Fifty extreme situations in fifty words.
No 50. Heartbreak Hill.
He makes his way around the group.
His eyes wet.
The guys shuffle their feet, stare at the ground.
He did the impossible and now won’t clinch the deal.
If he can beat death he can do anything.
So why is he doing nothing?
He smiles, says, ‘Your turn now.’
6 When the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, are you going to free Israel now and restore our kingdom?”
7“The Father sets those dates,” he replied, “and they are not for you to know. 8 But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 Not long after he said this he took them up the mount of olives and there he was taken up into the sky while they were watching, and he disappeared into a cloud.
10 As they were straining their eyes to see him, two white-robed men suddenly stood there among them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. And someday, just as you saw him go, he will return!”
No 49. Doubters Anonymous.
Tom stands there, morose.
Hands cupped around his steaming cappuccino.
It’s all well and good these guys talking but he needs more.
Stories are one thing but…
He turns, drops his coffee.
The liquid pools round his sandals.
His mouth drops.
The other man smiles.
Holds up some recent scars.
24 One of the disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
28“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway.” (i.e – you and me!)
No 48. Road to Somewhere.
They run like hell.
Hearts pumping, mouths thick with spit.
They can’t keep going but daren’t stop.
They’ve just seen a dead man.
Strolling back would not be appropriate.
The go like blazes, kick the door, smash into the room.
Blurt out the news.
How’d he do that?
13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles out of Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 Suddenly, Jesus himself came along and joined them and began walking beside them. 16 But they didn’t know who he was, because God kept them from recognizing him.
17 “You seem to be in a deep discussion about something,” he said. “What are you so concerned about?”
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
19 “What things?” Jesus asked…
30 As they sat down to eat, he took a small loaf of bread, asked God’s blessing on it, broke it, then gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!
32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts feel strangely warm as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem, where the eleven disciples and the other followers of Jesus were gathered. When they arrived, they were greeted with the report, 34“The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter!”
35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. 36 And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. He said, “Peace be with you.”
No 47. Resurrection Shuffle.
He opens his eyes.
Stretches, sits up.
Just a gentle movement to him.
But outside there’s a minor earthquake.
Soldiers are tipping over.
Boulders are cracking.
He throws his legs over the side, feels the cold earth on his feet.
He smiles, time to surprise a few people.
1 Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 2She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don’t know where they have put him!”
3 Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see. 4 The other disciple outran Peter and got there first. 5 He stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. 6 Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, 7 while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side. 8 Then the other disciple also went in, and he saw and believed—9 for until then they hadn’t realized that the Scriptures said he would rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.
11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying.
14 She glanced over her shoulder and saw someone standing behind her. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15“Why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
16“Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned toward him and exclaimed, “Teacher!”
No 46. Saturday Blues.
Today is for the losers.
The betrayers, doubters and deniers.
The loss of all that was.
The loss of God.
Thomas, Pete, Jude and others skulking in the dark.
Moving from shadowed corner to shadowed corner.
Regrets crowding their minds.
Bringing them down.
Feels like nothing will come good again.
31 “Tonight all of you will desert me,” Jesus told them on Thursday evening. “For the Scriptures say,‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”
58 Later, after Jesus had been arrested, Peter was following far behind and eventually came to the courtyard of the high priest’s house. He went in, sat with the guards, and waited to see what was going to happen to Jesus.
59 About an hour later someone insisted, “This must be one of Jesus’ disciples because he is a Galilean, too.”
60 But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And as soon as he said these words, the rooster crowed. 61 At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered that the Lord had said, “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny me three times.” 62 And Peter left the courtyard, crying bitterly.
3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, realised that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and other leaders. 4 “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”
“What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”
24 One of the disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
No 45. Failed Friday.
They waved palm leaves for Judas Maccabeus and his men too.
And that uprising failed.
Is the misery happening again?
Last week Jesus was the new revolutionary.
Now here he is – another failed Messiah.
This can’t be right.
What have the last three years been about?
Was it for nothing?
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. 3 He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care.
4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! 5But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! 6 All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the guilt and sins of us all.
