50/50 Diary Entries

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Fifty glimpses behind the scenes of fifty Bible stories.

50. The End.

I still do plenty of things.
Every day.
It didn’t stop here.
When I melted from one reality to another I didn’t put my feet up.
It wasn’t the end.
Or the beginning of the end.
It was just the end of the beginning.
The story continues.
You’re writing it…

Acts 1

4 As he was eating a meal with them, he told them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you what he promised. Remember, I have told you about this before. 5 John baptised with water, but in just a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” 9 It was not long after that 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!”

John 21

24 This is that disciple who saw these events and recorded them here. And we all know that his account of these things is accurate. 25 And I suppose that if all the other things Jesus did were written down, the whole world could not contain the books.

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49. Total Recall.

Joseph begged the cupbearer.
‘Don’t forget me.’
He forgot, for a good long while.
Samson’s last request was, ‘Remember me.’
I met a thief, we were both in great distress.
‘Don’t forget about me,’ he said.
I have a good memory.
I didn’t forget.
I wouldn’t forget anyone.
Too important.

Genesis 40

12 “I know what the dream means,” Joseph said. “The three branches mean three days. 13 Within three days Pharaoh will take you out of prison and return you to your position as his chief cup-bearer. 14 And please have some pity on me when you are back in his favour. Mention me to Pharaoh, and ask him to let me out of here. 15 For I was kidnapped from my homeland, the land of the Hebrews, and now I’m here in jail, but I did nothing to deserve it.”
21 Pharoah restored the chief cup-bearer to his former position. Pharaoh’s cup-bearer, however, promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.

Judges 16

28 Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “Sovereign LORD, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me one more time so that I may pay back the Philistines for the loss of my eyes.”

Luke 23

40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you are dying? 41 We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

48. No Borders.

My friends sometimes seem intent on controlling this thing.
It’s hard for them to let go.
They want to protect it, keep it clean.
But if the seeds are to grow they must be scattered.
Blown all over the place, often beyond reach.
And start thriving in the unexpected places.

John 10

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice; and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”

Mark 9

38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw a man using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t one of our group.”
39“Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs miracles in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I assure you, that person will be rewarded.”

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47. Lives of Contradiction.

The guys spend a lot of time wrestling.
Heroes and villains.
Reaching for the stars, feet stuck in mud.
But it’s reality.
They have to come as they are or they don’t come at all.
I don’t want some plastic saints.
I want genuine, passionate, sweating people.
The only way.

Mark 8

29 Then Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” 30 But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. 31 Then Jesus began to tell them that he, the Son of Man, would suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the leaders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, and three days later he would rise again. 32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and told him he shouldn’t say things like that. 33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples and then said to Peter very sternly, “Get away from me, Satan! You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Luke 9

46 Then there was an argument among them as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. 48 Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”

Luke 22

24 And they began to argue among themselves as to who would be the greatest in the coming Kingdom. 25 Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men order their people around, and yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26 But among you, those who are the greatest should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.”

Mark 9

Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34  But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest.

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46. Father Hearts.

I was fortunate.
I grew up with the knowledge and presence of two fathers.
Joseph was a good, kind, disciplined man.
He cared for us as a family.
And our hearts were shattered when he died.
Then at the Jordan the sky rumbled.
The voice of my other caring father.

Matthew 1

18  Now this is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19  Joseph, her fiancé, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly.
20  As he considered this, he fell asleep, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21  And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 24  When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded. He brought Mary home to be his wife, 25 but she remained a virgin until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Matthew 3

13  Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptised by John. 14 But John didn’t want to baptise him. “I am the one who needs to be baptised by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”
15  But Jesus said, “It must be done, because we must do everything that is right.” So then John baptised him.
16  After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him.”

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45. Unlikely Heroes.

I’ve spent much of my time picking the wrong people.
The unexpected trailblazers.
And I’ve heard about a guy called Luke.
Not met him, I believe he’s in Philippi.
A quiet kind of guy.
Has an eye for detail.
Doesn’t know it yet but his writing will rock the world.

