Tag Archives: Abraham

Abraham, Martin, and John

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
You know, I just looked around and he’s gone.

 

Anybody here seen my old friend John? 
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
I just looked around and he’s gone.

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
I just looked ’round and he’s gone.

Didn’t you love the things that they stood for?
Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?
And we’ll be free
Some day soon, and it’s a-gonna be one day …

Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill,
With Abraham, Martin and John.

“Abraham, Martin, and John” by Dick Holler  and famously sung by Dion in 1968.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. In honor of Martin Luther King Day, he thought he’d share the lyrics to this song with you. Thanks to John Fischer for the idea. You can read his insightful blog here.

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This Day in History: God Breaks a Heart of Stone

By Eugene C. Scott

What if the place Jesus spent his last days could tell its story? The story of how God broke a heart of stone.

Granite to the core–a heart of stone, they said. And they were right. That the death and destruction, tragedy and violence I’ve witnessed in my 6,000 plus years on this earth would have crushed anything less than stone is true.  But even a heart of stone, they claimed, should have turned to dust, and like grains of sand been scattered in the desert wind.

In my long life I was smashed and left desolate by Canaan, Egypt, Philistia, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome. Only to rise up again. Why? How?

I can’t say. Knowing such things does not always come with age. I can say this. At one time I was the proudest of my kind. I weathered siege after siege because I was proud and strong. They all desired me. My temple was unrivaled. They say gods walked my streets. Though–again–I can’t say. I did not pay much attention to such things, until . . . .

. . . . until the week of the Jewish Passover in the days when Rome thought she owned me. A desert flea of a Jew, lauded as a king by a few hundred peasants, rode a scrawny colt through my east gate. I paid little mind. My walls were full of Jewish pilgrims, crawling through my alleys like ants. I blinked and forgot him. Then on Yom Reeve, the fourth day of the week, counted in the Jewish fashion–sundown to sundown–and the day before the Passover, this Jew tickled my ribs and woke me from my slumber.

“Do you see all these things?” this man with only one ratty robe asked, pointing to the temple shining like a moon on my highest hill. Those with him nodded recognizing my magnificence.

“I tell you the truth,” he said, “not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be torn down.”

I laughed. The Babylonians had torn down my temple, but it rose from the dust; Alexander the Great had considered turning the temple to ruble but wisely reconsidered; Antiochus Epiphanies had desecrated her; he later paid dearly. And today she towered still. Each time my temple was sacked she rose again more magnificent than before. Not one stone left on another! Who did this man think he was? God?

I was not sure why what this man said mattered at all. Why I cared. I was one of the greatest cities of stone ever raised up on a desert hill. He was dust.

It may be because seventy years later his prediction came true. Rome tore me stone from stone and my temple still lies in its grave.

It may also be because of what he said to me, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

This man saw me for what I was, a stone facade. My name “The City of Peace” has never been true. And it never will be, until he returns to walk my streets again. A city cannot bring peace, not the kind her people need. But can a city have a heart, stone or otherwise, you may ask? I can only speak for myself. Two days after he predicted my ruin–on a hill that looked like a skull–the last Jewish prophet to enter my gates wet my dirt with his innocent blood. I watched him breathe his last. I shuddered and that night my heart of stone broke.

Today, 2,000 years later I long to feel his sandals on my stone. I will say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

If Jesus saw the art in me, a hard, proud city of stone, think of what he can see in you.

Read Matthew 23:37-24:1-51, Matthew 26:3-5, Mark 13:1-37, Mark 14:1-2, Luke 22:1-2.

*********

Also, go to tnc3.org for info on how The Neighborhood Church is remembering this week in history.

Two thousand years ago this week one man turned history upside down. I would give anything to have been there, seen him, heard his voice. Instead we can only use our imaginations to re-enter ancient history. Each day this week, called Holy Week, we are going look at this day in ancient history through the eyes of a fictional character who witnessed part of that day as Jesus lived it. Join us as we believe a better story: the greatest, truest story ever told.