7 He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 8 From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people realized that he was dying for their sins—that he was suffering their punishment? 9 He had done no wrong, and he never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave.
No 44. Waiting Game.
I would rather be busy.
Keep going, keep solving the problems.
Life is too frantic, too frenetic, too difficult for sitting back.
Even for a moment.
To wait, to slow down, to press the pause button.
Sometimes feels like failure.
Until I crash and burn.
Have to stop.
28 Have you never heard or understood? Don’t you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. 29 He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. 30 Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. 31 But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
No 43. Concrete Overcoat.
They all recorded it, must be important.
Matt, Mark & Luke.
Don’t lead little ones into trouble.
Little youngsters, little people.
Those on the edges of life.
The discarded and disregarded.
Don’t damage them.
Anyone who does should be thrown in the Thames.
In a pair of concrete ugg boots.
1 About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Which of us is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”
2 Jesus called a small child over to him and put the child among them. 3 Then he said, “I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 Therefore, anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. 5 And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who trusts in me to lose faith, it would be better for that person to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around the neck.”
42 “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who trusts in me to lose faith, it would be better for that person to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around the neck.”
1 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but how terrible it will be for the person who does the tempting. 2 It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around the neck than to face the punishment in store for harming one of these little ones.”
No 42. Four Sons.
One son asleep on the couch.
Another son promising the world.
Third son slaving at home, earning his way.
Fourth son in bed with prostitutes trying to make his mark.
The wrong sons get it right.
The good boys don’t.
Two parables, one famous.
11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. 13“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money on wild living…
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the calf we were fattening and has prepared a great feast. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ 28“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in.
28 “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. 30 Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. 31 Which of the two was obeying his father?”
They replied, “The first, of course.”
Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I assure you, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do.
No 41. RSVP.
Invitations drop on the doormat.
Some in mail boxes on the end of snaking gravel drives.
Handwritten, personally delivered.
One by one they are opened.
One by one the replies sent.
Someone else will go.
Years later they hear their story told.
We threw a party, and you never came.
1 Wisdom has built her spacious house with seven pillars. 2 She has prepared a great banquet, mixed the wines, and set the table. 3 She has sent her servants to invite everyone to come. She calls out from the heights overlooking the city. 4“Come home with me,” she urges the simple. To those without good judgement, she says, 5“Come, eat my food, and drink the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your foolish ways behind, and begin to live; learn how to be wise.”
1 Jesus told them several other stories to illustrate the Kingdom. He said, 2 “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. 3 Many guests were invited, and when the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify everyone that it was time to come. But they all refused! 4 So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘the feast has been prepared, and choice meats have been cooked. Everything is ready. Hurry!’ 5 But the guests he had invited ignored them and went about their business, one to his farm, another to his store. 6 Others seized his messengers and treated them shamefully, even killing some of them. 7“Then the king became furious. He sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their city. 8 And he said to his servants, ‘the wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honour. 9 Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’10 “So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.
No 40. Darkest Night.
The valley of the shadow.
The place of heartbreak and loss.
The earth shifting, the defences crumbling.
Can’t see clearly, can’t move forward.
Can only stop and sit.
In our tears, anguish, fear.
Sending up those mumbled, desperate prayers.
Sentences unfinished, the deepest cries.
Incoherent to others but not God.
4 Even when I walk through the dark valley of death,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.
12 Hear my prayer, O LORD! Listen to my cries for help!
Don’t ignore my tears. For I am your guest –
a traveller passing through, as my ancestors were before me.
13 Spare us so we can smile again before I am gone and exist no more.
No 39. Great Escape.
Having a great time in bed.
A noise downstairs.
Thuds on the door, shouts in the street.
Soldiers on the stairs.
It’s a fit up.
The mood swing dictator flexing his muscles.
The husband freezes.
The quick thinking wife hatches the plan.
Nothing but a dummy in bed.
1 Samuel 19.11-17
11 Then Saul sent troops to watch David’s house. They were told to kill David when he came out the next morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t get away tonight, you will be dead by morning.” 12 So she helped him climb out through a window, and he escaped. 13 Then she took an idol£ and put it in his bed, covered it with blankets, and put a cushion of goat’s hair at its head. 14 When the troops came to arrest David, she told them he was sick and couldn’t get out of bed.
