Sunday, June 28, 2015

This week's lesson (June 27 - July 3): the missionary nature of God

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" 
He answered . . .
-- Genesis 3:8-10, NIV
First, God went looking for them . . . 
"How long have they been hiding?" 
"Two days," yawned the angel. "You think they'd be good at it by now." 
"Are we going to bring them in?" 
"No," said the angel. "He says they know where to find us."
 "Should we go looking for them? 
"No, He wants them make the first move."
Next, God asked them a question.
He'd been planning this speech since Eternity began . . .  
Which made it all the more annoying that Adam and Eve were not listening. 
"And another thing . . . no, don't you roll your eyes at me, young lady -- not when I'm talking to you! No, no eye-rolling. No back-talk. And stop making faces at each other. Now as I was saying. . ."
And that led to a conversation.
"Anything in the mail?" asked Eve. 
"Bills . . . more bills . . . your copy of Better Homes & Gardens," said Adam. "Oh yes, and another invitation from God." 
"You mean, 'advertisement.' Let me guess: He wants us to go listen to Him." 
"Same as always -- He talks. We listen . . ." 
"He says He's right . . ." 
"And then we get to admit we're wrong -- interested?" 
"Never was before," said Eve. "Why should I be now?"  
That's the way God did it -- so what would evangelism look like if thou went and did likewise?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This week's lesson (June 20-26): crucified and risen

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish things behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. -- I Corinthians 13:9-12, NIV
Seeing is not believing . . .

Not at first, at any rate.

Notice what happens, for instance, when people learn that Christ rose from the dead:
  • "When [the women] came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others . . . but they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense." -- Luke 24:11, NIV
  •  "Peter, however, got up and ran to to the tomb. Being over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened." -- Luke 24:12, NIV
  • "Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emma's, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him." -- Luke 24:13-16, NIV
  • "While [the disciples] were still talking about [the report of Christ's appearance on the road to Emma's], Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost." -- Luke 24:36-37, NIV
  • "When [Christ] had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement . . ." -- Luke 24:40-41, NIV
In fact, it is not until Christ eats with with his followers, leads them to Bethany, and ascends into heaven that we read how the disciples "worship him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." -- Luke 24:50-52, NIV
In short, it took a long time for their feelings to catch up with the facts.
Still does.
Even after 2,000 years.

Monday, June 15, 2015

This week's lesson (June 13-19): Jesus in Jerusalem

As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name -- for men will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm -- when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the people of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name" -- I Kings 8:41-43, NIV.
TO: High Council - Department of Pilgrim Services
FROM: HCDPS - Office of Vendor Relations
RE: Spring forecast
More bad news from our suppliers; three of our biggest dropped out just this week -- and right now, I've got firm delivery dates on only a third of the lambs we'll need for the spring festival. What's going on?

TO: HCDPS - Office of Vendor Relations
FROM: High Council - Department of Vendor Relations
RE: Spring forecast
Word is that "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" is starting his own marketplace.

FROM: HCDPS - Office of Vendor Relations
TO: High Council - Department of Pilgrim Services
RE: Spring forecast rumors (ha!)
I've heard that too -- but it makes no sense. To be sure, he's been feuding with the Council for years. And yes, anything that hurts the Council's marketplace hurts the Council. But where's he going to put a new marketplace? I mean, we've locked up all the leases on the Mount of Olives!

FROM: Office of the High Priest - PR and Marketing
"New Resources for Pilgrims"
The High Priest is pleased to announce a new, one-stop resource shop for pilgrim to the Temple in Jerusalem. Conveniently located next to the Court of the Israelites, it will be located in the under-utilized Court of the Gentiles . . .

FROM: Office of the High Priest - legal counsel
TO: Office of the High Priest - PR & Marketing
RE: more from ARG
I'm forwarding the latest letter we've received from the so-called Alliance of Righteous Gentiles. As you can see, it's more of the same -- "blah, blah, blah . . . House of Prayer for all nations . . . blah, blah, blah." Please deal with this the way you always do.

FROM: Office of the High Priest - PR and Marketing
"Solid Support for Marketplace by God's People"
"It's so convenient" -- that's the verdict on the new marketplace. Located right next door to the Court of the Israelites, the marketplace is especially popular with family groups from out-of-town who can purchase what they need, then step directly into the area reserved for their worship . . .

TO: High Council - Department of Pilgrim Services
FROM: HCDPS - Office of Vendor Relations
RE: marketplace ruckus
Looks like a black-eye for "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" -- his marketplace is in shambles!

TO: HCDPS - Office of Vendor Relations
FROM: High Council - Department of Pilgrim Services
RE: marketplace ruckus 
The enemy of our enemy is not always our friend. This Galilean is supposed to be the "King of the Jews," after all -- so why does he clear out a space in the Temple for the Gentiles?

Sunday, June 07, 2015

This week's lesson (June 6-12): the Kingdom of God

People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" -- Luke 18:15-17, NIV.
Anyone who thinks children are "innocent" and trusting" has never tried to feed them broccoli.

And they've definitely never told a child it's their bed-time.

Or warned them to stop bothering the cat.

No, Romantic poets such as Wordsworth and Blake may praise children for their "unspoiled nature -- but Jesus?

He knows full well that children don't count.

He knows they're not important -- not even to his disciples.

In short, Jesus knows they exemplify the people he's already blessed in his Sermon on the Plain:
  • "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 
  • "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. 
  • "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
  • "Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for you, because great is your reward in heaven" -- Luke 6:20-23, NIV.
Or as we might say, "Blessed is the three-year-old who throws a temper-tantrum in the check-out line at your local grocery store -- yes, and blessed are the parents of that child when everyone gives them the look that clearly says, 'you are a bad parent' . . .

"For you are in need of a blessing."

"And God's blessing is for those who need it."