Regular nibbles from the Bible. . .come for a bite, leave with an appetite



May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight. (Psalm 19:14, MSG)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Few Points Off (Luke 1)

The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.  Luke 1:22

A Few Points Off
Connie L. Peters

When I was in junior high and high school, the teachers held an annual honor banquet. Students on the regular and high honor roll were invited. Every year, my grades were eligible, but being shy and having nothing nice to wear anyway, I decided I wouldn’t go until I was a senior.  

In my senior year, I had some tough classes, physics in particular. During the last nine weeks I was barely hanging in there to be qualified for the banquet. One day, I sat in study hall thinking hard about one exceptionally tough problem. I finally figured it out, finished it up and went to class. Before the teacher entered, my fellow students were discussing the problem. Apparently I was the only one who came up with the answer. But my shyness prevented me from telling anyone.  

However, the guy who sat beside me looked on my paper. He grew excited, seeing that I had understood the challenging exercise. But in the final calculation, he came up with a different answer. In the rush of the moment, I changed my answer to what he had and we turned in our homework.

When the teacher asked someone to explain their work, the student who learned from me volunteered. The teacher pointed out his error. My answer had been right. Those few points were enough to knock my grade down to a C which was enough to disqualify me for the honor banquet.  

It was a lesson both in taking the opportunity while I had it and more importantly to not be so easily persuaded by others.  

In Mark 1, the people were excited about Jesus, the way he taught, healed and performed miracles. In droves, they followed him everywhere. But when it came to the crucifixion, they went along with the Jewish leaders and the crowd.

Trust Jesus and, in confidence, love God and others in the wisdom and Spirit He provides, regardless of what the world or even what some religious leaders say.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

READY OR NOT, HERE HE COMES (Matthew 24)


I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for all of you. This age continues until all these things take place. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out. (Matthew 24:35, Message)
 
 As a child born shortly after the mid-century mark, I would think on how neat the millennium would be. I would be forty-five years old. Of all the people ever born, I was one of the fortunate few to experience it.
 
Instead of the joyful anticipation I expected, the world went into panic mode. The world as we knew it would come to an end because computers weren't originally programmed to change 1999 to 2001. Some people went into full panic mode, stacking up with supplies, buying alternate power sources, collecting water, and the like.
 
Among Christians. some hoped the occasion would bring the Lord's return. (I was tickled to discover people thought the same thing, back in 999, and if the Lord doesn't return before then, they will expect it in 2999.)
 
Relief and reality swept the world in the non-event the dates turned out to be.
 
In Matthew 24, and elsewhere, Jesus gives us a list of signs of His return. They are as true today as the day He first spoke them ("my words won't wear out").  He makes it equally clear that we can best prepare for the His second coming by living for him each day.
 
I once heard a man say, "I wish I could serve God without family commitments, with an occasional visit with a prostitute." (I may have forgotten some of the words, but no, I'm not making it up.)
 
That's the attitude that Jesus warns us against.
 
I have a personal theory: every generation will experience signs that suggest Jesus is coming soon. When I was a child, the establishment of the nation of Israel was one such event.
 
God doesn't want a generation to think, "It's not going to happen in my lifetime. I don't have to prepare." So He gives each of us the hope, the incentive to live for Him with all our hearts.
 
Whether we are ready--or not--He is coming.

Let us live today with an eye on tomorrow.

Friday, March 7, 2014

OUT OF FOCUS (Matthew 23)

Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons? 23-24

This verse struck me as a writer. It's in the middle of Jesus's diatribe against the Pharisees and other religious leaders.

I have a friend who says her critique group will argue over the placement of a comma for hours. I just don't get it.

Don't misunderstand me. Grammar is important, and I'm blessed to have a pretty good handle on the rules of the English language.

But when would-be writers tell me they don't dare try because they don't use good grammar, I want to shake sense into their heads. Yes, editors want to see "clean" manuscripts, ones without mistakes that would force spell-check to bury the page in a flood of red blood.

Are there not computer programs to check grammar? Are there not critique partners to point out what the computer misses? Are there not classes and books to study until at last you master the language?

A writer must have a story, one that forces her to write. He can gain grammar skills. She can improve her story-telling gift. But not everyone who understands grammar can write.

Jesus accuses the religious leaders of the same mistake. They understood commas and semi-colons to the nth degree. They taught every one around them the laws. But they ignored the story--God's story for them, the Chosen People, and the rest of the world. 

How can someone write a story with conflict, beginning, middle and end, if all they do is tear about each sentence apart without looking at its place in the story?

How can God write our life stories if we focus solely on what is spelled out as right and wrong, and don't ask God to light the path ahead?  

Know the rules--and move forward. God is the ultimate editor. He will publish each author who signs the contract with the blood of Christ. 

Of course He doesn't ignore those mistakes, but that's a lesson for another day.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

WEDDING INVITATION (Matthew 22)


“That’s what I mean when I say, ‘Many get invited; only a few make it.’” (Matthew 22:14, Message)

Escalating tension is a plot device writers learn. Something bad happens to start the story. More and even more bad things fill the story until the final “black moment,” when the hero wins the day.

Jesus’s parable reminds me of the escalation factor. First the King invites the lords and ladies of the kingdom to his son’s wedding.  They all reject the invitation.

The king invited them a second time. They gave lame excuses. Instead of sitting inside Westrminster Abbey with William and Kate, they weeded their gardens and worked in their shops. A few of them killed the messengers.