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The Surprising Picture Of True Faith

Most of my family and friends don’t realize that I went to college on an athletic scholarship: my college paid me not to play athletics.

Much to my dismay, I’m not a very good basketball player. The position I play best on a basketball team is “bricklayer.” If I could rebound better, I would call myself a defensive specialist. Nevertheless, I do relish the fact that I participated in the biggest blow-out in college intramural basketball history.

In college, our intramural basketball league had five different classifications: A (where the true athletes played), A-, B+, B, and C (which was more like tackle basketball). I was a C league star.

My floor had a B+ team and a C team. Unfortunately, no one from our B+ team could make a particular game, so our C league team stepped in. Little did I know that I was about to play a part of basketball history. “This can’t be so bad,” we convinced ourselves.

When we showed up on the court for warm-ups, we noticed the guys on the other team were huge. Then we discovered that the opposing team consisted of former NCAA Division 1 basketball players. They had registered too late to get into A or A- league, so they were placed in the B+ league.

Before the tip-off, one of the players from the other team approached us and asked, “Are you sure you guys want to play this game?” Obviously he had watched us warming up and was overwhelmed with compassion.

“Of course we want to play,” we replied, offended by his offer.

Well, the opening tip resulted in a dunk for the other team…and it went downhill from there.

Let me also mention that we were short one player, so we convinced a guy to join us who had never played basketball before. In fact, every time we passed him the ball, he started he running with it. So really, it was a game for four against five.

A perfect storm was brewing.

By halftime, we were down 70-7. Again, the compassionate giant offered to stop the hemorrhaging. “Do you want to call it a game?” he asked.

“Look, if anyone quits, it’s going to be your team.” You know, college men can be extremely arrogant.

During the second half, a crowd started to form. People knew they were witnessing history. The other team felt so bad for us, one of their star players came over to our side to coach us.

My personal goal was to lose by less than 100 points—and we achieved it.

We lost 115-20. In the second half we almost doubled our point total and reduced their point total in half. So if we had continued playing another decade or so, we might have caught up with them!

Yet that game embodies the meaning of true faith.

Please join us as we explore this further in our daily Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Ezekiel 27:1-30:26;
Hebrews 11:17-12:13;
Psalm 111:1-112:10;
Proverbs 27:15-17

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Hebrews 11 extols the great men and women of faith: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, even Rahab the recovering prostitute. According to the chapter, the great heroes of faith conquer kingdoms, rout armies, and receive back their dead.

Sounds like the team that spanked my remedial basketball team. In fact, this describes how most people view the life of faith. It’s something nearly unattainable, something limited to only a few great men and women.

The end of the chapter gives us a completely different picture of the life of faith: torture, jeers, floggings, imprisonment, being sawed in two, destitution, persecution, mistreatment. These people wander in deserts and mountains, and live in caves and holes in the ground. “The world was not worthy of them,” the writer reflects on the men and women who drank from the common cup of suffering (Hebrews 11:38).

Wait a minute! This doesn’t fit into our definition of faith. In fact, it more closely resembles my C league basketball team.

Then the writer concludes with a profound comment that brings perspective to my chaotic, self-absorbed life: “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (Hebrews 11:39).

What is the truest picture of faith? It isn’t the fulfillment of the promise before we die, it’s dying with the promise unfulfilled. It’s holding on to the promise in the face of overwhelming circumstances that whisper, “Do you want to call it a game?”

Some people would see this as discouraging, but I find this tremendously encouraging. Just because God doesn’t answer all my prayers doesn’t mean I’m a failure at living by faith. Perhaps holding on to Jesus in the middle of a past church firestorm—which I partially brought upon myself—was a greater exercise of faith than when I prayed for a person who was healed.