Luke 1

Many people have written accounts about the events that took place among us. 2 They used as their source material the reports circulating among us from the early disciples and other eyewitnesses of what God has done in fulfillment of his promises. 3 Having carefully investigated all of these accounts from the beginning, I have decided to write a careful summary for you, 4 to reassure you of the truth of all you were taught.

Acts 1

In my first book I told you about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he ascended to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions from the Holy Spirit. 3 During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time and proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. On these occasions he talked to them about the Kingdom of God…

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44.Covert Action.

It became more difficult to move about.
The authorities clamping down.
So I had to use coded language.
I had been to Jerusalem months before alone.
Set up the arrangements secretly.
This meal was too important.
People will remember it forever.
I didn’t want Judas blowing the whistle on it.

Mark 14

Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go to prepare the Passover supper?” 13 So Jesus sent two of them into Jerusalem to make the arrangements. “As you go into the city,” he told them, “a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 At the house he enters, say to the owner, ‘the Teacher asks, Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ 15He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is the place; go ahead and prepare our supper there.” 16 So the two disciples went on ahead into the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover supper there.

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43. Role Play.

There was a theatre in Sepphoris.
I saw actors playing a role.
Putting on masks.
Pretending and performing.
Was fascinating to watch.
Make-believe.
Wasn’t fascinating to watch the Pharisees do it for real.
Putting on their masks and pretending.
So I called them ‘actors’ too.
Called them to be real.

Matthew 23

23 “How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you ignore the important things of the law – justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat; then you swallow a camel!

27“How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 You try to look like upright people outwardly, but inside your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

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42. Trade Secrets.

My dad wasn’t just a carpenter.
He worked with stone and metal too.
And he taught me what he knew.
Often by experience.
We went to Sepphoris, which the Romans had destroyed.
It was the place to be for a good builder.
Gave me lots of ideas too.
Building stories.

Matthew 7

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on rock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash.”

Luke 12

16 And Jesus gave an illustration: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17In fact, his barns were full to overflowing. 18 So he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store everything. 19And I’ll sit back and say to myself, My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!’
20“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get it all?’
21“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

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41. Rite of Passage.

I went on a journey as a boy.
We travelled vast distances through a land called Scripture.
It was a whole new country.
Deserts, mountains, windswept plains, lush vegetation.
Brightly lit cities and dangerous terrain.
I memorised the landscape.
It shaped and changed me.
Made me who I am today.

Luke 24

25 Then Jesus said to the two travellers, “You are such foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted by the prophets that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his time of glory?” 27 Then Jesus quoted passages from the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining what all the Scriptures said about himself.

Luke 2

51 Jesus returned to Nazareth with his parents and was obedient to them; and his mother stored all these things in her heart. 52 So Jesus grew both in height and in wisdom, and he was loved by God and by all who knew him.

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40. Gender Difference.

The men have to run and hide.
Seen as a threat, fearing arrest.
Not so the women.
They are disregarded.
And therefore free to move about.
Free to look after his body.
Free to be followers in an age when women could not be disciples.
Caring, courageous, compassionate.
Trailblazing pioneers.

Luke 23

55 As Jesus’s body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where they placed his body. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to embalm him. But by the time they were finished it was the Sabbath, so they rested all that day as required by the law.

Luke 24

1 But very early on Sunday morning the women came to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 They found that the stone covering the entrance had been rolled aside. 3 So they went in, but they couldn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 They were puzzled, trying to think what could have happened to it. Suddenly, two men appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. 5 The women were terrified and bowed low before them. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking in a tomb for someone who is alive? 6 He isn’t here! He has risen from the dead! Don’t you remember what he told you back in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again the third day?”

10 The women who went to the tomb were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several others. They told the apostles what had happened, 11 but the story sounded like nonsense, so they didn’t believe it.

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39. Cosmic Battles.

This is only half of reality.
50% of the picture of life.
When I was born there was a battle of cosmic proportions.
All that was visible were two travellers.
One with her stomach swollen.
Recently I sent my friends out to live differently.
And I saw lightning in heaven.