15 “Then bring him to me in his bed,” Saul ordered, “so I can kill him as he lies there!” And he sent them back to David’s house. 16 But when they came to carry David out, they discovered that it was only an idol in the bed with a cushion of goat’s hair at its head.
No 38. Still Hope.
He has a dream.
Maybe it’s something he ate.
Stuck at home.
Spoilt by his dad.
Too mouthy for his family.
Thrown out and abandoned.
Having to grow up fast.
Too fast, a woman throwing themselves at him.
Slammed in prison.
Finds it’s not a dream.
5 One night Joseph had a dream and promptly reported the details to his brothers, causing them to hate him even more. 6 “Listen to this dream,” he announced. 7“We were out in the field tying up bundles of grain. My bundle stood up, and then your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before it!”
8“So you are going to be our king, are you?” his brothers taunted. And they hated him all the more for his dream and what he had said.
19 After hearing his wife’s false claims about Joseph, Potiphar was furious! 20 He took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held. 21 But the LORD was with Joseph there, too, and he granted Joseph favour with the chief jailer. 22 Before long, the jailer put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. 23 The chief jailer had no more worries after that, because Joseph took care of everything. The LORD was with him, making everything run smoothly and successfully.
37 Joseph’s advice and suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his advisers. 38 As they discussed who should be appointed for the job, Pharaoh said, “Who could do it better than Joseph? For he is a man who is obviously filled with the spirit of God.”
39 Turning to Joseph, Pharaoh said, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, you are the wisest man in the land! 40 I hereby appoint you to direct this project. You will manage my household and organise all my people. Only I will have a rank higher than yours.”
No 37. The End?
She never expected this.
Wasn’t supposed to be this way.
When she spent that night with Abraham.
Just ‘doing her duty’.
All hope gone.
Nothing left but death.
He never expected this.
Where was the revival?
Why had people not changed?
He’s had enough.
Nothing left but death.
14 So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food for the journey, and strapped a container of water to Hagar’s shoulders. He sent her away with their son, and she walked out into the wilderness of Beersheba, wandering aimlessly. 15 When the water was gone, she left the boy in the shade of a bush. 16 Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards£ away. “I don’t want to watch the boy die,” she said, as she burst into tears. 17 Then God heard the boy’s cries, and the angel of God called to Hagar from the sky, “Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy’s cries from the place where you laid him. 18 Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.”
19 Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well. She immediately filled her water container and gave the boy a drink.
1 Kings 19.3-9
3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the desert, travelling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”
5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and saw some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 Then the angel of the LORD came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, for there is a long journey ahead of you.”
No 36. Punch Up.
A dark night.
Two figures circle each other in the flickering light.
Throw punches, wrestle, fight each other.
Bruises, sweat, dust and grit.
The dawn breaks.
The intruder pleads to go.
Must honour the other man first.
‘We’ve wrestled all night.
Will you wrestle forever?
With life, yourself and me?’
22 During the night Jacob got up and sent his two wives, two concubines, and eleven sons across the Jabbok River. 23 After they were on the other side, he sent over all his possessions. 24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until dawn. 25 When the man saw that he couldn’t win the match, he struck Jacob’s hip and knocked it out of joint at the socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is dawn.”
But Jacob panted, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 “What is your name?” the man asked.
He replied, “Jacob.”
28“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “It is now Israel, one who struggles with God, because you have struggled with both God and men and have won.”
No 35. Tweet Tweet.
Like one person creating a message and sending it to a friend.
Who sends it to ten friends.
Who send it to ten more.
Who send it on and send it on.
Retweeting again and again.
Within hours the whole world has a glimpse of it.
Like a mustard seed.
30 Jesus asked, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? 31 It is like a tiny mustard seed. Though this is one of the smallest of seeds, 32 it grows to become one of the largest of plants, with long branches where birds can come and find shelter.”
No 34. Inappropriate Vision.
No one else can see it.