When Paul explains the armor of God in Ephesians 6, he describes the battle this way:

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13

What’s the picture of the valiant warrior in this passage? Standing. Just … standing. Not overcoming. Not stomping on the Enemy’s head. Just surviving.

If you’ve been beat up in a tough battle, this should come as a relief. You don’t always have to emerge from a struggle with the victory in hand. Sometimes, oftentimes, all you can do is survive. That’s good news.

That’s something anyone can do…if you have faith.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How does your definition of faith compare with the end of Hebrews 11?
  3. Do you find encouragement in the definition of faith according to Hebrews 11? Why?
  4. Think back through your life. When were you living by faith–without realizing it?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Another of the World’s Most Trite and Tired Phrases

It’s an overused phrase. So much so, it’s become almost a meaningless expression. People use some form of it everywhere from describing a positive time in life, or asking for something from God, to an exclamation after someone sneezes.

As a pastor, I find myself using it and then kicking myself mentally for uttering such a trite and tired phrase. It’s the religious equivalent of “Don’t worry, be happy.” What is it?

God bless you. But what does that mean? To be blessed by God or for us to bless others?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Isaiah: 22:1-24:23

Galatians 2:17-3:9

Psalm 60:1-12

Proverbs 23:15-16

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Isaiah: 22:1-24:23: Through Isaiah, God lets it be known that he is a two fisted God. In one God holds blessing (see below). This hand God opens readily for those drawing near to God in faith, love and obedience. The other fist God holds tight but warns that it holds a curse: the curse of what comes from not being in relationship with God but in opposition to him.

Somehow this is the hand God needs to describe most often for us. Thus we see God as wrathful but not ourselves as receiving the consequences of our disobedient actions.

Psalm 60:1-12: The above is repeated in this Psalm. God’s rejection or acceptance lies, in part, within our own choices. The psalmist readily admits and accepts God’s rejection and then pleads for restoration and salvation. “With God we will gain victory,” the psalmist reminds us. The unsaid? Lining up against God is sure defeat.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Late one night, I took a wrong turn and got lost just east of the Mississippi River near down town St Louis. Suddenly I found myself in the wrong place, in a dangerous part of town. Every store front was locked down with heavy bars and huge locks over the doors and windows. With each new turn, I turned back on myself like a rat in a maze. Making it worse, I could see where I should be, my hotel well lit and inviting, rising into the night over on the west side of the Mississippi.

On my fourth trip down one dark street two guys attempted to block my way. I swerved around them and gunned my car toward the river. I had to get out of there or die trying. Then I saw a bridge spanning the river. It seemed to lead right to my hotel. The only problem was that the bridge was closed for construction. Terrified, I edged my car around the barricades and, white knuckled, picked my way through the construction rubble, imagining myself driving off the end and falling into the Mississippi. I was not happy.

The word “bless” is used nearly 400 times in the Bible. It is a key concept. God says to Abram, “I will bless you . . . and you will be a blessing . . . and all the peoples on earth will be blessed by you.” Psalm 1 begins “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” Jesus tells us “Blessed are they who mourn . . . .” And in today’s reading, Paul repeats the Abrahamic promise from Genesis 12. But what does it mean to be blessed?

Most people understand the word to refer to some kind of happiness or well being. Don’t worry, be happy. Robert Schuller even wrote a book called “The Be (Happy) Attitudes” based on Jesus’ contradictory sermon. That simple definition doesn’t work, however. Did God promise Abram and all peoples of the earth happiness? If so, God has not kept his promise. Did Jesus tell sad people, like the famous song, to just be happy? Hardly.

No, being blessed is more than happiness, more than an attitude, and–certainly–more than a trite, tried phrase used to express a desire or extinguish an explosive sneeze.

Most often blessing in the Bible carries the meaning of contentment even in difficult situations because you know you are in a right place with God. Being blessed does not only connote receiving something from God but rather walking through life with faith in God. “So those of you who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith,” Paul reminds the Galatians. Jesus wants us to have faith that whether we are hungry, mourning, poor, or persecuted we can still know God is with us and cares for us.