Revelation 12

1 Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2She was pregnant, and she cried out in the pain of labor as she awaited her delivery.
3 Suddenly, I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. 4His tail dragged down one-third of the stars, which he threw to the earth. He stood before the woman as she was about to give birth to her child, ready to devour the baby as soon as it was born.
5She gave birth to a boy who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And the child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne. 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where God had prepared a place to give her care for 1,260 days.

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38. The Whisper.

I don’t tell many people.
Why would I?
Life doesn’t work like that.
Better to leave clues.
Lay a trail for those looking.
Her eyes were open.
Life had battered her, but she was still hopeful.
Other men discarded her.
So I whispered it to her.
And she passed it on.

John 4

Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. 7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.
9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”
10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water. People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water. 14 But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me some of that water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to haul water.”
16 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.
17 “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.
Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband – 18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”
21 Jesus replied, “The time is coming and is already here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah will come – the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”

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37. Bushes Burning.

I know the stories, grew up with them.
Abraham called into the unknown.
Jacob wrestling with his God.
Joseph having to wait for his dreams to come true.
The story continues.
The call to follow the invisible God.
The quiet God.
The God who need not prove or justify himself.

John 21

15 After breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
16Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

Luke 9

57 As they were walking along someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you no matter where you go.”
58 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head.”

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36. Fire Shelter.

I have seen hens save the lives of their young.
Shelter them under their wings as fire raged around them.
The mother most often died.
But the chicks survived.
She gave her life for them.
I see that on the horizon.
The laying down of one life to save many.

Luke 13

34“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. 35 And now look, your house is left to you empty. And you will never see me again until you say, ‘Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Isaiah 53

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! 5 But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed!

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35. Bruised Reeds.

Sometimes the faintest contact wakes you up.
It was like that.
The crowd’s grasping, clutching fists were nothing like this.
Her contact was a desperate whisper for help.
So I turned and waited.
There were pressing matters.
But none like this.
I was going nowhere till I could help her.

Isaiah 42 (& Mark 5.21)

1“Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, and I am pleased with him. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will reveal justice to the nations. 2 He will be gentle – he will not shout or raise his voice in public. 3 He will not crush those who are weak or quench the smallest hope. He will bring full justice to all who have been wronged. 4 He will not stop until truth and righteousness prevail throughout the earth. Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.”

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34. Resurrection Days.

Some days it’s really uphill work.
Bringing life to others.
And others to life.
Life in all its fullness is not always fun.
It’s often draining.
Have to empty myself to be a channel for that living water.
It can be lonely work.
Still the best job in the world.

Mark 10

17 As he was starting out on a trip, a man came running up to Jesus, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what should I do to get eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But as for your question, you know the commandments: ‘Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not testify falsely. Do not cheat. Honour your father and mother.’”
20“Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was a child.”
21  Jesus felt genuine love for this man as he looked at him. “You lack only one thing,” he told him. “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this, the man’s face fell, and he went sadly away because he had many possessions.

Mark 1

40  A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you want to, you can make me well again,” he said.
41 Moved with pity, Jesus touched him. “I want to,” he said. “Be healed!” 42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared—the man was healed. 43 Then Jesus sent him on his way and told him sternly, 44“Go right over to the priest and let him examine you. Don’t talk to anyone along the way. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy, so everyone will have proof of your healing.”
45 But as the man went on his way, he spread the news, telling everyone what had happened to him. As a result, such crowds soon surrounded Jesus that he couldn’t enter a town anywhere publicly. He had to stay out in the secluded places, and people from everywhere came to him there.

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33. Food for Thought.

I used to watch my baby brothers and sisters.
Chewing on anything they could grab.
Made me think of Ezekiel, chewing on the book of God.
Getting it into his being.
From now on the living word will be available to anyone.
Nourishing, replenishing, inspiring, reviving.
Like a good meal.

Ezekiel 3

1 The voice said to me, “Son of man, eat what I am giving you—eat this scroll! Then go and give its message to the people of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and he fed me the scroll. 3 “Eat it all,” he said. And when I ate it, it tasted as sweet as honey.

Revelation 3

20 “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.

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32. Reality Check.

There are days when it seems like a dream.
Being around at the beginning.
In the time before time.
Being earthed now in life, food, money, family, work, sweat, friends, enemies…
That other reality is easily forgotten.
The other side of the coin.
Easy to forget there’s more.
Another dimension.

John 1

1 In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3 He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make. 4 Life itself was in him, and this life gives light to everyone. 5The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

1 John 1

1 The one who existed from the beginning is the one we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life. 2This one who is life from God was shown to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and announce to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was shown to us. 3 We are telling you about what we ourselves have actually seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

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31. Game Changer.

Peter took me aside again.
Wants me to clean up my act.
Says it looks bad.
No other rabbi does it.
Taking women on the road.
Says it looks dodgy.
I understand him, and I don’t want to create problems.
But I have to do it.
Everyone matters, everyone’s important.

Luke 8

1 Not long afterwards Jesus began a tour of the nearby cities and villages to announce the Good News concerning the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, 2 along with some women he had healed and from whom he had cast out evil spirits. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; 3 Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.

Mark 15

37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”
40 Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome. 41 They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Then they and many other women had come with him to Jerusalem.

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30. Streetwise.

There are of course many days when nothing happens.
I say nothing, plenty of ordinary things.
When this story is told it may appear action-packed.
But part of my call is to be human.
To be working, resting, sleeping, eating, bored, frustrated, busy.
Walking in the shoes of regular folk.

John 1

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

Philippians 2

5 Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. 7 He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. 8 And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.

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29. Days of the Weak.

It was time for change.
The problem began in David’s time.
With the taunts when he was taking Jerusalem.
‘The blind and the lame may not enter.’
Well I wasn’t having that.
So I took the house for God and welcomed anyone and everyone.
A good day for the weak.

Matthew 21

12 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants and their customers. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the stalls of those selling doves. 13 He said, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a place of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”
14 The blind and the lame came to him, and he healed them there in the Temple. 15 The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the little children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.” But they were indignant 16 and asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”
“Yes,” Jesus replied. “Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.’” 17 Then he returned to Bethany, where he stayed overnight.

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28. The Big Picture.

We took over the temple.
Stopped people trading there for a while.
I was trying to make a point.
The priests and leaders are convinced it’s theirs.
They forget they are stewards.
It’s on loan.
The whole thing is on loan.
And they forget that it’s all about good news.

Luke 20

1 One day as Jesus was teaching and preaching the Good News in the Temple, the leading priests and teachers of religious law and other leaders came up to him. 2 They demanded, “By whose authority did you drive out the merchants from the Temple? Who gave you such authority?”
9 Now Jesus turned to the people again and told them this story: “A man planted a vineyard, leased it out to tenant farmers, and moved to another country to live for several years. 10 At grape-picking time, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers attacked the servant, beat him up, and sent him back empty-handed. 11 So the owner sent another servant, but the same thing happened; he was beaten up and treated shamefully, and he went away empty-handed. 12 A third man was sent and the same thing happened. He, too, was wounded and chased away.
13 “‘What will I do?’ the owner asked himself. ‘I know! I’ll send my cherished son. Surely they will respect him.’
14 “But when the farmers saw his son, they said to each other, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ 15 So they dragged him out of the vineyard and murdered him.”

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27. Chalk & Cheese.

I seem to keep dividing people.
Some find me nothing but irritating.
Though I do good things and speak truth.
They refuse to be heartened.
Refuse to be open.
Others flock to hear me.
Desperate for some hope and good news.
It seems I’m death to some, life to others.

Matthew 11

16 “How shall I describe this generation? These people are like a group of children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, 17‘We played wedding songs, and you weren’t happy, so we played funeral songs, but you weren’t sad.’ 18For John the Baptist didn’t drink wine and he often fasted, and you say, ‘He’s demon possessed.’ 19And I, the Son of Man, feast and drink, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of the worst sort of sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by what results from it.”
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.”

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26. Interregnum.

When I was little Archelaus went to Rome.
He wanted to get official backing as king.
While he was gone people sent a message.
‘Please don’t put him in power.’
The question on everyone’s lips?
Should we act as if he is king already…
Or not?
How should we behave?

Luke 19

11  The crowd was listening to everything Jesus said. And because he was nearing Jerusalem, he told a story to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away. 12 He said, “A nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king and then return. 13 Before he left, he called together ten servants and gave them ten pounds of silver to invest for him while he was gone. 14 But his people hated him and sent a delegation after him to say they did not want him to be their king.

15 “When he returned, the king called in the servants to whom he had given the money. He wanted to find out what they had done with the money and what their profits were. 16 The first servant reported a tremendous gain—ten times as much as the original amount! 17 ‘Well done!’ the king exclaimed. ‘You are a trustworthy servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.’

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25. Dead Ironic.

Will make a good story.
The rich man still acting in death as if he can dominate Lazarus.
Yet Lazarus willing to help him.
But unable to reach him.
And I’ll call him Lazarus.
Then folk may make the connections.
Another Lazarus who did resurrect and return as a sign.

Luke 16

24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish in these flames.’
25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. Anyone who wanted to cross over to you from here is stopped at its edge, and no one there can cross over to us.’
27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them about this place of torment so they won’t have to come here when they die.’
29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read their writings anytime they want to.’
30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will turn from their sins.’
31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’”

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24. Compassion Fatigue?

Rich and poor live closely in our community.
They bring him everyday to the rich man’s gate.
He can hear them eating but they ignore him.
The rich man doesn’t see him, but his guard dogs do.
They don’t attack – they help him.
Lick his wounds with their healing saliva.

Luke 16

19 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his door lay a diseased beggar named Lazarus. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. 22 Finally, the beggar died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and his soul went to the place of the dead.

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23. Good Boss.

I’ve seen them each morning.
Waiting in the village square.
Hoping for work.
Some standing, ready to run out and volunteer.
Others sitting, less hopeful.
Bosses rolls up, start hiring early.
The lucky ones get a job.
The others sink lower into themselves.
Suppose a compassionate boss never stopped hiring?

Matthew 20

1 “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of an estate who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.
3 “At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. 4 So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. 5 At noon and again around three o’clock he did the same thing. 6 At five o’clock that evening he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’
7 “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’”
The owner of the estate told them, ‘then go on out and join the others in my vineyard.’
8 “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. 9 When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. 10 When those hired earlier came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. 11 When they received their pay, they protested, 12 ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’
13 “He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? 14 Take it and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. 15 Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be angry because I am kind?’

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22. Branching Out.

The ancients spoke and wrote about the new Branch.
The all-but-dead stump coming back to life.
Sprouting new growth.
New visions.
New ideas.
New compassion.
New hope.
New beginnings.
The rebirth happens – with a twist.
A shift of responsibility.
You be the branches,’ says the man.
‘I am the vine.’

Isaiah 11

1 Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot – yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

John 15

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned for greater fruitfulness by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. 5 Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who parts from me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted! 8 My true disciples produce much fruit. This brings great glory to my Father.

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21. Winners and Losers.

Spent some time with Matt yesterday.
He seems down.
He made noises about wanting to give up.
Feels second rate compared to the rest of the crew.
Thinks his job makes him unacceptable.
To God and other people.
It’s complex.
The guys don’t help one another.
Always trying to outdo each other.

Luke 18

10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector. 11 The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, 12 I go way beyond the law, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, please be merciful, make atonement for me, make a sacrifice big enough to cover my sins, for I am a bad person. I just cannot be good enough.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not that other one, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honoured.”

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20. Local Lad.

I wasn’t surprised.
But I was disappointed.
There were days when I was amazed at people’s faith.
Romans and Samaritans.
Outsiders putting the insiders to shame.
Today held a different kind of wonder.
Like being in a crowded room and feeling totally alone.
Folks I knew best turning their backs.

Mark 6

1 Jesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. 2 The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They asked, “Where did he get all his wisdom and the power to perform such miracles? 3 He’s just the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.
4 Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” 5 And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any mighty miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

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19. Waiting Game.