But she’ll be inappropriate.
Create a stink so that they never forget.
Jesus is going to have to die.
A different kind of power.
And this woman, this ‘disciple’ will look stupid and provocative.
To make a point and encourage him.
John 12 1-11
1 Six days before the Passover ceremonies began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. 2A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus sat at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with fragrance.
4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples—the one who would betray him—said, 5 “That perfume was worth a small fortune. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” 6Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief who was in charge of the disciples’ funds, and he often took some for his own use.
7 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did it in preparation for my burial. 8You will always have the poor among you, but I will not be here with you much longer.”
9When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. 10 Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, 11for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.
No 33. Wrong Time Wrong Place.
Did she know he’d be there?
As she put herself out.
Had he been passing that window on a regular basis lately?
Lapping up the nightly show?
They’ll go down in history.
For this and their next son.
Misdemeanour and redemption.
Both events will become useful to folks like me.
2 Samuel 11
2Late one afternoon David got out of bed after taking a nap and went for a stroll on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. 3 He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent for her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her.
2 Samuel 12
7 Then Nathan said to David, “The Lord, the God of Israel, says, ‘I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. 8 I gave you his house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. 9 Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah and stolen his wife. 10 From this time on, the sword will be a constant threat to your family, because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.
24 Then David comforted Bathsheba, his wife, and slept with her. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved the child 25and sent word through Nathan the prophet that his name should be Jedidiah—“beloved of the Lord”—because the Lord loved him.
No 32. Mysterious Things.
Like Roy Batty.
He’s seen things we wouldn’t believe.
We have our understanding.
We have our reason and intellect.
But wisdom is something else.
Wisdom unlocks secrets and opens doors to another world.
Pulls back the curtain on deeper things.
Comes in a box called humility.
1 Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind:
2“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? 3 Brace yourself, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.
4“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. 5 Do you know how its dimensions were determined and who did the surveying? 6 What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone 7 as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
8“Who defined the boundaries of the sea as it burst from the womb, 9 and as I clothed it with clouds and thick darkness?
7 “Brace yourself, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. 8 Are you going to discredit my justice and condemn me so you can say you are right? 9 Are you as strong as God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? Take a look at the great monster, Leviathan.
18 “When it sneezes, it flashes light! Its eyes are like the red of dawn. 19 Fire and sparks leap from its mouth. 20 Smoke streams from its nostrils like steam from a boiling pot on a fire of dry rushes. 21 Yes, its breath would kindle coals, for flames shoot from its mouth.”
Then Job replied, 5 “I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. 6 I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”
No 31. Corrupting Power.
We see it all the time.
Humility cashed in.
Talents become tools.
Strength becomes power.
Gifting becomes greatness.
And the great people become travesties of themselves.
He could be like that.
He could change the world in that way.
But he won’t.
He’ll look foolish.
He’ll become smaller.
8 One of Cush’s descendants was Nimrod, who became a heroic warrior. 9 He was a mighty hunter in the LORD’s sight. His name became proverbial, and people would speak of someone as being “like Nimrod, a mighty hunter in the LORD’s sight.” 10 He built the foundation for his empire in the land of Babylonia, with the cities of Babel, Erech, Akkad, and Calneh. 11 From there he extended his reign to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, 12 and Resen – the main city of the empire, located between Nineveh and Calah.
1 At one time the whole world spoke a single language and used the same words. 2 As the people migrated eastward, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there.
3 They began to talk about construction projects. “Come,” they said, “let’s make great piles of burnt brick and collect natural asphalt to use as mortar. 4 Let’s build a great city with a tower that reaches to the skies – a monument to our greatness! This will bring us together and keep us from scattering all over the world.”
7 He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.
No 30. Bottom Line.
Not very relative in this relative age.
But something you can cling to.
Something you can wrestle with.
Something you can build on.
A mystery, an enigma.
A truth big enough to hold all truth.
The bottom line, the starting line, the finishing tape.
Graffiti the message all over.
4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again. 8 Tie them to your hands as a reminder, and wear them on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
No 29. Close Encounter.
Spielberg and Lucas could not have topped this.
