Category Archives: Bible

November 2, 2020

John 6:15 Jesus saw that in their enthusiasm, they were about to grab him and make him king, so he slipped off and went back up the mountain to be by himself. (The Message Bible)

About 70 years after Jesus was crucified, a writer named Juvenal penned a piece called Satire X about the Roman Empire in which he references bread and circuses: “Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.” Wikipedia goes on to explain, “In a political context, the phrase means to generate public approval, not by excellence in public service or public policy, but by diversion, distraction or by satisfying the most immediate or base requirements of a populace — by offering a palliative: for example food (bread) or entertainment (circuses)” (Both https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_and_circuses). Jesus had just finished giving the masses bread. His teaching and works of power were at the very least entertaining. If Juvenal was right, Jesus had the people just where a politician wanted them. But Jesus wanted something else. He wanted faith from his followers. He wanted trust and love and personal devotion. If you paid attention to the ads for the election this year you may have felt like folks were offering bread and circuses. What is Jesus offering you? 

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October 26, 2020

John 5:34 But my purpose is not to get your vote, and not to appeal to mere human testimony. I’m speaking to you this way so that you will be saved.” (The Message Bible)

Do you hate campaign ads as much as I do? Being in a large TV market like the Delaware Valley, we get subjected to ads for races in which we will never get to vote! Often these ads are about the failings of the other candidate rather than the plans and vision of the one sponsoring the ad. Jesus is speaking in the verse above and the image of voting is the translator’s attempt to be 21st century. It is not a phrase that Jesus used. But we get the idea. Jesus spoke the hard truth sometimes and not a version of the truth designed to make certain groups or individuals approve of him. If you notice, though, throughout the gospels Jesus speaks these hard truths directly to people, not about them to others. Above he says “I’m speaking to you this way” talking to the religious leaders that were giving him a hard time. And why? “So that you will be saved.” When Jesus says difficult things concerning people, he says them to their face and does so because he wants the best for them. Is this something we could/should do also? 

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October 19, 2020

John 5:24 “It’s urgent that you listen carefully to this: Anyone here who believes what I am saying right now and aligns himself with the Father, who has in fact put me in charge, has at this very moment the real, lasting life and is no longer condemned to be an outsider. This person has taken a giant step from the world of the dead to the world of the living.” (The Message Bible)

Christianity is sometimes accused of being about “pie in the sky by and by when you die.” That is to say, the tantalizing appeal of a better world later to keep people under control in this present one. Certainly, Jesus and Christianity have a focus on life after death. The resurrection is the event that changes everything in the gospels. But there is something here and now that this passage and others like it claim about faith in Christ. People sometime speak of “heaven on earth.” That is usually a sentimental and unreal expression of how folks wish things to be but aren’t. Yet, as incomplete as life here is, faith in Jesus does open us to love and justice and beauty and goodness. They may be marred and tainted by the state of the world but they are a beginning of something grand and eternal, or so this passage leads us to believe. Turning to Christ in faith may be just a beginning but it is a real beginning of something beyond our imagination. All the essence of the tallest tree is already present in its seed. Where is the seed of faith in your life?

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October 12, 2020

John 5:15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

The man didn’t know who had healed him but later Jesus met up with him again and set him straight. He lets the leaders know as they had been bugging him earlier. If you read on you will find that this becomes a point of contention. I’m guessing the man that was healed thought he was doing a good thing by telling the leaders. I mean, after all, he had been healed! That’s a good thing, isn’t it? The things we say don’t always have the effect we desire or intend. That can particularly be true when we talk about God. Some folks profess that you shouldn’t talk about politics or religion because it just leads to argument. But if we don’t talk about the things that are most important, we get reduced to trivial chit chat. Yes, talking about God can lead to contention, but it doesn’t have to. Speak your truth about God and trust God to take care of where it goes.

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October 5, 2020

John 4:49, 50 the court official wouldn’t be put off. “Come down! It’s life or death for my son.” Jesus simply replied, “Go home. Your son lives.” (The Message Bible)

We often feel like physical proximity is important. We go to cemeteries to feel close to a loved one that has passed yet we don’t really think they are confined to that place. We sit in waiting rooms at hospitals though we are separated by walls. In the pandemic we have learned to connect digitally across distance but it often doesn’t feel the same inside. This official seemed to believe Jesus had to be physically close to his son for healing to happen. We sometimes believe we must feel close to God for God’s Spirit to be working in us. But that is not necessarily so. God’s experience of time and space is, I think, much different than ours. God transcends years and millennia and inches and miles. We may wish to be closer to God but God is right here, whether we feel a certain way or not. God’s power was as close to the official as it was to the son miles away. The official could “go home” and still be within Jesus’ influence. Are you trying to anticipate how God will or must act? In some way are you limiting Jesus to your perceptions? 

