Thursday, March 31, 2016

notorious sinners

Luke 15

1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.

2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful, despicable people...

...even eating with them!

I have always found those 2 verses interesting & intriguing.

We know that tax collectors were outcasts because they were collaborators with the despised Romans.

It would be interesting to know exactly what a “notorious sinner” would have been.

I've googled it just now but didn't get any satisfactory answers.

But would it be much of a stretch that whatever the definitive definition would, these were people whose lives we pretty much out of control...

...maybe we could say they were “spectacular” sinners – people whose mode of living was way outside the norm or acceptable.

And it certainly is indicated that the regular person at the time had some serious negative feelings & concepts toward that kind & type of person.

I'm sure these notorious sinners were also aware of how people viewed them & felt about them.

At the same time, these notorious sinners seem drawn to Jesus to the point where they would come to hear Him speak & teach.

iow, they had to seek Him out & mingle in a crowd of people who didn't like them & didn't want to be around them.

I think it's safe to then say that there must have been something pretty compelling about Jesus that made them willing to endure socially harsh treatment just to come hear Jesus teach.

It isn't surprising the Pharisees (the religious authenticators of their day) took issue with Jesus for allowing them to be around.

And Jesus took it one step further – He even had meals with them!

It would have been socially unacceptable enough to simply let them be around Himself, but Jesus ate with them – eating suggests some sort of commonality, some sort of a willingness to connect with them on a more familiar level.

You know where I'm going with this...

Do we live such lives in the quality of our treatment & connection with the “notorious sinners” of our day that they want to be around us?

To the point they want to be in as familiar a connection as eating with us?

Are we the kind of person with the quality of love & acceptance endemic to our lives & personality that causes people to want to hang with us because there is something about us that draws people to us?

It would be easy & normal to say that Jesus is God, so He should be the kind of person that notorious sinners are drawn to, but we're just flawed humans.

Hmmmmm... but don't we believe that Jesus lives in us, & we live in Jesus?

And don't we believe that the same Holy Spirit that resides in Him resides in us?

I would hazard to say that Jesus displayed to all people, not just notorious sinners, a quality of love & acceptance that made people want to be around Him.

Maybe that's who & what we should be, too, then?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

incredible words

I'm not going to comment on these verses.

They don't need my authenticating or exposition.

They stand alone on their stupendous merit.

Just read them...

Psalm 40

1 I waited patiently for the LORD to help me,
  and he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
  out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
  and steadied me as I walked along.
3 He has given me a new song to sing,
  a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
  They will put their trust in the LORD.
4 Oh, the joys of those who trust the LORD,
  who have no confidence in the proud
  or in those who worship idols.
5 O LORD my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
  Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
  You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
  I would never come to the end of them.
6 You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.
  Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand*—
  you don't require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
7 Then I said, "Look, I have come.
  As is written about me in the Scriptures:
8 I take joy in doing your will, my God,
  for your instructions are written on my heart."
9 I have told all your people about your justice.
  I have not been afraid to speak out,
  as you, O LORD, well know.
10 I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart;
  I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power.
I have told everyone in the great assembly
  of your unfailing love and faithfulness.
11 LORD, don't hold back your tender mercies from me.
  Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles surround me—
  too many to count!
My sins pile up so high
  I can't see my way out.
They outnumber the hairs on my head.
  I have lost all courage.
13 Please, LORD, rescue me!
  Come quickly, LORD, and help me.
14 May those who try to destroy me
  be humiliated and put to shame.
May those who take delight in my trouble
  be turned back in disgrace.
15 Let them be horrified by their shame,
  for they said, "Aha! We've got him now!"
16 But may all who search for you
  be filled with joy and gladness in you.
May those who love your salvation
  repeatedly shout, "The LORD is great!"
17 As for me, since I am poor and needy,
  but the Lord is thinking about me right now.
You are my helper and my savior.
  O my God, do not delay.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

short timers

Psalm 39

1 I said to myself,

"I will watch what I do & not sin in what I say.

I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me."