The big screen feelgood ending.
John in his outdoor Patmos monoplex.
The sky for a widescreen to out widescreen them all.
Like a vast, monolithic spaceship.
The new city descends.
Swaggering with hope.
Pulsating with laughter, life, healing and peace.
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband.
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.
4 He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.”
(Inspired by Derek Wilson, author of Magnificent Malevolence and many other books)
No 28. Blue Tuesday.
‘You had a bad day.
You’re taking one down.
You sing a sad song just to turn it around.’
Everything looks like the end.
The future’s not bright, it’s a dusty, dirty, rust colour.
Nothing brings relief or satisfaction.
Better record it for anyone else in the dark right now.
2 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “utterly meaningless!”
3 What do people get for all their hard work? 4 Generations come and go, but nothing really changes. 5 The sun rises and sets and hurries around to rise again. 6 The wind blows south and north, here and there, twisting back and forth, getting nowhere. 7 The rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows again to the sea. 8 Everything is so weary and tiresome! No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. 9 History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.
No 27. Tough Mothers.
Did you hear the one about a mother, a sister, and two midwives?
Babies born under a death sentence.
Four women defy the corrupt ruler.
The ego-maniacal dictator.
Babies may be currency to him, disposable extras.
But they know different.
They will put their lives on the line for this.
Exodus 1 & 2
15 Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: 16 “When you help the Hebrew women give birth, kill all the boys as soon as they are born. Allow only the baby girls to live.” 17 But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king and allowed the boys to live, too.
1 During this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married. 2 The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw what a beautiful baby he was and kept him hidden for three months. 3 But when she could no longer hide him, she got a little basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the edge of the Nile River. 4The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him.
5 Soon after this, one of Pharaoh’s daughters came down to bathe in the river, and her servant girls walked along the riverbank. When the princess saw the little basket among the reeds, she told one of her servant girls to get it for her. 6 As the princess opened it, she found the baby boy. His helpless cries touched her heart. “He must be one of the Hebrew children,” she said.
7 Then the baby’s sister approached the princess. “Should I go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” she asked.
8 “Yes, do!” the princess replied. So the girl rushed home and called the baby’s mother.
9 “Take this child home and nurse him for me,” the princess told her. “I will pay you for your help.” So the baby’s mother took her baby home and nursed him.
10 Later, when he was older, the child’s mother brought him back to the princess, who adopted him as her son. The princess named him Moses, for she said, “I drew him out of the water.”
No 26. Defying Gravity.
He’s on his way somewhere.
Just passing by.
Only people don’t normally do that.
Is he taking a short cut?
Can’t he see their trouble?
If he can’t see he can hear.
Through the rain and the waves and terror.
And like Moses, he does the impossible.
Controls the elements.
47During the night, the disciples were in their boat out in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48 He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning he came to them, walking on the water. He started to go past them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the water, they screamed in terror, thinking he was a ghost.
50 They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “It’s all right,” he said. “I am here! Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were astonished at what they saw.
No 25. House Arrest.
Planned to meet the leader of the ‘free world’.
But the leader’s gone mad.
About to unleash his insanity on the people.
So he sees out his days under house arrest.
But not the big finish he expected.
A quiet end
And a final sacrifice.
A world-shaping legacy.
30 For the next two years, Paul lived in his own rented house in Rome. Under house arrest but with certain freedoms. He welcomed all who visited him, 31 proclaiming the Kingdom of God with all boldness and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.
12 And I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including all the soldiers in the palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians here have gained confidence and become more bold in telling others about Christ.
No 24. Living Dead.
She’s all washed up.
This is the end, everything gone.
It’s not just the grief and agony of losing both men.
First her husband, now her beloved son.
That’s bad enough.
But she’ll lose her home, end up begging.
Her life’s over.
What’s that man up to?
Who is he?
11 Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, with a great crowd following him. 12 A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The boy who had died was the only son of a widow, and many mourners from the village were with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. 14 Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “get up.” 15 Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk to those around him! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
16 Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “We have seen the hand of God at work today.”
No 23. No Superman.
Drawn to the danger.