What could be more of a blessing to yourself and others than having unflappable faith in tough times? God blessed the peoples of the earth with Abraham’s faith.  God can do the same with you and me.

Somehow the bridge did not collapse nor did I drive into the river. That dilapidated bridge lead over the dark waters of the Mississippi and right back to my hotel. As I pulled in the parking garage, strangely I felt not happiness but relief, peace–almost contentment. It wasn’t just that I was now safe. Finally I was in the right place. I was where I was supposed to be. It dawned on me, I could have had that peace in Christ, even on the other side of the river.              

  1. What do these for passages share in common?
  2. When have you felt in the right time and place with God?
  3. What passage spoke most to you?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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Are You in God’s Family Tree?

The internet makes researching family trees relatively easy. So many people are interested in their family stories Ancestry.com predicts it will earn $280 million in 2010. Ancestry.com is capitalizing on more than a fad, however. The industrial revolution and modern transportation enabled people to move away from their places of birth. Rootlessness is epidemic. Sadly even with speed-of-sound transportation and speed-of-light communication we’re losing connectedness with family and family histories.

Before I was born, my parents moved 200 miles north from Trinidad, CO to Denver, looking for work. We quit driving back down for visits in the late 60s. Over the years, as my grandparents and parents passed away, I lost touch with my family, my history. I now know very little about my grandparents and nothing before them.

Yet I know I am who I am in part because of who they were. Trouble is I don’t know who they were. When my mother passed away in 2003, I imagined myself as a small boat drifting out to sea, having been cut loose from the dock. I know I have a history, but don’t know what it is, and worse, don’t know how to carry it into the future.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

1 Kings 5:1-6:38

Acts 7:1-29

Psalm 127:1-5

Proverbs 16:28-30

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Kings 5:1-6:38: Solomon’s Temple was a wonder. Its splendor spoke to how powerful Israel under David had become. The Temple and its courts covered as much ground as a modern shopping mall. Yet this is the top of the slide. The nation is so safe and comfortable that even their wise king begins to forget who got them there: God. Pride comes before a fall.

Psalm 127:1-5: Aristotle posited the concept of “the unmoved mover.” This is the power that first caused the universe and set it in motion. Later Paul Tillich called this our “ground of being.” The psalmist simply says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” Sometimes a metaphor spun by the poet tells a truth better than any scientist or philosopher. God is the beginning and end. If we try to move or live without him, we will fail. Maybe not instantly, but eventually.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

The Bible is many things. Some see it as a life instruction manual. There’s even an inane acronym for this: B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth). Others treat the Bible as a theological textbook. But what we don’t recognize is that the Bible is a family history: a narrative of God’s ongoing interaction with his sons and daughters.

In Acts chapter 7 Stephan continues the narrative as a defense against the accusations of the Jewish religious leaders. A strange defense. Why do they stone him in the end?

Because Stephan takes his place in a long line of God’s storytellers who, at critical points in time, add their present story to God’s past interaction. Past storytellers added Isaac to Abraham and Joseph to Jacob and David to Samuel. Stephan adds Jesus to them all.

The religious leaders knew what Stephan was about, validating Jesus by connecting him to a long line of people who carried God’s redemption from the past into the present. Stephen declares Jesus the denouement, the final resolution to a dramatic thousand year-old narrative, the amen.

What does this mean for us today? Though Jesus is the final resolution, the story is not over. God wants to add our stories to his story. Just as God added each new generation to the narrative, when they stepped into the story of his redemption, so too can we.

We have not moved too far from our family home, nor are we boats loosed from the docks and adrift. We have not lost touch with our true family. We are connected through our brother Jesus to our Father, God.

Ancestry.com mirrors how much many of us need to be connected to our past.  But we don’t need Ancestry.com tell us who we are truly connected to. It is written on every page of this book we call the Bible.

