From childhood, my family taught me that responsible choices shape a life for good. Experience taught me the challenges that result from combining the ideas of responsibility and choice. Within the Gospel of Luke, today's parable follows the story of a prodigal son who threw away his family inheritance – both money and standards – but found new life in his father's forgiveness.
Luke, the lone Gentile gospel writer, displays a heightened sense of excitement as Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (v. 51). The very concept of God sending his Son into this world to die for us was totally foreign to the world of that day. The simple words of Jesus foreshadow a goal the world still has trouble understanding.
Many of the choices we all face involve choosing between right and wrong, but the toughest decisions may be between good and good. In today's study passages, Jesus says “no” because of God's ultimate priority.
The problem with Christmas is we know the story too well. We have seen the lavish details year after year in movies, on concert stages and in magnificent works of art. But once in a while we catch the real magic of that moment in Bethlehem when eternity and this physical world witnessed the incomparable act of God.
Ezekiel and John the Baptizer are two of the most colorful characters in the Bible. Ezekiel was a dramatic visionary who never minced his words about God's judgment and Israel's sins, experienced bizarre visions and declared God's unbroken love for his people. John the Baptizer was also a mysterious and colorful person who appeared out of the Dead Sea wilderness, condemning the Jews' devotion to rules and rituals in the place of submission to the God who loved them, and powerfully calling them to the Messiah who could bring them back to God.
As I write this lesson, it is the first week of November, yet the retailers already have their Christmas decorations up, television shows are offering Christmas cooking segments, and schools are practicing for holiday concerts. I still have leaves to rake, a family event to plan, and the distractions of unsettling news stories.
The situations of our world can distract us from what is of greatest importance. When least expected, we may encounter heartache or situations that disrupt life and challenge the normal.
When people are desperate for hope they often gravitate to any person who seems to promise what they want. Our study compares and contrasts two biblical texts about the same redemption of God event, but positioned in a different context.
Today is THE day! Hallelujah! From your facial expression, although you are at church, you look stressed, exhausted and not in a “hallelujah” mood. You have gotten beyond the Thanksgiving family gathering, the Macy's parade, decorating the house, buying the gifts, keeping a schedule of all the school-church-community events, volunteering at the holiday pantry, getting out the Christmas cards and cooking! That sleepy little town of Bethlehem sounds alluring. Merry Christmas! Celebrate!
Jericho, Province of Palestine – Our community was rocked today by the news that one of our leading citizens has publicly announced his religious transformation after an encounter with the unorthodox Galilean rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth.