Saturday, December 24, 2016

Acts 9

Summary: Saul, wanting to imprison those in the Way, is stopped and blinded by none other than Jesus Himself. This and the hospitality of those in the Way converts him in. As he intermingles with the (rightfully wary) disciples, Peter converts two towns next to each other with healings.

Response: So if we're going by after-school special morals, we have that you're not always right, people really can change, and that more than one good thing can happen at the same time. And since I've been sick since two nights ago, that'll have to do.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Acts 8

Summary: With Stephen's death comes a zeal for persecution from a man named Saul not yet seen in Jerusalem. The Way dias because of people fleeing to safety. During this diaspora, Philip (an apostle) began teaching in Samaria, then to an Ethiopian man.

Response: If it wasn't already, this is the beginning of our (yes, you and me) inclusion into the Way. Before this, an offshoot of the Temple; after, we have the same promise as God's chosen people (and yes, the same responsibility).

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Acts 7

Summary: Stephen's testimony goes all the way back from Abraham to Solomon, ancestors of the Jewish council against which he's defending himself. He says they're ignoring the power and intent of God, which gets them angry, but claiming to see Jesus at God's right hand pushes them past the tipping point, and they stone him to death.

Response: Stephen was a deacon, we heard last chapter, so he wasn't necessarily a preacher. But he sees the connections between history and service that I too often write about in places like these early in the morning and then forget about. Keep my mind on You, Lord!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Acts 6

Summary: As the Way grows stronger, dividing work between apostles' teaching and praying and deacons' serving; the resistance also grows, with one group fabricating lies about Stephen, one of the deacons, to bring him into a religious court.

Response: "All who were sitting in the council looked intently at Stephen and saw his face was like the face of an angel." My notes to me it was not necessarily a look of innocence, as we might portray someone with an angel today, but so glowing with a holy message that he's almost full to bursting. I hope that I can someday serve as he served and have God's word on my lips in the same way.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Acts 5

Summary: After an odd story about a couple who, after lying about giving money to the apostles, drop dead; we have another cycle of the Way growing in number, the apostles arrested, questioned, and released. An angel releases them from the prison, and a member of the interrogators appeals to the rest of them by reason: if this is human, it'll fail, but if it's God, then we can't stop it, so the best course either way is to leave it alone.

Response: Alright, yes, Ananias and Sapphira. God drops two people dead for lying. I mean, I don't know if that was all they'd ever done; it certainly keeps others from doing the same, helps others in the Way true to it, though I'm not a fan of it being through fear. This isn't a huge sticking point between God and me, so I'm moving on.

The angel in the story was pretty cool. That part (like others that are coming) reads like a sitcom script: they're gone! go get them! they're not here either! etc.

Finally, I think it's pretty apparent which direction the Way went, looking super long term. I don't speak about Christianity as a whole very often. There are parts of history where people have bent the faith to their own wills, and many still do. But I still believe most Christians are, can be, are trying to be, the hands and feet of Christ, doing that whole healing and saving the lost thing. Lately, I've missed opportunities to serve the least in my community because I've been so busy. I'm hoping to get ahead in my break and elsewhere to get time back for that.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Acts 4

Summary: The Temple leaders question Peter and John because they healed in Jesus' name and spread news of His resurrection, but they can't charge the two with anything and only threaten them. Returning together, the followers of Jesus pray for unity under Jesus, and to the eye, the small group does a great job, living in community so they can help others and worship God.

Response: This is the same group that manipulated the Roman government to crucify Jesus. I suppose that they, again, will have to wait until popularity dies down before doing anything rash, though I've been wrong before.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Acts 3

Summary: By making their presence known through healing a lame man, Peter and John get an opportunity to tell of Jesus on their terms.

Response: Just a couple of stray thoughts. This is a different Peter than we see in Luke. He's still headstrong, but as a leader and not a follower. I love hearing redemption stories, but I wonder if we'll see these figures of the early church stumble any more without Jesus there to correct them. The Old Testament heroes were all flawed, and I worry that, in an effort to be legitimized, all the saints will be portrayed as infallible, which is not very relatable. Then again, the Holy Spirit is supposed to change us, right? This will probably need more prayer.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Acts 2

Summary: The apostles gathered together on a certain day and received the ability to speak in many languages to the cosmopolitan population of Jerusalem. Questioned, their leader Paul speaks of Jesus' resurrection and His legacy, to repent and sin no more. Then they put it into practice, living communally and vibrantly.

