Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

“I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (Luke 12:1–12)

Paradox is a word we use to describe apparent contradictions. We face one in this passage. First Jesus tells his followers that they should “fear” God. But then he tells them, “don’t be afraid.” In Greek, the words translated “fear” and “afraid” are identical.

So, Jesus told us not to fear those who can merely kill us. Instead, we should fear God, who can throw us into Hell. But at the same time, we don’t need to fear because God cares so much about us.

So what was Jesus really saying? That it is silly to worry when we have God with us, the God that is powerful enough to destroy us, but has chosen not to. Such a God won’t let mere mortals thwart us. He’ll see us through whatever happens, even death—because he’s on the other side of death. It’s those who are against God—those who want to harm us—that really have something to be afraid of.

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Help for the Helpless

A herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.

When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed. Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned.

Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:32–39)

The demons asked Jesus if they could go into the pigs. He gave them permission. The pigs drowned. The people of the region asked Jesus if he would please leave them, and so Jesus left them. But the man who was freed from the demons, who wanted to go with Jesus and leave with him? Jesus told him no.

Jesus did what the demons wanted. Jesus did what the people in the region of the Gadarenes wanted. But he didn’t do what the man that he’d healed from the demons wanted.

The demons did not get what they wanted, however. Their pigs drowned. And the people of the region of the Gadarenes didn’t really get what they wanted, either. Because the healed man stayed and he told them all about what Jesus had done for him. He became a missionary for Jesus; he brought the news of God’s kingdom to them.

And so, in the end, the formerly demon possessed man was the only one who got what he wanted: a new life filled with Jesus. He may not have traveled with Jesus, but Jesus traveled with him.

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One Year in Space

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Living on Triton?

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Opportunity on Mars

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As the crowd swelled, he took a fresh tack: “The mood of this age is all wrong. Everybody’s looking for proof, but you’re looking for the wrong kind. All you’re looking for is something to titillate your curiosity, satisfy your lust for miracles. But the only proof you’re going to get is the Jonah-proof given to the Ninevites, which looks like no proof at all. What Jonah was to Nineveh, the Son of Man is to this age.

“On Judgment Day the Ninevites will stand up and give evidence that will condemn this generation, because when Jonah preached to them they changed their lives. A far greater preacher than Jonah is here, and you squabble about ‘proofs.’ On Judgment Day the Queen of Sheba will come forward and bring evidence that condemns this generation, because she traveled from a far corner of the earth to listen to wise Solomon. Wisdom far greater than Solomon’s is right in front of you, and you quibble over ‘evidence.’

“No one lights a lamp, then hides it in a drawer. It’s put on a lamp stand so those entering the room have light to see where they’re going. Your eye is a lamp, lighting up your whole body. If you live wide-eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. Keep your eyes open, your lamp burning, so you don’t get musty and murky. Keep your life as well-lighted as your best-lighted room.” (Luke 11:29–36 MSG)

Jesus downplayed the power of miracles to prove anything. Jesus had just cast a demon from a man who was unable to speak, but rather than believing, the Pharisees explained the miracle away as the work of the devil. Then they demanded Jesus give them another miracle to prove that they were wrong.

Instead of offering them another miracle, Jesus offered them judgment. He unfavorably compared them with people of the past: those who had repented of their wickedness and those who had traveled long distances to hear wisdom. Those people had seen no miracles at all: they had merely heard the words of a prophet and a king.

God’s actions in the world can always be explained away. People can always rationalize whatever they see, they can always find an alternative explanation. God does not demand compliance, he merely requests it.

When we share the words of God, when we tell people how God has worked in our lives, that is really enough. We don’t need grand eloquence or wonders to convince them. People will believe us if they choose to obey God’s request.

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Arrival of the Kingdom

Jesus forced a demon out of a man who could not talk. And after the demon had gone out, the man started speaking, and the crowds were amazed. But some people said, “He forces out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons!”

Others wanted to put Jesus to the test. So they asked him to show them a sign from God. Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said:

A kingdom where people fight each other will end up in ruin. And a family that fights will break up. If Satan fights against himself, how can his kingdom last? Yet you say that I force out demons by the power of Beelzebul. If I use his power to force out demons, whose power do your own followers use to force them out? They are the ones who will judge you. But if I use God’s power to force out demons, it proves that God’s kingdom has already come to you. (Luke 11:14–20)

Jesus told those who criticized him that God’s kingdom had already come to them. The proof of the arrival of God’s kingdom was the fact that he was driving out demons. Satan’s authority as ruler of the world was over and God was in charge now. Satan was proven to be a defeated foe, since only God would be capable of getting rid of demons.

The world is still full of trouble and heartache, and we eagerly await the coming of Jesus back to earth again, just as he promised.. But it is also true that even now God is ruling and reigns. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, he has overcome the evil one. Ever since, God has connected himself permanently and intimately with all those who call on the name of Jesus.

The ambassador of a foreign nation lives in a building called an embassy. And even though the embassy is physically within the borders of another nation, that embassy is the sovereign territory of the ambassador’s nation. No one may enter it without permission of the ambassador. An attack on the embassy would be the same as an attack upon the foreign nation that the embassy represents. The nation represented by the embassy reaches out across the miles and lives fully within the confines of the embassy grounds. Likewise, the future kingdom of God reaches back from the future and lives within each of us. The kingdom of God is here, now, with each one of us.

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Just Being Neighborly

An expert in the law stood up to test Him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the law?” He asked him. “How do you read it?”

He answered:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

“You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.”

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus took up the question and said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’

“Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

“The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.

Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:25–37)

Jesus made religious people uncomfortable. A Bible scholar asked Jesus how to gain eternal life. Jesus told him the two commandments: “love God” and “love your neighbor.” But there were a lot of people the scholar didn’t love and a lot of people the man believed didn’t deserve to be loved. He wanted a definition for neighbor that would let him keep his hate. Jesus told him a story that let him know that wasn’t possible.

Today, Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan doesn’t make us as uncomfortable as it did that ancient Bible scholar. After all, what’s a Samaritan? Samaritans were the result of marriages between Jews and the pagan idolaters who had moved into Palestine during the period of the Babylonian captivity. They were excluded from the Jewish temple and were despised as irredeemable sinners.
If Jesus were asked the same question today, perhaps his response might be to tell the story of how a preacher and a deacon ignored the victim in the gutter, in contrast to the homosexual who helped him.

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Receiving Jesus

But while everyone was marveling at all that he was doing, He said to His disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement.

An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”

John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:43–50)

John tried to keep someone who was not a disciple of Jesus from casting out demons in Jesus name. Jesus told John that such a person shouldn’t be hindered, since “he who is not against you is for you.” And yet elsewhere, Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23). How do we reconcile the two concepts?

When Jesus commented that “whoever is not with me is against me,” he was speaking about the Pharisees and their refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah. In his rebuke to John, Jesus was pointing out that God works through whom he will, not just through those who happen to belong to the “in” group. A person cannot speak positively of Jesus and be against him at the same time. Just because he wasn’t following Jesus and the disciples around Palestine didn’t mean he wasn’t a believer. Besides, getting rid of demons is always a good thing. Who in their right mind would argue against that or want to stop it? John’s behavior in trying to stop the man simply didn’t make sense.

The practice of excluding others who minister in the name of Jesus because they are not “one of us” is wrong. Jesus is warning us against excluding those who name the name of Jesus but don’t happen to belong to our particular group.

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2015 Skywatching Events

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