Provoking, baiting, baying for blood.
Picking fights beyond the borders.
And loving women in the enemy camp.
Can’t keep a hold of his own superpower.
Destined to fall.
At war with himself.
Stealing, burning, bullying.
And in the end bringing the house down in dramatic style.
1 Later on, during the wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat as a present to his wife. He intended to sleep with her, but her father wouldn’t let him in. 2“I really thought you hated her,” her father explained, “so I gave her in marriage to your best man. But look, her sister is more beautiful than she is. Marry her instead.”
3 Samson said, “This time I cannot be blamed for everything I am going to do to you Philistines.”
4 Then he went out and caught three hundred foxes. He tied their tails together in pairs, and he fastened a torch to each pair of tails. 5 Then he lit the torches and let the foxes run through the fields of the Philistines. He burned all their grain to the ground, including the grain still in piles and all that had been bundled. He also destroyed their grapevines and olive trees.
No 22. Divine Graffiti.
Pride comes before a fall.
And tonight there will be a lot of falling.
The writing’s on the wall for a man who cons himself.
A man who believes he is unaccountable.
Humility and respect laid on the shelf.
So the finger writes in that dust.
1 King Belshazzar gave a great feast for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. 2 While Belshazzar was drinking, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver cups that his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem, so that he and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 4 They drank toasts from them to honour their idols made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
5 At that very moment they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, near the lampstand. The king himself saw the hand as it wrote, 6 and his face turned pale with fear. Such terror gripped him that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way beneath him.
7 The king shouted for the enchanters, astrologers, and fortune-tellers to be brought before him. He said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever can read this writing and tell me what it means will be dressed in purple robes of royal honour and will wear a gold chain around his neck. He will become the third highest ruler in the kingdom!” 8 But when all the king’s wise men came in, none of them could read the writing or tell him what it meant. 9 So the king grew even more alarmed, and his face turned ashen white. His nobles, too, were shaken.
13 So Daniel was brought in before the king. The king asked him, “Are you Daniel, who was exiled from Judah by my predecessor, King Nebuchadnezzar? 14 I have heard that you have the spirit of the gods within you and that you are filled with insight, understanding, and wisdom. 15 My wise men and enchanters have tried to read this writing on the wall, but they cannot. 16 I am told that you can give interpretations and solve difficult problems.”
17 Daniel answered the king, “18 Your Majesty, the Most High God gave sovereignty, majesty, glory, and honour to your predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar. 22 You are his successor, O Belshazzar, and you knew all this, yet you have not humbled yourself… you have not honoured the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny! 24So God has sent this hand to write a message.
25“This is the message that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN. 26 This is what these words mean: Mene means ‘numbered’- God has numbered the days of your reign and has brought it to an end. 27 Tekel means ‘weighed’- you have been weighed on the balances and have failed the test. 28 Parsin means ‘divided’ – your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
29Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was dressed in purple robes, a gold chain was hung around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom. 30 That very night Belshazzar, the Babylonian king, was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede took over the kingdom.
No 21. The Rescuer.
When I’m wounded.
Damaged myself again,
Been injured by others.
When the shadows feels like the best place for me.
I can find a place in you.
The perfect one.
The one who is the total opposite of me.
Ultimate power, vulnerability and kindness.
You are my home.
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 This I declare of the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I am trusting him. 3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from the fatal plague. 4 He will shield you with his wings. He will shelter you with his feathers. His faithful promises are your armour and protection. 5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor fear the dangers of the day, 6 nor dread the plague that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
14 The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. 15 When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honour them.
20. The Slap.
Been the same for so long.
Abandon reason, dispose of respect and integrity.
If you don’t agree with me I’ll be arrogant and unreasonable.
Use force if necessary.
Listening? Learning? Changing?
Don’t think so.
If Paul wants to come here spouting this then…
We’ll just shut his mouth.
30 The next day the commander freed Paul from his chains and ordered the leading priests into session with the Jewish high council. He had Paul brought in before them to try to find out what the trouble was all about.