2 But as I stood there in silence—
  not even speaking of good things—
  the turmoil within me grew worse.
3 The more I thought about it,
  the hotter I got,
  igniting a fire of words:
4 "LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
  Remind me that my days are numbered—
  how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
  My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
  at best, each of us is but a breath."

6 We are merely moving shadows,

  and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
  not knowing who will spend it.
7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
  My only hope is in you.

Maybe we should all walk in the reality that our lives are “no longer than the width of my hand”.

And perhaps life would have a change of perspective if we also remembered that “all our bust rushing ends in nothing”.

Maybe everyone should spend sometime thing about what these 7 verses say...

whether we're someone running for president or other public office,

or have the word “billionaire” attached to our persona,

or just a regular person, moving through life, trying to make ends meet, while loving the people around us like Jesus & pointing them to Him.

Monday, March 28, 2016

provision & care

Luke 12

22 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said,

"That is why I tell you don't worry about everyday life;

whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear.

23 For life is more than food,

and your body more than clothing.

24 Look at the ravens.

They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns,

for God feeds them.

And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!

25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

26 And if worry can't accomplish a little thing like that, what's the use of worrying over bigger things?

  27 "Look at the lilies and how they grow.

They don't work or make their clothing,

yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.

28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow,

he will certainly care for you.

Why do you have so little faith?

  29 "And don't be concerned about what to eat and what to drink.

Don't worry about such things.

30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world,

but your Father already knows your needs.

31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else,

and he will give you everything you need.

  32 "So don't be afraid, little flock.

For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

33 "Sell your possessions

and give to those in need.

This will store up treasure for you in heaven!

And the purses of heaven never get old

or develop holes.

Your treasure will be safe;

no thief can steal it

and no moth can destroy it.

34 Wherever your treasure is,

there the desires of your heart will also be.

My friend & mischievous nephew, Aaron Barth, would say Jesus summed up that whole passage in the verse 22...

...don't worry about everyday life...”

I wonder what our lives would be like if we all took Jesus at His word – if we simply trusted His ability to provide for us.

Trusting is a choice – we can either choose to trust God, or not.

A few months ago, I chose to trust Him more in regards to ability to provide.

For many, many months, it seems that quite a bit of what He seemed to be making stand out on the pages of the Bible had a lot to say about His ability & willingness to take care of me & provide for my needs, on all different levels of need.

I can't say the heavens have opened up & angels sang & violins could be heard playing, but I can say that I don't worry as much.

I will confess I didn't go into this choosing to believe & trust out of towering sense of faith & love toward God.

I was just so sick & tired of worrying about some things that my side of the conversation at the time was kind of along the line of well, if all You seem to be saying is to trust Him & not worry, well, then I'm going to, & if I end up in a mess, then it's not my fault.

Yeah, like I said, I was hardly a sterling example of faith & trust.

But, it seems in the few months since then I have worried less.

Just bein' real here...

Read this passage again – I will, too.

And maybe if we can key into the reality of verse 32 that says it gives God great pleasure to take care of us, our worrying quotient will be lowered.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

what goes around, comes around

We live in a world where it seems the bad or evil people get away with murder – both figuratively & literally.

The writer of Psalm 37 presents some pretty stark realities for people like that.

He also shows how those who follow & obey God will come out in the end.

My attitude has changed somewhat toward the former group.

The longer I live & the more I see, the more I realize that our chickens do come home to roost.

iow, we really do reap what we sow.

What goes around comes around.

And ultimately what is ahead for people who choose disobedience & evil actions have a tough road ahead – eventually.

And remember – eternity is a VERY long time.

I don't wish one anyone – no matter how heinous they may be – an eternity separated from God.

Psalm 37 offers hope for those who follow & obey, while at the same time let's people know that even though it may look like the disobedient are prospering & getting away a lot of stuff, in the final analysis, none of us get away with anything.