There were days it felt like forever.
Waiting for the time to come.
I thought on Joseph.
Sat in prison.
On Jacob working 14 years for Rachel.
Moses 40 years as a shepherd.
Time shapes, instills stamina, patience.
I was standing in the shadow of others.
Then John started shouting…

Luke 2 & 3

49 But why did you need to search?” Jesus asked his parents. “You should have known that I would be in my Father’s house.” 50 But they didn’t understand what he meant.
51 Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them; and his mother stored all these things in her heart. 52 So Jesus grew both in height and in wisdom, and he was loved by God and by all who knew him.
1 It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pilate was governor over Judea. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living out in the wilderness. 3 Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had turned from their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. 4 Isaiah had spoken of John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness: ‘Prepare a pathway for the Lord’s coming! Make a straight road for him! 5 Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills!
Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places! 6 And then all people will see the salvation sent from God.’”

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18. Digging Around.

It’s hard work, building houses.
I’ve done it.
Digging down through clay to that rock.
Takes time, effort.
Thought, dedication and sweat.
Building is risky too.
Bedrock’s everywhere.
For some folks it’s not too far down.
For others it’s ten feet or more.
Storms hit everyone.
So foundations are vital.

Luke 6

47I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then obeys me. 48It is like a person who builds a house on a strong foundation laid upon the underlying rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who listens and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will crumble into a heap of ruins.”

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17. Ancient Construction.

I sat watching the weather thinking about Isaiah yesterday.
He spoke of two buildings.
One built on flimsy promises.
The Assyrians were attacking and Israel went to Egypt.
The worshippers of death.
They were building on sand.
And the Assyrian storm washed everything away.
Need a new foundation.
Reliable rock.

Isaiah 28

14 Therefore, listen to this message from the LORD, you scoffing rulers in Jerusalem. 15 You boast that you have struck a bargain with death and have made a deal with with Sheol. You say, “The Assyrians can never touch us, for we have built a strong refuge made of lies and deception.” 16 Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem. It is firm, a tested and precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never run away again.
17 “I will take the measuring line of justice and the plumb line of righteousness to check the foundation wall you have built. Your refuge looks strong, but since it is made of lies, a hailstorm will knock it down. Since it is made of deception, the enemy will come like a flood to sweep it away. 18 I will cancel the bargain you made to avoid death, and I will overturn your deal to dodge the grave. When the terrible enemy floods in, you will be trampled into the ground. 19 Again and again that flood will come, morning after morning, day and night, until you are carried away.”

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16. Fast Food.

Invited 26 people a few weeks ago.
Four agreed to come with me.
Not everyone follows.
Some come for the miracles.
The hope of an instant solution.
But after I did the biggest miracle of my career,
Everyone ran.
The implications were too great.
They wanted bread, not new life.

John 6

11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and passed them out to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate until they were full. 12 “Now gather the leftovers,” Jesus told his disciples, “so that nothing is wasted.” 13 There were only five barley loaves to start with, but twelve baskets were filled with the pieces of bread the people did not eat!
14 When the people saw this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!”
35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never thirst.”
41 Then the people began to murmur in disagreement because he had said, “I am the bread from heaven.” 42 They said, “This is Jesus, the son of Joseph. We know his father and mother. How can he say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
43 But Jesus replied, “Don’t complain about what I said. 44 For people can’t come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them from the dead. 45 As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘they will all be taught by God. Everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to me.
47 I assure you, anyone who believes in me already has eternal life. 48 Yes, I am the bread of life! 49 Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. 50 However, the bread from heaven gives eternal life to everyone who eats it. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; this bread is my flesh, offered so the world may live.”

52 Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked.
60 Even his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”
66 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you going to leave, too?”
68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe them, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”

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15. Ascension.

I watched my friends today.
Arguing again, haggling over unimportant matters.
Before too long I will have to leave them.
I need to go to help them grow up a little.
They don’t seem ready.
But I need to step back.
Let them take responsibility.
Push them from the nest.

Luke 24

44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me by Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must all come true.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand these many Scriptures. 46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again from the dead on the third day. 47 With my authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘there is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me.’ 48 You are witnesses of all these things. 49 And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”

50 Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 They worshipped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. 53 And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.

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14. Learning Curve.

He wanted to inherit eternal life.
But you can only inherit something by virtue of birth.
Can’t do anything.
So I asked what he thought.
He gave me a list of rules.
Good – but impossible to keep.
I congratulated him.
And hoped that in trying he’d discover his need.