  1. Which passage spoke to you and why?
  2. Has God connected you to his story?
  3. If so, when and how?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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The Vice Of Freedom

“It’s a free country!”

If you’re a parent of an adolescent child, you’ve probably heard that excuse plenty of times. In our house, our daughters usually offer it when we tell them to clean their room, practice their cello or voice, or join us on a family outing.

While we do live in a free country, it doesn’t mean that my children are free to live as they please.  What would my daughters be like if my wife and I failed to intervene into their everyday lives?

They might look like a character in today’s reading. He’s the poster child of the vice of freedom.

TODAY’S READING

Genesis 26:17-27:46
Matthew 9:1-17
Psalm 10:16-18
Proverbs 3:9-10

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Genesis 26:17-33. The wells in dispute were dug by Isaac’s father Abraham, which meant they rightfully belonged to him (Genesis 26:18). Commentator’s look at Isaac’s response as an example of his timidity.

Genesis 27. More on this in THE WORD MADE FRESH.

Matthew 9:3. Jesus was accused of blasphemy because the religious leaders taught that only God can forgive sins (technically, this is true). By absolving the paralytic man of his sins, Jesus implied that he was God (which is also true).

Matthew 9:9. Matthew (the writer of the Gospel of Matthew) is telling his own story here.

Matthew 9:10-11. What a great example Jesus gave us. He hung out with tax collectors and “sinners.” The New Bible Commentary explains, “Tax collectors were not only notorious for exploitation but also religiously and politically ostracized as collaborators with the pagan Roman government. For a pious Jew to eat with them was therefore unthinkable.” The irony, of course, is that the Pharisees failed to see that they were sinners, too.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Genesis 27 is a very unsettling chapter, spurring countless questions inside me. Did God approve of—even sanction—Jacob’s actions? Why would God bless Jacob’s deception? What was wrong with Esau? Here’s what the passage speaks to me:

At the end of chapter 26, we read that Esau married two wives, both of whom were Hittites (Genesis 26:34-35). Most striking of all is the comment we read about the two wives: “They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.” How were they a source of grief? We don’t know.

But consider this: Abraham was adamant that Isaac marry a girl from within their extended family, and NOT a Canaanite girl. He even sent a servant to find Isaac a wife. So what did Isaac do to ensure his sons avoid marrying a Canaanite woman? Nothing. As I mentioned in today’s INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS, Isaac was, indeed, a weak, passive man.

The Word Biblical Commentary offers this observation: “Once we realize that neither Esau nor Isaac care about Abraham’s principle of not marrying Canaanites, we cannot entirely condemn the way Jacob and Rebekah achieve their goals. Esau’s indifference to the law’s demands, which Abraham held so dear, suggests that perhaps he does not deserve to inherit Abraham’s blessing.”

Had Esau continued Abraham’s “firstborn” lineage, God’s plans could have been thwarted. Think back: Esau sold his birthright for a pot of stew! That’s why Scripture refers to Esau with such contempt (Malachi 1:2-3, Hebrews 12:16).

Isaac was too lazy, timid, and passive to live proactively. Instead, he approached his daily life with a laissez-faire mentality. Laissez-faire means “Noninterference in the affairs of others.”

How does this speak to me? While I don’t believe God wants me to control my kids, I see the shortcomings of laissez-faire parenting. Just look at Esau’s life. Esau missed out on God’s blessing, in part because Isaac failed to proactively help his children follow God. How often do we hear parents say to their children:

  • “I don’t care what you decide—as long as you’re happy”
  • “I want my children to decide what they believe”
  • “My kids will figure it out on their own”

Our children need proactive parenting.

This also applies to how I live my life. Laissez-faire living lulls me to sleep and allows the surrounding (Hittite?) culture to squeeze me into its mold. A few days ago, we read that Jesus wasn’t afraid of bucking the conventional norms of his day. In the same way, I cannot allow culture or people’s opinions of me to dictate my life.