1 Gazing intently at the high council, Paul began: “Brothers, I have always lived before God in all good conscience!”
2 Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. 3But Paul said to him, “God will slap you, you whitewashed wall! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?”
19. Rich Fool.
The men come knocking.
All shoulders and no smiles.
‘You got a lot of sheep here.
Be terrible if something happened to them.’
Nabal sighs, he’s heard it before.
Strangers in a strange land begging for charity.
Sends ‘em off with a scowl and a cuss.
1 Samuel 25.4-13
4 When David heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep, 5 he sent ten of his young men to Carmel. He told them to deliver this message: 6 “Peace and prosperity to you, your family, and everything you own! 7 I am told that you are shearing your sheep and goats. While your shepherds stayed among us near Carmel, we never harmed them, and nothing was ever stolen from them. 8 Ask your own servants, and they will tell you this is true. So would you please be kind to us, since we have come at a time of celebration? Please give us any provisions you might have on hand.” 9 David’s young men gave this message to Nabal and waited for his reply.
10 “Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. 11 Should I take my bread and water and the meat I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?” 12 So David’s messengers returned and told him what Nabal had said.
13 “Get your swords!” was David’s reply as he strapped on his own. Four hundred men started off with David, and two hundred remained behind to guard their equipment.
14 Meanwhile, one of Nabal’s servants went to Abigail and told her.
18. Wise Move.
He can’t sleep.
Restless after a busy day.
Gets up walks to the window.
Narrows his eyes as he surveys the kingdom.
How to run this place.
How to treat the people.
He spins around.
A figure in the darkness there.
Makes him an offer.
1 Kings 3.5-14
5 That night the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
6 Solomon replied, “You were wonderfully kind to my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued this great kindness to him today by giving him a son to succeed him. 7 O LORD my God, now you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8 And here I am among your own chosen people, a nation so great they are too numerous to count! 9 Give me an understanding mind so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great nation of yours?”
10 The Lord was pleased with Solomon’s reply and was glad that he had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people and have not asked for a long life or riches for yourself or the death of your enemies – 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding mind such as no one else has ever had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and honour! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14 And if you follow me and obey my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”
17. Silver Lining?
Wants everything he sees.
Thinks it’ll make his life perfect.
Can’t be listening to others.
He knows best.
Even if it’s for the worst.
Sees her, wants her.
Leaves his brain in the gutter.
Any wisdom he had is leaking out of his ear.
Any chance of a silver lining?
1 One day when Samson was in Timnah, he noticed a certain Philistine woman.
2 When he returned home, he told his father and mother, “I want to marry a young Philistine woman I saw in Timnah.” 3 His father and mother objected strenuously, “Isn’t there one woman in our tribe or among all the Israelites you could marry? Why must you go to the pagan Philistines to find a wife?” But Samson told his father, “Get her for me. She is the one I want.” 4 His father and mother didn’t realize the Lord was at work in this, creating an opportunity to disrupt the Philistines, who ruled over Israel at that time.
16. No Boating Accident.
He knows what it’s like over there.
And going would be bad idea.
After all he’s an important guy.
A top prophet.
It would be a wasted journey.
And he would be the one getting wasted.
Wiser to hold back.
Or better still go on a boat trip.
1 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh! Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” 3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction in order to get away from the Lord. He went down to the seacoast, to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping that by going away to the west he could escape from the Lord.4 But as the ship was sailing along, suddenly the Lord flung a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to send them to the bottom. 9 And Jonah spoke up and said, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” 10 Then he told them that he was running away from the Lord.
15. And The Oscar Goes To…
The red carpet lands with a thump.
A single kick of the foot and it unravels over dust and rocks.
In the distance the figures begin their walk of fame.
Tiny at first, looming larger with each footstep.
Cameras flash, applause breaks out.
Weary, heartbroken, unemployed, disappointed, humble.
20 Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, 21 “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is given to you. God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for the time will come when you will laugh with joy. 22 God blesses you who are hated and excluded and mocked and cursed because you are identified with me, the Son of Man.
14. DJustice Unchained.
Tarantino could have written it.
The bad guys steal a farm.
Refuse to give it up.