Luke 10

25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what must I do to receive 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 neighbour as yourself.’”
28“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

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13. Resurrecting Hope.

Tom, not wanting to have his hopes crushed again, refused to believe the others.
In the days between I went around encouraging others who needed it.
The following week he was there.
And I invented a new beatitude.
Blessed are those who will come after Tom.
And believe without seeing.

John 20

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.”

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12. Undignified and Unrestrained.

It makes me angry.
Makes me snort like a horse.
Gets me down.
The pain in this life.
The loss and injustice.
Happened yesterday.
I saw the grief in the sisters.
They were losing everything.
Brother, friend, home, purpose.
And I snorted with anger at it all.
And did something.

John 11

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. (He snorted like a horse.) 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

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11. Double Whammy.

We always feared the soldiers of course.
Understandably.
And hated Samaritans.
We were brought up this way.
We heard stories.
Fearful tales of muggings on the Jericho road.
Passed them around at night like ghost stories.
Samaritans worked as soldiers in Jerusalem.
So that set me thinking.
A double challenge.

Luke 10

25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what must I do to receive 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 neighbour?”
30 Jesus replied with an illustration: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes and money, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31“By chance a Jewish priest came along; but when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt deep pity. 34 Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two pieces of silver and told him to take care of the man. ‘If his bill runs higher than that,’ he said, ‘I’ll pay the difference the next time I am here.’
36“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

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10. University of Life.

They were so formative, those early years.
That time my aunt lost that coin, hunted all day.
My dad getting sawdust in his eye.
Watching him check for the best place to build.
Neighbours owing the Romans unpayable debts.
Evening debates with the village wise men.
The kindness of friends.

Luke 2

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. 42When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. 43 After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, 44 because they assumed he was with friends among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. 46 Three days later they finally discovered him. He was in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, discussing deep questions with them. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
48 His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son!” his mother said to him. “Why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “You should have known that I would be in my Father’s house.” 50 But they didn’t understand what he meant.
51 Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them; and his mother stored all these things in her heart. 52 So Jesus grew both in height and in wisdom, and he was loved by God and by all who knew him.

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9. Misunderstood.

There are times when no one gets me.
Times when I fail their expectations.
My family get angry and want to haul me home.
Friends want to manipulate me into something that suits them.
People make demands.
And yesterday my cousin.
Happy are those who take me as I am.

Matthew 11

1 When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went off teaching and preaching in towns throughout the country. 2  John the Baptist, who was now in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 3 “Are you really the Messiah we’ve been waiting for, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
4  Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him about what you have heard and seen – 5 the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 6 And tell him: ‘God blesses those who are not offended by me.’”

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8. Different Sides.

They used to play together.
Romans and revolutionaries.
The good guys v the bad guys.
John always won.
Of course he did.
He was bigger, louder, tougher.
His cousin’s approach was too soft, he said.
Had no idea they were fighting the same battle.
Two sides of the same coin.

John 1

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘soon a man is coming who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before I did.’ 31 I didn’t know he was the one, but I have been baptizing with water in order to point him out to Israel.”
32 Then John said, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘When you see the Holy Spirit descending and resting upon someone, he is the one you are looking for. He is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Son of God.”

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7. Better Not Worse.

The presence of glory has been fearful before.
Uzzah and a wayward cart.
Isaiah and Ezekiel seeing and fearing the end.
But this is different.
This is what we always wanted.
The glory of God in a human being fully alive.
Making people feel better, not worse.
Alive, not dead.

John 1

10 But although the world was made through him, the world didn’t recognize him when he came. 11 Even in his own land and among his own people, he was not accepted. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan—this rebirth comes from God. 14 So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.

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6. Telling Tales.

David was caught out twice.
At least.
Once by Nathan and then by a Tekoan widow.
They’re powerful things.
Parables.
But risky too.
Can be misunderstood.
Misheard.
The irony and subtlety obscured.
That’s their secret power.
Their superpower.
Can change lives.
So I use them.
And I’ll use them forever.