Psalm 37
1 Don't worry about the wicked
  or envy those who do wrong.
2 For like grass, they soon fade away.
  Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good.
  Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
4 Take delight in the LORD,
  and he will give you your heart's desires.
5 Commit everything you do to the LORD.
  Trust him, and he will help you.
6 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
  and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
7 Be still in the presence of the LORD,
  and wait patiently for him to act.
Don't worry about evil people who prosper
  or fret about their wicked schemes.
8 Stop being angry!
  Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
  it only leads to harm.
9 For the wicked will be destroyed,
  but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land.
10 Soon the wicked will disappear.
  Though you look for them, they will be gone.
11 The lowly will possess the land
  and will live in peace and prosperity.
12 The wicked plot against the godly;
  they snarl at them in defiance.
13 But the Lord just laughs,
  for he sees their day of judgment coming.
14 The wicked draw their swords
  and string their bows
to kill the poor and the oppressed,
  to slaughter those who do right.
15 But their swords will stab their own hearts,
  and their bows will be broken.
16 It is better to be godly and have little
  than to be evil and rich.
17 For the strength of the wicked will be shattered,
  but the LORD takes care of the godly.
18 Day by day the LORD takes care of the innocent,
  and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever.
19 They will not be disgraced in hard times;
  even in famine they will have more than enough.
20 But the wicked will die.
  The LORD's enemies are like flowers in a field—
  they will disappear like smoke.
21 The wicked borrow and never repay,
  but the godly are generous givers.
22 Those the LORD blesses will possess the land,
  but those he curses will die.
23 The LORD directs the steps of the godly.
  He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
  for the LORD holds them by the hand.
25 Once I was young, and now I am old.
  Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned
  or their children begging for bread.
26 The godly always give generous loans to others,
  and their children are a blessing.
27 Turn from evil and do good,
  and you will live in the land forever.
28 For the LORD loves justice,
  and he will never abandon the godly.

He will keep them safe forever,
  but the children of the wicked will die.
29 The godly will possess the land
  and will live there forever.
30 The godly offer good counsel;
  they teach right from wrong.
31 They have made God's law their own,
  so they will never slip from his path.
32 The wicked wait in ambush for the godly,
  looking for an excuse to kill them.
33 But the LORD will not let the wicked succeed
  or let the godly be condemned when they are put on trial.
34 Put your hope in the LORD.
  Travel steadily along his path.
He will honor you by giving you the land.
  You will see the wicked destroyed.
35 I have seen wicked and ruthless people
  flourishing like a tree in its native soil.
36 But when I looked again, they were gone!
  Though I searched for them, I could not find them!
37 Look at those who are honest and good,
  for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace.
38 But the rebellious will be destroyed;
  they have no future.
39 The LORD rescues the godly;
  he is their fortress in times of trouble.
40 The LORD helps them,
  rescuing them from the wicked.
He saves them,
  and they find shelter in him.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

I wonder...

Luke 10

25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question:

"Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?"  
26 Jesus replied,

"What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?"  
27 The man answered,

"'You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.'

And, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

  28 "Right!" Jesus told him. "Do this and you will live!"

  29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus,

"And who is my neighbor?"

After that question, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan.

I did a quick google of how many laws there were back then in Jewish life.

I found a few sources that there were 613 different laws.

But I don't think that counts all of them. I think we get the feeling from what Jesus says to the Pharisees on different occasions that there were more than that.

613 is a pretty tall order in itself. Most people back then had no education. So I would think it was a word of mouth situation for most.

But it all boils down to 2 things...

Love God.

Love others.

In other places in the Gospels, Jesus is asked a similar question - what is the greatest commandment.

And He gives this same answer...

Love God.

Love others.

That's an amazing statement, considering the vast array of laws the Jews observed.

Love God.

Love others.

I wonder what our world would be like, & I wonder what the world would think of us as followers of Jesus, if we were to become clearly & simply known as a group of people who love God & love others.

Friday, March 25, 2016


Romans 11

33 Oh, how great are God's riches

and wisdom

and knowledge!

How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions

and his ways!

