Bible: Salvation for a tax collector

May 9, 2016 by

Humility is a theme of all three of these stories in the Gospel of Luke. We might expect such a theme from the story of people bringing the little children to Jesus and Jesus’ saying, “Whoever does not...

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Bible: Jesus, the discomforter

Apr 25, 2016 by

Jesus certainly makes us uncomfortable in this selection from Luke 17. Verses 1-10 are a collection of Jesus’ sayings. First is a warning not to cause one of these “little ones” to stumble. “Little...

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Bible: Redeemed from the depths

Apr 11, 2016 by

You have to know something about pigs to understand these two passages from the Gospel of Luke. First-century Jews did not raise pigs; they did not eat pigs. Leviticus 11 has a list of unclean, or impure,...

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Bible: What you really believe, you will do

Mar 28, 2016 by

Faith is the main point of both of the stories: the healing of the Roman centurion’s slave and the forgiving of the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet. In both stories, faith is demonstrated by an unlikely...

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Bible: Faith under stress

Mar 14, 2016 by

We cannot always predict how we will act under stress. The Apostle Peter declares he will never desert Jesus but before morning has three times denied he even knows Jesus, the Galilean, who is on trial before...

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Bible: No miracles without us

Feb 29, 2016 by

The common thread in these two passages is whether God is able. In Mark 9, it is whether Jesus is able to heal. In Mark 10, it is whether God is able to help someone give up everything for the sake of the...

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Bible: No need to wait to wipe the slate clean

Feb 15, 2016 by

Growing up, the first day of school was the most sacred day on my annual calendar. Whatever regrets, whatever mistakes had marked the previous year were suddenly rendered gloriously irrelevant...

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Bible: The day will come when you’ll forget

Feb 1, 2016 by

What do flatbread, dead donkeys and tambourines all have in common? (Hint: They’re not just key ingredients in the world’s worst dinner date.) They are symbols of remembrance, memory devices meant to...

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Bible: That’s your first miracle?

Jan 18, 2016 by

It’s no small thing to choose a first miracle. After all, this will be your public introduction, the image that will travel with your name as word of you gets out. Pundits and commentators will pick it apart...

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Bible: Mirror of God or idolatry?

Jan 4, 2016 by

It’s hard to tell which makes Christians more nervous — talking about God in the language of sex (Hosea) or talking about sex in the context of God (Song of Songs). The Book of Hosea makes sexual...

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Bible: God with us! God with them?

Dec 21, 2015 by

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).” Immanuel. God with us. What a dangerous name. Jacob and Laban strike a deal: seven years...

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Bible: Her whole life in the offering box

Dec 7, 2015 by

One story, two tellings: No. 1 — Jesus and his disciples are visiting the Jerusalem temple. They’re sitting around, people-watching. They observe worshipers placing money in offering containers in the...

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Bible: Sabbath-keeping, empire-breaking

Nov 23, 2015 by

I’ve never been very good at keeping the Sabbath. To my knowledge, this is the only case where public admission of habitual commandment-breaking might actually get one a raise. We moderns have a term for...

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Bible: Paul, the restless preacher

Nov 10, 2015 by

The next four cities Paul and his companions visit — Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth — are all in what is now Greece. As they push westward, Luke demonstrates the promise the risen Jesus made to...

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Scripture versus experience

Oct 26, 2015 by

Our next three lessons cover large developments in the Jerusalem church and beyond. In Acts 12 we find Peter in prison guarded by four squads of soldiers. King Herod Agrippa, after beheading the apostle James,...

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Peter’s vision shakes the foundation

Oct 12, 2015 by

While Saul is stowed away in his native Tarsus, the action moves back to the cities of Lydda, Joppa and Caesarea in Palestine, along the Mediterranean seacoast. Peter is now center-stage. He heals Aeneas, a...

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God’s power is not for sale

Sep 28, 2015 by

Stephen’s impassioned sermon from our last lesson incited such blood-lust in his listeners that he was immediately stoned to death. In praying for forgiveness for his killers, Stephen imitates Jesus on the...

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Whose side are you on?

Sep 14, 2015 by

As he writes about the early Jerusalem church, Luke holds our attention by alternating public and private events. The Sept. 13 lesson involved internal community organizing. This lesson takes us back to the...

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Birth pangs of the Jerusalem church

Aug 31, 2015 by

If we were reading this narrative as Luke intended, we would not start halfway through Acts 4. So let’s first get situated. Acts is Luke’s second volume and follows directly after his account of Jesus’...

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Refiner’s fire, heaven’s floodgates

Aug 17, 2015 by

Zechariah continues the prophetic theme. Israel has been hypocritical in its religious practices. It has fasted and feasted for selfish purposes. Through Zechariah, God calls for heart integrity and right...

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Don’t blame your parents

Aug 3, 2015 by

“The parents have eaten sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Biblical scholars think this proverb was a complaint by the exiles in Babylon. They were not responsible for their...

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Adders’ eggs and spiders’ webs

Jul 20, 2015 by

What is the relationship between humans “be­getting iniquity” and God as a driving force in the world? Why do saints suffer and sinners prosper? The psalmist nearly lost his faith over that one. Who can...

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The two parts of true religion

Jul 7, 2015 by

Israel is a mess, says God via Micah. One has to search the opening chapters to find the cause of his exasperation. In 3:8-12, he mentions rulers who hate justice, pervert fairness and build their realms with...

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Howling like a jackal

Jun 22, 2015 by

I’ve not heard jackals howl in the wild, but I listened on YouTube. Try it to get in a mood to study Micah. They are more shrill and annoying than the hyenas I heard when teaching in Ethiopia. The prophet...

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Sleeping on a bed of ivory

Jun 8, 2015 by

Economic inequality has grown in the United States since the 1970s. It will be an issue in the next political cycle. How shall we deal with the word of a prophet from the working class who heaps condemnation...

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