Mark 4

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. Or a simple tweet. Sent one to one, and within th hour reaches thousands.” 33 He used many such stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they were able to understand. 34 In fact, in his public teaching he taught only with parables, but afterward when he was alone with his disciples, he explained the meaning to them.

Proverbs 1

5 Let those who are wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. And let those who understand receive guidance by exploring the depth of meaning in these proverbs, parables, wise sayings, and riddles.

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5. Test Pilate.

It felt as if we were both on trial.
He looked tired, though it was his wife who’d not slept well.
Perhaps he was just tired of his job.
Passover was always a testing time for him.
The streets seething with pilgrims and revolutionaries.
We were both on the edge.

John 18

33Then Pilate went back inside and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the King of the Jews?” he asked him.
34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”
35“Am I a Jew?” Pilate asked. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you here. Why? What have you done?”
36 Then Jesus answered, “I am not an earthly king. If I were, my followers would have fought when I was arrested by the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
37Pilate replied, “You are a king then?”
“You say that I am a king, and you are right,” Jesus said. “I was born for that purpose. And I came to bring truth to the world. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime. 39But you have a custom of asking me to release someone from prison each year at Passover. So if you want me to, I’ll release the King of the Jews.” 40 But they shouted back, “No! Not this man, but Barabbas!”

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4. No Magic.

It’s always there.
The temptation to perform.
To impress.
Make my mark.
It was tough at the time but I’m grateful now for those long wilderness days.
They honed me.
Feeding people is one thing.
A sign of God with his people.
But subtlety is so important.
No conjuring tricks.

Luke 4

1  Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit to go out into the wilderness, 2 where the Devil tempted him for forty days. He ate nothing all that time and was very hungry. 3 Then the Devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.” 4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People need more than bread for their life.’”

5 Then the Devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6  The Devil told him, “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them—because they are mine to give to anyone I please. 7 I will give it all to you if you will bow down and worship me.” 8 Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God; serve only him.’”

9  Then the Devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! 10 For the Scriptures say, ‘He orders his angels to protect and guard you. 11 And they will hold you with their hands to keep you from striking your foot on a stone.’” 12 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘Do not test the Lord your God.’” 13 When the Devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.

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3. Walking Alone.

Sometimes I say nothing.
Just walk again in that garden called earth.
The wonder of it all.
Being human, savouring all that’s good about life.
Other times I kneel in pain.
Pour out the anguish of my soul.
So much darkness.
Sometimes I simply recite prayers I learnt in childhood.

Mark 1.35

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Luke 5.16

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

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2. Misty Mountain.

Took my three closest friends up a mountain.
Could feel the pressure building.
Needed some time out.
Needed perspective.
Got a fresh glimpse of reality.
Why I’m here, doing this.
Strength for the last chapter.
The penny recently dropped for Peter.
He got way more than he bargained for!

Mark 8&9

27  Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28  “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”
29  Then Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” 30  But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

2 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain. No one else was there. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance changed, 3 and his clothing became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly process could ever make it. Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus.
5“Teacher, this is wonderful!” Peter exclaimed. “We will make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He didn’t really know what to say, for they were all terribly afraid.
Then a cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly they looked around, and Moses and Elijah were gone, and only Jesus was with them. 9 As they descended the mountainside, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until he, the Son of Man, had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.”

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1. The Dark Night.

Went for a walk today with John.
We strolled quietly around Bethany.
Told him about that night in the garden.
Those two overwhelming temptations.
To give up and avoid the pain.
Make a new plan without the violence.
And to get help.
Calm that vicious storm with just a word.

Mark 14

32  And they came to an olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he began to be filled with horror and deep distress. 34 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.”

35 He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36  “Abba,£ Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.” 37 Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. “Simon!” he said to Peter. “Are you asleep? Couldn’t you stay awake and watch with me even one hour? 38  Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak.”

39 Then Jesus left them again and prayed, repeating his pleadings. 40 Again he returned to them and found them sleeping, for they just couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say. 41 When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Still sleeping? Still resting?£ Enough! The time has come. I, the Son of Man, am betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Up, let’s be going. See, my betrayer is here!”

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