34 For who can know the LORD's thoughts?

  Who knows enough to give him advice?
35 And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?
  36 For everything comes from him

and exists by his power

and is intended for his glory.

All glory to him forever!


Maybe this passage gives us a little perspective.

I think sometimes we we tend to forget who we're hooked up with.

God is omnipotent.

Nobody's smarter,





or anything-er. ;-)

He is someone who just simply defies figuring out, explaining, or pigeon holing.

No matter how we hard try to conceive Him,

He is infinitely more than our finite minds can wraps our brains around.

And yet, He continues to seek out each & every one of us,

loving each of us full out & completely,

never giving up,

always ready to reconnect.

It is the scandal of grace.

Let's all remember this as we ponder the events of this day during Holy Week.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

seeds or the farmer?

Romans 8

4 One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him:

5 "A farmer went out to plant his seed.

As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it.

6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture.

7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants.

8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil.

This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!"

When he had said this, he called out,

"Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand."  

9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant.

10 He replied, "You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God.

But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:

'When they look, they won't really see.
  When they hear, they won't understand.'*

  11 "This is the meaning of the parable:

The seed is God's word.

12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved.

13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don't have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation.

14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.

15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God's word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.

I wonder if this parable is less about the seeds & more about the farmer?

Most sermons that I remember about this passage - & there haven't been that many – focuses on the seeds.

iow, people focus in on how some people receive the word of God about their lives.

I wonder if it's more about the farmer – about going out & spreading the word of God about salvation & new life in Him.

Maybe Jesus was talking about what we can expect in our lives as we reach out to people around us.

Some of the people we reach out to won't listen at all.

Some will listen, but not do anything.

And then others will listen, believe, follow Jesus, & have an abundantly fulfilling life following Him.

Maybe the parable is an encouragement or mandate that we all broadcast the seeds of truth about God's provision for us to reconnect with Him...

and how that mandate will be received?

Just a thought...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

no thing / no one

I just had to share the last few verses of Romans 8.

What if we lived like we believed we are loved like this?

What if we told the people around us every day about this kind of love that's available to them?


28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

31b  If God is for us, who can ever be against us?

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love?

Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble,

or calamity,

or are persecuted,

or hungry,

or destitute,

or in danger,

or threatened with death?

36 (As the Scriptures say, "For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.")

37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

  38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love.

Neither death nor life,

neither angels nor demons,

neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow;

not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.

39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below;

indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Is there anyone reading this that feels separated from God?



Un_______? (you fill in the blank)

Paul says “nothing” can separate us from God's love.

As in “no thing” (or no one).


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

blog # 2 for 3.22.16 - OH MY!!!

All I can say about this section is – OH MY GOSH!!!

This is Paul, writing to the followers of Jesus in Rome.

Romans 8

1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

2 And because you belong to him,

the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.

So God did what the law could not do.

He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have.

And in that body God declared an end to sin's control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.

4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us,

who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.  

5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things,

but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.

6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death.

But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God.

It never did obey God's laws,

and it never will.

8 That's why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

  9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature.

You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.

(And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)

10 And Christ lives within you,

so even though your body will die because of sin,

the Spirit gives you life

because you have been made right with God.

11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. (dan note: WOW!!!)

And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead,

he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.  
12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.

13 For if you live by its dictates,

you will die.

But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature,

you will live.

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

  15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves.

Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.

Now we call him, "Abba, Father."

16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God's children.

17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs.

In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory.

But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

  26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.

For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for.

But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.

27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying,

for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will.

28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these?

If God is for us, who can ever be against us?

32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all,

won't he also give us everything else?

33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own?

No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.

34 Who then will condemn us?

No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us,

and he is sitting in the place of honor at God's right hand, pleading for us.  

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love?

Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble

or calamity,

or are persecuted,

or hungry,

or destitute,

or in danger,

or threatened with death?

36 (As the Scriptures say, "For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep."*)

37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

  38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love.

Neither death nor life,

neither angels nor demons,

neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow;

not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.

39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below;

indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.