Response: Throughout the last chapter, the thought in the back of my head had been, "now what?" But this is the "now what:" the people of God serving and growing their number. I don't think I've read Acts right after a Gospel before, so I've missed the continuity from Jesus to the Church, which is really cool so far.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Acts 1

Summary: Jesus is still alive! He appears to the disciples over a forty-day period before His ascension, and then they are left to do His work. Their first goal is to recoup a loss in their group, replacing Judas Iscariot with Matthias.

Response: I mean, in hindsight it seems good to have the group whole again. Still, I guess I wonder if the thought ever crossed them to replace Jesus in the same way. Lord, help me to focus on You and Your plans, and to have the energy to help fulfill them.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Luke 24

Summary: Through messengers at the tomb, through visits with disciples on the road, and finally to all his gathered followers, Jesus makes it clear: He has risen from the dead! Not only that, but this is something the Scriptures have pointed to all this time. Their hope restored, the disciples bid farewell to Jesus as He ascends into heaven.

Response: You couldn't write a better movie ending, which even hints at a sequel. I guess that's where I'm headed next--Acts!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Luke 23

Summary: The Jewish leaders bring Jesus to regional rulers; when they won't condemn Him, the crowds (usually on Jesus' side) shout for His death. It's gruesome and many signs come about, but Jesus is indeed crucified, dead, and buried.

Response: And, for the most part, He lets it happen. I've made statements before about how God loves us so much that He accepts our choices, even the most terrible ones. He's even willing to die for us-and did-rather than give that choice up.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Luke 22

Summary: Jesus has, so far, escaped the wrath of Jewish leaders in Jerusalem because He has appeared only in crowds. Yet He came out to His usual secluded prayer space and, betrayed, He was arrested by a mob, publicly beaten, and grilled by the group of Jewish leaders.

Response: Jesus' pull to God (and his desire to do God's will) was so strong, He gave up His one tactical advantage on purpose. He tried to offer grace to His jailers, torturers and interrogators each step of the way, not so He might be saved but so they might turn from what they were doing. I can only hope I see such signs any better, but only with Your help, Lord.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Luke 21

Summary: Jesus continues His time in the temple, this time talking about the many things that will happen in the future.

Response: I'll be honest: I gloss over prediction/prophecy/revelation stuff. It's just, I know it's going to happen at one point, but nobody knows the right time or date. So why bother? I guess that, for some, it's nice to know that everybody will get their just reward at the end, though I'd counter-argue that that's less faith than assurance at that point. And, again, it's not that I'm not looking forward to it all, but we have to live life with love now, not hit pause and wait for the end of the level.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Luke 20

Summary: Jesus, in the main temple of Jerusalem, gets worked over by the religious elite with the most controversial scenarios they can think of. He answers them in public in such a way that they not only can't take him to court, and can't pull the people's support for him, but make themselves look foolish, too.

Response: Sometimes I guess I feel like Christians shouldn't have to endure questions about what-if scenarios and philosophical problems, but Jesus took them head-on.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Luke 19

Summary: Jesus finishes up with one more miracle and parable, each showing God's mercy to those who accept it. Then, Jesus fulfills prophecy by entering Jerusalem, popular by parade and tracking in the temple (for now, anyways).

Response: I know I am often as fickle as the people here. Lord, help me to slow down and seek You, that I might do Your will and further Your kingdom.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Luke 18

Summary: Jesus talks about status, shunning the wealthy and elite in favor of the humble and willing.

Response: There's this idea in Christian circles that God gives you the opportunity to grow when you ask for a certain character trait. Like you want patience and He gives you a situation to have to wait. It helps us to trust that He knows what He's doing, but it's scary. Even so, I hope God gives me opportunities to be humble, even if it means being humbled.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Luke 17

Summary: Jesus, through healings and parables, talks about responding to the promise of heaven.

Response: There's nothing weird like the last chapter; still, Jesus is talking way over everyone's heads, including mine. And we are to keep serving and to acknowledge kindness done to us as well as act kindly to others, even those who aren't kind in the first place. That sounds hard.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Luke 16

Summary: Through several parables, Jesus mainly talks about the permanence of consequences in choosing to serve oneself.

Response: But it's weird! I'm not sure I've ever read the shrewd manager one that started the chapter, and in between rebuking the Pharisees and his last parable, Jesus launches into a maxim about divorce.