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September 28, 2020

Leviticus 16:20-22 When Aaron finishes making atonement for the Holy of Holies, the Tent of Meeting, and the Altar, he will bring up the live goat, lay both hands on the live goat’s head, and confess all the iniquities of the People of Israel, all their acts of rebellion, all their sins. He will put all the sins on the goat’s head and send it off into the wilderness, led out by a man standing by and ready. The goat will carry all their iniquities to an empty wasteland; the man will let him loose out there in the wilderness.

Sunday evening at sundown begins Yom Kippur for Jews around the world. The words mean Day of Atonement and the instructions concerning it come from the chapter of the above passage. From this we get the concept of the “scapegoat,” the one who takes the blame for something as opposed to the one who actually did the wrong deed. We all love to blame someone or something else for our faults and failings. The question passages like this raise is whether it is even possible for us to produce forgiveness for our sins from ourselves. If we are sorry enough will we be forgiven? If we change our ways going forward? If we give enough time, energy or money? It seems that forgiveness must be offered from the one who has been wronged rather than the one who has done the wrong. Atonement means that God offers that forgiveness as the wronged party. God provided this act with the goat so the people would know their sins had been carried away by divine approval. Christians believe that Jesus in his death and resurrection is the ultimate indication that God forgives. Are you trying to get forgiveness through your own efforts or are you open to God giving it to you? 

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September 21, 2020

John 4:32 He told them, “I have food to eat you know nothing about.” (The Message Bible)

He is Jesus; them are the disciples. Do you ever wonder what it was like to be Jesus? Communication between human beings is difficult and miscommunication common. How much more difficult must it have been between a most unique human being, Jesus, with regular folk. What was Jesus getting at by telling his disciples this. Was he asking them to look more deeply at him, to try to understand what he was doing and why he was doing it? Was he challenging them to look beyond the physical to the spiritual, from the temporal to the eternal? Can he really have put all that into such a short sentence? I think he might. As humans, we just don’t know what we don’t know. Humans looked at the stars for centuries never imagining that they were all little suns millions and trillions of miles away. It is not easy to look beyond the initial impression but often there is more than meets the eye. The disciples were missing something critical about Jesus. Is it possible you are missing something too?

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September 21, 2020

John 4:32 He told them, “I have food to eat you know nothing about.” (The Message Bible)

He is Jesus; them are the disciples. Do you ever wonder what it was like to be Jesus? Communication between human beings is difficult and miscommunication common. How much more difficult must it have been between a most unique human being, Jesus, with regular folk. What was Jesus getting at by telling his disciples this. Was he asking them to look more deeply at him, to try to understand what he was doing and why he was doing it? Was he challenging them to look beyond the physical to the spiritual, from the temporal to the eternal? Can he really have put all that into such a short sentence? I think he might. As humans, we just don’t know what we don’t know. Humans looked at the stars for centuries never imagining that they were all little suns millions and trillions of miles away. It is not easy to look beyond the initial impression but often there is more than meets the eye. The disciples were missing something critical about Jesus. Is it possible you are missing something too?

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September 14, 2020

John 4:19, 20 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

This is spoken by a Samaritan woman Jesus encounters at a well and the mountain she speaks of is Mount Gerizim. Wikipedia tells us “The mountain is sacred to the Samaritans who regard it, rather than Jerusalem‘s Temple Mount, as having been the location chosen by God for a holy temple. The mountain continues to be the center of Samaritan religion to this day, and most of the worldwide population of Samaritans live in very close proximity to Gerizim” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Gerizim). Every religion has its holy sites and many individuals have sacred places where they find God to be more present in some way shape or form. Jesus makes the claim that worship that matters happens “in Spirit and Truth.” God’s primary residence, claims Christianity, is not in any particular building on any particular piece of land. Rather it is in the lives of God’s people. Where do you worship in Spirit and Truth?

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September 7, 2020

John 4:10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.” (The Message Bible)

I have read certain authors who maintain that desire is the key to spirituality. One of my favorites tends to focus on the blind man who comes to Jesus only to have Jesus ask him “what do you want me to do for you?” In this story from John, Jesus seems to be saying “what you desire is right before you if you could only understand that.” So many of our desires are sinful and selfish that we can forget that desire itself was part of the way we were created by God. We get hungry and thirsty every day. It is the way we are made. We desire intimacy and companionship and justice and beauty. Our problem is that so often we look to our own powers or the promises of the culture to find fulfillment for these desires rather than looking to God. If we really knew the generosity of God and who Jesus really is maybe we too would be asking him to fulfill our deepest desires. What do you most want? Where are you looking for it?

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