
5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
6 Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.
7 For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.

It is simple...there is the joy and freedom of confession and forgiveness; or the floodwaters of guilt, inward judgment, the continual weight of carrying around the sins I so desperately need to shed.

John's gospel makes it so simple: John 3:16-18a (NLT)
16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him..."

We sing that song in Worship..."Come to Jesus". It is one of those beautiful songs of worship that reminds me that we are a prayer away from freedom. If you don't remember it, here's a link to a video on the song...take some time and enjoy.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Day 22 - Lost and Found

Today's readings are from Luke 15 and 2 Cor. 5:21

There are three stories Jesus tells - all about "lost" things. The lost sheep and the lost coin are a prelude to the real drama - a lost son. What is crucial to understanding the story is the context: Luke 15:1-3 (NLT)
"Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.
This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
So Jesus told them this story..."


The crowd was mixed..."notorious sinners" and "tax collectors" were there. So were the "Pharisees and teachers of religious law". The first ones were there because of the need for forgiveness and hope. They knew they were in great need. They didn't have to translate what Jesus meant by the adjective, "lost". They knew they were far away from God, and had lived recklessly. On the other hand, the Pharisees and the teachers assumed they had no needs like this. As far as they were concerned those who were "lost" were unworthy of God. In the meantime, their own adherence to the law qualified them for a superior status.

"So Jesus told them this story..." and it becomes (in my opinion) Jesus' most famous story.
11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.
12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.


The young son does the unthinkable...he asks for an estate before his Father dies. It is - for all who hear the story - the ultimate act of despising a parent. Then the son leaves to live a "wild" life. He finds himself one day in a pig pen - no worthy Jew would ever work for, or indulge in the meat of pigs. Finally Jesus says in vs. 17, "he comes to his senses"... (In greek, "heauto" - lit. to come to himself). He comes to see what he has done with himself. So he makes a decision...to go back...- literally to repent. Repentance means to "turn around", and that his what he does. He turns to go back home and is willing to lose his rights as a son, just to be a servant.

Rembrandts portrait of the return of the Prodigal Son is the basis for my favorite Henri Nouwen book: "The Return of the Prodigal Son".
The lost need a Father. But what kind of a Father awaits them? One who will condemn? One who will scold? One who will permit them home, but relegate them to a distance? All sorts of possibilities work there way into our minds...and also the minds of Jesus' listeners. What they didn't think of was that this Father was eagerly awaiting his son's return...and a celebration breaks out... why?
24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

Yet there is not a celebration all around. The older son...the one who had been dutiful, who had not left, nor demanded his share of the estate; who had worked for the Father without regard...this son is angry. AND so, "the Father went out and pleaded with him." This older brother is the Pharisee, the teacher of the law. Jesus' point is not to demean their position, but to show them they are not pushed aside by the Father, but rather by their own will.

Nouwen points out that each of us are in the story. We are the Prodigal son, and we are also the older brother. What each of us needs to become is the Father. It is easy to be religious and because of that filled with pride...a sense of differentness and aloof from "those others". It is easier to do that than maintain the posture of humility that goes with recognizing that ultimately "all" are lost and must be found.

Today's reading ends with 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

We stand before our Savior as welcomed lost ones. He has taken our sin upon himself and he has gifted us with his righteousness...and that's a very good trade for us.

Peace

If you're reading-through-the-bible-in-a-year with me, read 2 Samuel 1, 2, 3

Day 22 - Lost and Found

Today's readings are from Luke 15 and 2 Cor. 5:21

There are three stories Jesus tells - all about "lost" things. The lost sheep and the lost coin are a prelude to the real drama - a lost son. What is crucial to understanding the story is the context: Luke 15:1-3 (NLT)
"Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.
This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
So Jesus told them this story..."


The crowd was mixed..."notorious sinners" and "tax collectors" were there. So were the "Pharisees and teachers of religious law". The first ones were there because of the need for forgiveness and hope. They knew they were in great need. They didn't have to translate what Jesus meant by the adjective, "lost". They knew they were far away from God, and had lived recklessly. On the other hand, the Pharisees and the teachers assumed they had no needs like this. As far as they were concerned those who were "lost" were unworthy of God. In the meantime, their own adherence to the law qualified them for a superior status.

"So Jesus told them this story..." and it becomes (in my opinion) Jesus' most famous story.
11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.
12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.


The young son does the unthinkable...he asks for an estate before his Father dies. It is - for all who hear the story - the ultimate act of despising a parent. Then the son leaves to live a "wild" life. He finds himself one day in a pig pen - no worthy Jew would ever work for, or indulge in the meat of pigs. Finally Jesus says in vs. 17, "he comes to his senses"... (In greek, "heauto" - lit. to come to himself). He comes to see what he has done with himself. So he makes a decision...to go back...- literally to repent. Repentance means to "turn around", and that his what he does. He turns to go back home and is willing to lose his rights as a son, just to be a servant.

Rembrandts portrait of the return of the Prodigal Son is the basis for my favorite Henri Nouwen book: "The Return of the Prodigal Son".
The lost need a Father. But what kind of a Father awaits them? One who will condemn? One who will scold? One who will permit them home, but relegate them to a distance? All sorts of possibilities work there way into our minds...and also the minds of Jesus' listeners. What they didn't think of was that this Father was eagerly awaiting his son's return...and a celebration breaks out... why?
24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

Yet there is not a celebration all around. The older son...the one who had been dutiful, who had not left, nor demanded his share of the estate; who had worked for the Father without regard...this son is angry. AND so, "the Father went out and pleaded with him." This older brother is the Pharisee, the teacher of the law. Jesus' point is not to demean their position, but to show them they are not pushed aside by the Father, but rather by their own will.

Nouwen points out that each of us are in the story. We are the Prodigal son, and we are also the older brother. What each of us needs to become is the Father.

Today's reading ends with 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

We stand before our Savior as welcome lost ones. He has taken our sin upon himself and he has gifted us with his righteousness...and that's a very good trade for us.

Peace

If you're reading-through-the-bible-in-a-year with me, read 2 Samuel 1, 2, 3