Last night I was happily surprised to hear lots of croaking frogs down by the creek. I also have been delighted, once again, at the number of singing and squawking birds that are flittering through the trees in our yard. I guess it is true that Spring has begun! The frogs brought to mind a lovely Haiku poem that I have had running through my head ever since.

It is an excellent Bible study technique to take special note of the first occurrence of a given word in Scripture. Often many clues to the hidden wisdom of certain concepts can be ferreted out by exploring their first use very carefully. I was reminded of this as I read Luke Chapter One today. Let’s take “Jesus 101” Class together, shall we? You know the textbook – and the tuition is free!

I trust you are continuing with a commitment to daily reading of the Bible in this new year? For a variety of reasons, you may have decided to try a different reading plan this year. That is fine as long as you are still reading – that is the overall goal of this devotional I write. Namely, to encourage all participants (including myself) to see the daily reading of God’s Word as an integral part of our lives. If we persist, it becomes something that we cannot live without – because it just gets our heads in the right place to face the great variety of experiences each day offers.

Violence is a hot topic in our world. From bullying, to domestic violence, to police brutality, all the way up to terrorism and war; violence fills our homes, our schools, our cities, our nations and our daily news. It is impossible to get away from it. Speaking for myself, however, I sometimes get taken by surprise – as though violence is a new thing in human societies. Today’s readings in Mark 15, reminded me that violence is as old as the hills. It started with Cain (and his murderous seed) and will continue until the Prince of Peace comes to set things right.

For some reason, when I read John 7 today, I thought of all the comments you see at the end of news articles and controversial discussions online. It is especially apropos when considering political and public figures. Read it for yourself and you will see what I mean. Similar to the public forum of the internet, there are a great many people “having their say” about this guy, Jesus from Galilee, aren’t there? It’s worth considering which opinion category we might fall into. What comments might you make at the end of a news article about Jesus from Galilee?

When was the last time you remember looking intently at something? A person? A bug? A flower? A sunset? I recently discovered some skeletons of last year’s tomatillos in my garden, and delighted in examining them carefully. (Since, sadly, I didn’t eat many of them last summer, at least their growth has served an unexpected purpose) These tiny plant skeletons are fascinatingly beautiful. Marvelous, really. I have enjoyed looking intently at them over and over again.

The impact of Jesus’ death is impossible to over emphasize. He touched lives in real time – like the Centurion at the foot of the cross and the women who went to anoint his body. But he also touched lives hurtling through time and space right into your very own living room. It’s a remarkable thing. And embedded in this story of some of the details of those eventful days surrounding his crucifixion, we find a plethora of astonishing lessons. Today I’d like to look at the implications of just one of them. Let’s talk about rolling stones, shall we?

Our God is not a legalistic God. If the obvious condemnation of legalism (like Jesus’ scourging renunciation of the Pharisee mindset) isn’t enough, we can find plenty of more subtle reminders that God’s grace has far-reaching effects. The message of His mercy shines forth in so many layers that, as we read the Bible, we sometimes have to step back from details and notice big picture symbolism to discover lessons.

Did you ever notice that there is one great Bible exception to the second of the 10 Commandments? You recall that it is the one that forbids the “making for yourself any graven image or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them…” The great exception is found both in our readings today in 2 Chronicles, and frequently in the Book of Ezekiel (also currently in our readings). “What is it?”, you ask? Da da Daaa…The adornment of the tabernacle – and specifically for our consideration today – The Cherubim!

As I was contemplating the days after the resurrection outlined in Luke 24, the caring behavior of Jesus struck me. Here he was, resurrected and all-powerful, immortal and finished with the great sin-battle, and yet what is he doing? He is more super than all superheroes and yet he is condescending to mortal, fallible people to offer them encouragement and wisdom. I find it so very lovely. So very humbling.