January 6, 2016

Genesis 15-17
After all these things, this word of God came to Abram in a vision, “Don’t be afraid Abram.  I’m your shield.  Your reward will be grand.”  Abram said, “God, Master, what use are your gifts as long as I’m childless and Eliezer of Damascus is going to inherit everything...Then God’s message came:  “Don’t worry, he won’t be your heir; a son from your body will be your heir...And Abram believed!  Blessed God!  God declared him “Set-Right-with-God.”

Sarai had an Egyptian maid named Hagar.  Sarai said to Abram, “God has not seen fit to let me have a child.  Sleep with my maid.  Maybe I can get a family from her.”  Abram agreed to do what Sarai said...Abram had been living ten years in Canaan when this took place....When Hagar learned she was pregnant, she looked down on her mistress.  Sarai told Abram, “It’s all your fault that I am suffering this abuse.  I put my maid in bed with you and the minute she knows she’s pregnant, she treats me like I am nothing...
”You decide,” said Abram.  “Your maid is your business.”  

Sarai was abusive to Hagar and Hagar ran away.  An angel of God found Hagar beside a spring in the desert...the angel of God said, “Go back to your mistress.  Put up with her abuse.”  He continued, “ I’m going to give you a big family, children past counting.” ...She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, “You’re the God who sees me!  Yes!  He saw me and then I saw him...Hagar gave Abram a son.  Abram named him Ishmael.  Abram was 86 when Hagar gave him a son.  

When Abram was 99 years old, God showed up....Abram fell flat on his face.  Then God said to him, “This is my covenant with you:  You’ll be the father of many nations.  Your name will mo longer be Abram, but Abraham, meaning that “I’m making you the father of many nations.‘...and I am giving you and your descendants this land where you’re now camping, this whole country of Canaan, to own forever.  And I’ll be their God.”...

This is the covenant that you are to honor, the covenant that pulls in all your descendants:  Circumcise every male.  Circumcise by cutting off the foreskin of the penis;  it will be the sign of the covenant between us...that way my covenant will be cut into your body, a permanent mark of my permanent covenant....

”And Sarai, your wife:  Don’t call her Sarai any longer; call her Sarah.  I ‘ll bless her---yes!”  Abraham fell flat on his face.  And then he laughed, thinking, “Can a 100 year old man father a son?  And can Sarah, at 90 years , have a baby?.. . But God said, “Your wife Sarah, will have a baby, a son.  Name his Isaac (Laughter)...And Ismael?  Yes, I heard your prayer for him, I’ll also bless him...but I’ll establish my covenant with Isaac whom Sarah will give you about this time next year.”...Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised.  His son Ishmael was 13 years old when he was circumcised...      

John 5
Soon another Feast came around and Jesus went back to Jerusalem.  Near the Sheep Gate there was a pool called Bethesda...One man had been an invalid there for 38 years.  When Jesus saw him there by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?”  After the man explained why he was still there, Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.”  The man was healed on the spot...

That day happened to be the Sabbath.  The Jews stopped the healed man and said, “It’s the Sabbath.  You can’t carry your bedroll around.  It’s against the rules.” ...
They asked, “who gave you the order/”  But the healed man didn’t know, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd.  A little later, Jesus found him in the Temple and said, “You look wonderful!...Don’t return to a sinning life or something worse will happen.”  The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.  That is why the Jews were out to get Jesus ---because he did this kind of thing on the Sabbath.

 But Jesus defended himself.  “My father is working through, even on the Sabbath.  So am I.”  That really set them off.  The Jews were now not only out to expose him;  they were out to kill him.  Not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was calling God his own Father, putting himself on a level with God.

So Jesus explained himself at length...”What the Father does, the Son does...But you haven’t seen the half of it yet, for in the same way that the Father raises the dead and creates life, so does the Son.  The Son gives live to anyone he choses.  Neither he nor the Father shuts out anyone...It’s urgent that you listen carefully to this; anyone here who believes what I am saying right now and aligns himself with the Father, who has in fact put me in charge, has a this very moment the real, lasting life and is no longer condemned to be an outsider...

It’s urgent that you get this right:  The time has arrived---I mean right now! ---when dead men and women will hear the voice of the Son of God and hearing will come alive...and the Father has given authority, simply because he is the Son of Man to decide and carry out matters of Judgment...Those who have lived the right way will walk out into a resurrection Life...

I can’t do a solitary thing on my own. I listen, then I decide.  You can trust my decision because I’m not out to get my own way but only to carry out orders....But my purpose is not to get your vote, and not appeal to mere human testimony.  I’m speaking to you this way so that you will be saved...

But the witness that really confirms me far exceeds John’s witness.  It’s the work the Father gave me to complete.  These very tasks, as I go about completing them, confirm who sent me, confirmed me...

You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there.  But you miss the forest from the trees.  These Scriptures are all about me!  And here I am, standing right before you and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.  I am not interested in crowd approval...Because I know you and your crowds.  

I know that love, especially God’s love, is not on your working agenda.  I came with the authority of my Father, and you either dismiss me or avoid me...How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God?...

Moses, in whom you put so much stock, is your accuser.  If you believed, really believed, what Moses said, you would believe me.  He wrote of me.  If you won’t take seriously what he wrote, how can I expect you to take seriously what I speak?”