I once had a person who was a pedophile tell me that part of the explanation for this problem was a terrible childhood. While I truly sympathize with having been mistreated as a child (and there is nothing more horrendous!), it still does not make allowance for continued sin. I’m sorry, but a bad upbringing is no excuse. It seems that some people in the Israel of Ezekiel’s day were getting into the habit of also believing that people are incapable of breaking out of cycles of inherited sin. Or perhaps they were blaming their own sin and suffering on their forefathers’ behavior. This is a common worldview embraced in our time as well. Today we often call it a “Victim Mentality.”

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.

We are going to discuss a sensitive subject today. I think it is a topic that is not openly discussed, and is largely misunderstood – especially in the Christian world. I have had several people at the Bible Education Center ask me (in hushed, apologetic, and deeply shamed tones) if their loved ones who committed suicide are banished forever to a place of torment. My friends carried a heart-rending grief because religious authorities had told them this was the case. If you do not already know the answer to this question, perhaps you will find more peace as we discuss Ahithophel, Judas, and Bible thoughts on suicide.

“Regarding the resurrection”…those are Jesus’ words from Matthew 22 verse 31. He taught about resurrection. He taught clearly and succinctly about the pivotal importance of the resurrection of the dead to the faith of those who would be his disciples. Let’s use today’s readings to remind ourselves of this critical teaching which has its roots in the very essence of the Old Testament.

I was really puzzling over one of the verses in Jude this morning so I decided, as a rare deviation, to look at what some Bible scholars had to say. This was a truly enlightening experience – but not in the way you might expect. The light came in the form of a reminder that “supposed” scholars are often full of bluster and nonsense when it comes to interpreting the Bible. Sadly, they have a great deal of clout anyway, because they sound authoritative and seem like they know more than other people. I mean they’re scholars, right? Wrong.

The chorus of one of my favorite children’s Bible songs we used to sing around the campfire in the summer is based on Jesus’ parable of the Man who held a Great Feast in Luke 14:16-24. It came to mind as I was thinking about the words of Hebrews 10:22-25. It carries some of the profound messages of this passage boiled down to simple truths sung by children. Music is good that way. So today, let’s explore these verses a little further, shall we?

The Book of Ecclesiastes reads like a medical journal entry listing the modern day afflictions of the American populace. Boredom, insomnia, anxiety, depression, angst, fear, anger and despair are all outlined. It describes the emptiness of even phenomenal success and wealth. It is the testimony of a thinking person who is self-analytical in looking back at their life accomplishments and deciding they were all pretty much futile. It uses a common Bible teaching technique of encouraging us to learn from the mistakes of others.

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?

Sometimes, ”Just sit down and shut up” really is the best advice to someone who will receive it in the right spirit. That is part of the message I am receiving as I read through the marvelous book of Proverbs. Have you, too, noticed how many of the Proverbs have to do with speaking; what we say, how we say it, and even whether we should say it at all? There is a reason for this. This is a book of wisdom. Our human nature makes us far too ready to “shoot off our mouths,” as they say. (No pun intended, well maybe it was… ) And God’s word goes to great lengths to admonish us about this inborn tendency to evil.

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.