The king leveled that city, but he still had a problem: he wanted guests at his son’s wedding.  He sent his servants to the busiest marketplace in town. Like barkers at a carnival, they caught everyone passing by, handing them a golden ticket to the most important event of their lives.

These people knew the value of the golden ticket. They went home, scrubbed their skin clean, laundered their best clothes, and prepared for the wedding.

All except one. He showed up at the wedding in the same clothes he was wearing when he received the invitation. He got tossed into hell.

It’s not enough to belong to the family. The upper echelon of the kingdom was invited, and they refused. It’s not enough if your parent believe if you don’t.

It’s not enough to receive the invitation but ignore the steps. The one man didn’t exchange his dirty old clothes for the ones provided for him. We can’t get in the kingdom unless we are clothed in Christ.

We’re all invited.


But hdo we R.S.V.P.?

Friday, February 28, 2014

ROCKY ROAD (Matthew 21)

ROCKY ROAD

Whoever stumbles on this Stone gets shattered; whoever the Stone falls on gets smashed. (Matthew 21:44 Message)

Rocks: Good or bad?

It depends. Maybe you ran into a rock with a bicycle and fell. Maybe a rock hit your windshield and it cracked. For thousands of year, people have used rocks as murder weapons and catapulted them in times of war. Stoning was the official manner of capital punishment in ancient Israel.

No wonder Jesus speaks of Himself as shattering and smashing those who don’t believe in Him.

But, wait a minute. Isn’t God described as the Rock who shelters believers? David used that image a lot, like this one: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2, NIV)

The definitions of rock and rocky suggest a similar dichotomy: A rock may cause you to shake violently or to be upset. It may also mean moving forward at a steady pace or to be extremely effective.

Think about figures of speech:
·         Rock the boat
·         Rock-and-roll
·         Rocky road
·         Rock solid
·         Rock bottom
·         Rock hard
·         Rock climbing
·         Stone cold
·         A “rock,” referring to the size of a diamond in a ring

Maybe when we stand on the rock, we feel invincible. Underneath the rock, we are hopelessly crushed.

Last summer, I got caught up in the TV program, “The Hero,” hosted by the actor known as (what else?) the Rock. After an exercise that tested physical strength, I almost turned it off. There’s more to being a hero than having John Elway’s physique.

I’m glad I didn’t. That same episode, a middle-aged house mom walked stairs without rails at the top of a skyscraper. Earlier in the episode we had learned she was afraid of heights.

But the Rock had called her, and she would answer. She took a step. “I won’t let fear defeat me.” She took a second step, repeated her affirmation, and continued until she reached the top step.

I fell in love with her, and so did America. The show later went on to test other hero attributes such as mental alertness, problem solving, team work, honesty, and communication.

Someone you could trust. A rock.

God is that kind of Rock times a thousand.


Is God the Rock on which we stand—or are you in the path of His rockslide?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

ALL CHRISTIANS ARE CREATED EQUAL (Matthew 20)



Are you going to get stingy because I am generous? (20:15, Message)

            In these latter chapters of Matthew, the Pharisees keep goading Jesus. At the same time, the disciples display an unseemly jostling for position within the Kingdom.
            Jesus drops a pointed parable into the mix. A farmer hired workers throughout the day, at dawn, nine, noon, three and five. To each group he offered the same wage: a dollar for their work the day.
Perhaps group number one thought they misunderstood. Perhaps Jesus offered a dollar an hour. That was only fair. Wasn’t it? As fair a manager as the farmer wouldn’t pay the first group the same as the last. Would he?
The farmer, management negotiator that he was, said “You agreed to work for a dollar for the day. Why are you complaining?”
For everyone who has hoped for a government of and by the people, where everyone is equal—that’s the kingdom Jesus represents.
We all enter the kingdom by the same method. We are adopted, names added to the book of life, Jesus’s blood the ink used.
We all receive the same inheritance—eternal life.
We all are sealed to the family with the same seal—the Holy Spirit stamped on our hearts.
We all pay the same “tax” upon coming to age, in front of Jesus’s throne—we will throw our crowns or anything we have taken pride in, at his feet.
God doesn’t want His generosity to make us stingy.

He wants to extend the grace to everyone we meet—whether or not they are worthy.

Friday, February 21, 2014

LIKE A CHILD (Matthew 18)

Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom.
(Matthew 18:2-5 Message)

Forgive me a proud Grandma moment.

My daughter-in-law’s grandmother passed away recently. Of the considerable family gathered, my little girl is the one who said, “Mimi has gone to be with God in heaven.”

Mimi died of cancer, and her final days were difficult. Jordan still had Mimi on her mind. In her night time prayer, she asked, “Please make Mimi feel better.”

Mimi was in heaven, with only God to take care of her. Jordan just wanted to talk to God about her.

My daughter Jolene had a similar kind of faith. She pictured flinging herself into Jesus’s waiting arms when she died. When she died, I’m sure He stood, arms flung open to hold her.

Right before the end, my mother developed signs of dementia. One time when I came to visit, she was sitting up in bed, speaking quietly.  She smiled brightly when I entered. “I was just talking to Jesus about you.” She knew His presence, not by faith alone but with a childlike understanding.

Church hymns touch our residents Like the people here at the nursing home who cry, sing along or cry, when visiting churches sing the songs of childhood. “Tell me the story.” “Amazing Grace.” “Jesus Loves Me.”

Confused minds. Incomplete thoughts. Irrational thinking.

But…faith that God is at the center of everything. Faith like a child.


I pray that I cling on to Jesus with that kind of faith as my time comes closer.