Godly parenting doesn’t just happen. A godly life doesn’t just happen.

Be like Abraham…not Isaac. It’s a choice of being passive or passive.

CONVENTION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Who do you identify with most in Genesis 27—Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, or Jacob? Why?
  3. In what ways do you approach your life with a laissez-faire mentality? What causes this and what would help you correct it?
  4. Why do you think Jesus hung out with tax collectors and sinners? Who are the tax collectors and sinners Jesus might be calling you to hang out with?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

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The Other Child

Possibly the most loved fairy tale in the western world is the story of Cinderella. You can probably recite it your sleep: an unloved girl experiences abuse from her stepmother and stepsisters. She meets the prince at a ball. Entranced with one another, she suddenly departs her new love as the clock strikes midnight. Undaunted, the prince searches the kingdom, finds her, marries her, and the two ride off into the sunset, happily ever after.

Great story, but it sure casts a negative light on Cinderella’s stepsisters. In fact, stepchildren often serve as the brunt of our jabs and jokes.

In the same way, if you share a common faith in Christ with me, you also share a stepbrother or sister that may wrongfully be on the receiving end of our abuse.

Read on…

TODAY’S READING

Genesis 16:1-18:15
Matthew 6:1-24
Psalm 7:1-17
Proverbs 2:1-5

NOTES

In many ways, Genesis 16:4-6 mimics Adam and Eve’s fall in Genesis 3. Contrary to God’s promise of numerous descendents, Abram and Sarai remained childless. In desperation, they began questioning the promise (see Genesis 3:1). So, at Sarai’s suggestion, they disobeyed God and Abram impregnated her maidservant Hagar. Then, after Hagar became pregnant, Sarai blamed Abraham (see Genesis 3:6,11-13).

God covenanted with Abram for the third and final time in Genesis 17. This is the most specific covenant of the three. While circumcision was common in that time, no evidence exists in the ancient world of humans covenanting with their god.

Genesis 17:17-18:5 is dripping with irony. Throughout the discussion of Isaac’s promised birth, we witness both Abraham and Sarah laughing. It’s no mistake that the name Isaac means “he laughs.”

Matthew 6:9-13. Matthew 5-7 is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. Luke’s gospel includes a parallel account called the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17-49). The latter sermon was given this name because Jesus offered this sermon on the plain, rather than on the side of a mountain. Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer can be found at Luke 11:2-4.

Matthew 6:24. The word for “money” in this passage can also be translated “possessions.”

Proverbs 2:1-5. The theme of Proverbs is “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This passage answers how we can find it.

MY RESPONSE

I’ve read the story of Ishmael and Isaac dozens of times, but never before did I realize that Ishmael was a recipient of Abraham’s blessing. In other words, God promised to bless Ishmael with “descendants…too numerous to count” (Genesis 16:10). God even gave Hagar the name for her son.

Understandably, the apostle Paul draws a clear distinction between the child of Hagar and the child of Sarah in Galatians 4:24-31. But nevertheless, Ishmael is still the child of Abraham and the stepbrother of Isaac.

The descendants of Ishmael eventually became the present-day Arabs.

In certain circles, Christians show favoritism toward Jewish people, but react negatively toward Arabic people. Too often we forget that the Arabs are our stepbrothers and sisters.

I’m convicted of our treatment of them.

Muslims deserve the same level of respect that we give Jewish people. While not part of the Christian faith, Muslims share a common heritage with Jews and us. Granted, Islam began 600 years after Jesus—but they do see themselves as heirs of Abraham.

And so should we.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. How would our Arabic “step-brothers and sisters” react if we responded to them as if they were relatives?
  2. What can we do to repair the broken relationship?
  3. What can you do to repair the broken relationship?
  4. Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:24 are pretty pointed. He said you cannot serve both God and money (or possessions). Do you experience a struggle between the two? What does it look like? What has hurt you? What has helped you?

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