God’s sovereign, healing love

Aug 1, 2016 by

Romans 8 concludes the first half of the letter with a powerful message that affirms the good news (gospel) of God’s sovereign mercy. Paul counters two competing “gos­pels” — the gospel of the Roman...

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Bible: Slaves to sin or righteousness?

Jul 18, 2016 by

One issue Paul confronts in Romans is “boasting” — the inclination to claim a special place in the universe due to one’s religious status. He writes about the people who boast in their relationship...

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Bible: Gospel of liberation from idols

Jul 4, 2016 by

Romans 3 famously contains a dense theological argument. Paul discusses the need for and provision of salvation in Jesus Christ. Paul has a simple purpose: That his readers, Jewish and Gentile Christians...

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Bible: No better than the Romans?

Jun 20, 2016 by

The impact of Paul’s letter to the Romans on Christian theology cannot be overstated — though different Christian traditions disagree profoundly on how to interpret and apply Romans. It is always worth...

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Bible: Judgment and a faithful remnant

Jun 6, 2016 by

In just three chapters, the Book of Zephaniah does an excellent job of capturing the essence of the Old Testament prophets. He offers a sharp critique of the kingdom of Judah, focusing on its leaders. And he...

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Bible: From corruption to reform

May 23, 2016 by

The prophet Zephaniah ministered in Judah about two generations after Isaiah and Micah. He may have been a direct descendant of King Hezekiah (1:1). However, by his time, Judah’s leaders had long forgotten...

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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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