When the sheriff sends his deputies there’s bloodshed.
Bullets and body-parts fly.
Slaughter, the bad guys rub their hands.
The son steps down from his horse.
Time to settle this.
33 “Now listen to this story. A certain landowner planted a vineyard, built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. 34 At the time of the grape harvest he sent his servants to collect his share of the crop. 35 But the farmers grabbed his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 So the landowner sent a larger group of his servants to collect for him, but the results were the same.
37 “Finally, the owner sent his son, thinking, ‘surely they will respect my son.’
38 “But when the farmers saw his son coming, they said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Come on, let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ 39 So they grabbed him, took him out of the vineyard, and murdered him.
40 “When the owner of the vineyard returns,” Jesus asked, “what do you think he will do to those farmers?”
41 The religious leaders replied, “He will put the wicked men to a horrible death and lease the vineyard to others who will give him his share of the crop after each harvest.”
42 Then Jesus asked them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? ‘The stone rejected by the builders has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous to see.’
13. Gob Smacked.
Blinded by the light.
That got his attention.
Distracted him from his plans to beat and abuse the innocents.
What makes a man like that so angry?
Why does goodness fill his heart with such poison?
We’ll find out.
Put him in a dark room for three days.
Acts 9 1-19
1 Saul was uttering threats with every breath. He was eager to destroy the Lord’s followers, so he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them – both men and women – back to Jerusalem in chains. 3 As he was nearing Damascus on this mission, a brilliant light from heaven suddenly beamed down upon him! 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
5 “Who are you, sir?” Saul asked.
And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
7 Saul picked himself up off the ground, and found that he was blind. 9 So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days. And all that time he went without food and water.
12. Split Decision.
It’s obvious isn’t it?
Bring on the big sword.
Yea, that’s it. The razor sharp one.
If these two can’t agree about who’s who then let the blade decide.
Now where’s the baby?
Oh, it’s crying.
No it’s not.
One of the women is crying.
There you go.
1 Kings 3. 16-28
16 Some time later, two prostitutes came to the king to have an argument settled. 17 “Please, my lord,” one of them began, “this woman and I live in the same house. I gave birth to a baby while she was with me in the house. 18Three days later, she also had a baby. We were alone; there were only two of us in the house. 19But her baby died during the night when she rolled over on it. 20 Then she got up in the night and took my son from beside me while I was asleep. She laid her dead child in my arms and took mine to sleep beside her. 21 And in the morning when I tried to nurse my son, he was dead! But when I looked more closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t my son at all.” 22 Then the other woman interrupted, “It certainly was your son, and the living child is mine.”
23 Then the king said, “Let’s get the facts straight. Both of you claim the living child is yours, and each says that the dead child belongs to the other. 24 All right, bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought to the king. 25 Then he said, “Cut the living child in two and give half to each of these women!”
26 Then the woman who really was the mother of the living child, and who loved him very much, cried out, “Oh no, my lord! Give her the child—please do not kill him!”
27 Then the king said, “Do not kill him, but give the baby to the woman who wants him to live, for she is his mother!”
Then word spread about Solomon’s wisdom and his ability to make just decisions.
11. Weird People.
Plague hits the city again.
People die in their thousands.
Unwanted baby girls get dumped on dung heaps.
Prisoners get left to rot in their own filth.
But not by this bunch.
This strange maverick sect.
They buck the trend.
Feed, rescue, wash – the dying, the babies, the filthy.
32 All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. 33 And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great favour was upon them all. 34 There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them 35 and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.
10. Small Change.
To rethink it all.
To look in a new place for the answer.
To be open to a passing stranger.
These are not easy.
And can be swallowed up by the big miracle.
But the change began with a turn of the head.
A willingness to look beyond the box.
1 Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. 2 Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches.
3 Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. 5 One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him and knew how long he had been ill, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”
7 “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I am trying to get there, someone else always gets in ahead of me.” 8 Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your sleeping mat, and walk!”
9 Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up the mat and began walking!
9. All Wrong.
The founding father of wisdom and compassion.
The one who has the right to stand on the roof of the universe and say,
‘Don’t you know