Reading about the first one is a bit disappointing. Still, there's a bigger theme in the chapter about who you're going to serve. Go down swinging for your faults or try to make amends? Break a lifelong vow or honor it? Ignore need or act on it before it's too late? Who am I going to serve?

Friday, November 18, 2016

Luke 15

Summary: Jesus, accused of surrounding himself with the wrong crowd, tells three stories about people who rejoice at what is found after being thought lost.

Response: There are a great many ways to place oneself in these stories; you could be the item found, and need that saving even before you think you deserve it; you could be the extras in the story, praising God when someone is saved; and you could even be the older brother, a big grump about God's grace. I'm hoping for the second, but I know I fall into the first and third very often.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Luke 14

Summary: Jesus, at a party, talks about status in His Kingdom, to accept humble placement and invite even the lowest to one's own party.

Response: I remember the McGee and Me short about the first part. It's the second part that gets me. I know I should be serving others and, to a certain extent, I know I am, but I want to be more active about it. With any grace, I'll be able to serve like that soon again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Luke 13

Summary: Jesus makes a clear distinction between the powers of the world around Him and the affairs of His Kingdom, blessing those lost in tragedies, healing on the Sabbath, and denouncing a fruitless Israel and a prophet-killing Jerusalem.

Response: I have no idea who Jesus is referring to in the first story (though, after researching, it seems like some others don't either), but it sounded like they're trying to trap Jesus in theodicy (why good things happen to bad people). Jesus gives a non-answer, but really tries to get them to understand they need to worry about themselves, at least a bit. So, helping yes, but judging no. Sounds simple...

Monday, November 14, 2016

Luke 12

Summary: Jesus speaks of what should and should not worry us, focusing less on money or status on earth and more on building goodwill and blessings for heaven.

Response: Jesus really is going after people, a very "you know you've stood for something when people oppose you" kind of moment. Would that I could be so bold.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Luke 11

Summary: In Jesus's continued ministry, He pushes hard at conventions of the world, preferring talks about prayer and heavenly gifts to arguments about demons and dinner with the highest religious figures of His day.

Response: It's like He had to argue just to get people to stop thinking of themselves and their stuff and turn to heaven, even for a minute. And I know I'm guilty of the same. Lord, even in this busy day, fix my eyes on You.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Luke 7

Summary: Jesus works his way to a new town. He meets more underdogs that need help and praises their faith above their station.

Response: Lord, help me to push past my own biases, especially tomorrow! You loved all around You, and You call me to do the same.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Luke 3

Summary: Luke establishes historical, political, and spiritual context for Jesus, including a list of Roman rulers, the ministry of John the Baptist before Him, and his genealogy with such names as David, Jacob, Noah, and Adam.

Response: I believe Luke does this to catch everybody up. Romans will figure out when in the political scale He was there. New Christians can figure out His message, even if right now it's "don't be greedy." Lifetime Jews will trace his lineage, knowing full well the back half (at least) of that line. So Lord, help me to reiterate in my head: You are true.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Luke 2

Summary: Jesus is born, and people of all shapes and sizes come up to his earthly parents to give glimpses of who He is to become.

Response: My family reads the first half of these each Christmas, but I don't always hear about the other messengers, especially the widow. And yet these messages were free and far between; had Mary not made careful note of them, they might have been lost. Lord, help me to notice Your hands more and more.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Luke 1

Summary: Luke dives right in: he exclaims that this is all true, from Zechariah and Elizabeth's miraculous birth of John to visits by an angel of the Lord to both Zechariah and Mary, Elizabeth's cousin, about two miraculous births.

Response: This is a classic my-family way to start a story: completely unrelated and extremely long-winded. But the Greek is very insistent, first with "it happened that" (no really, this happened!) and the Greek "Kai" (then this happened), to keep the story going and going. God didn't pop in one day and die on the cross the next weekend. Like any life, Jesus' life is its own story mixed in with that of all around Him.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

John 1

Summary: John sets up his story in brush strokes: the grandeur of Jesus' origin, the mystery of John the Baptist's prophecy, and finally Jesus' grand entrance, calling people to Him with an invitation so infectious that they have to tell those around them about Him.

Response: "Come and see." Lord, open my eyes afresh; help me to get excited about Your story, the excitement and majesty but also the truly human reactions You had and caused.