i believe in miracles

do you? why not add your miracles too?


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Zechariah Finds His Voice: Luke 1:56-79 (how I would say it)

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Elizabeth gave birth to a full-term baby boy. All their neighbors and relatives were overjoyed and touched by God’s gift to the couple.

When the baby was eight days old, they went for a circumcising and naming ceremony. The ones conducting the ceremony were just about to name the baby Zechariah, but Elizabeth spoke up and said, “No! His name is supposed to be John.”

The clergy replied, “You don’t have any relatives named John.”

Then, [as if they themselves were mute], they gestured to Zechariah to see what he wanted to name the baby. He indicated he wanted something to write on, and to everyone’s amazement he wrote, “His name is John.”

At that very moment, Zechariah was able to speak and the first words out of his mouth were praises for God. God’s Spirit possessed him and he foretold his son’s future:

“Isn’t God amazing? He’s back in action on behalf of the nation of Israel. And now he’s revealing a foolproof plan, involving one of David descendants, just like the prophets used to say. He’s going to save us from everyone who’s out to get us. He’s keeping his promise, people, the same one he made with Abraham. He’s going to rescue us from our enemies so that we can fearlessly be his people and live out our lives the way God prescribes.

“And you, my child, you’re a part of this. Your job will be to announce God’s plan, paving the way for God’s representative by teaching people that God isn’t going to hold our past wrongs against us. He’s having mercy on us and sending the sun from where he is into our world to shine light on our darkness—even illuminating death—and to guide us on to the path of peace.”

Everyone who witnessed this was dumbfounded, and the news spread through the Judean countryside. People wondered, “What kind of plans does God have for this child?”

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Mary’s Big Moment:Luke 1:46-55 (how I would say it)

Then Mary said: “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to God, and how happy I am that God has chosen me to be his child—even though I’m a nobody. Do you realize I will have a place in history? People will know my name—all because our powerful God has chosen to use me! He has so much compassion on all those—past, present and future—who revere him as their spiritual Father. It’s amazing how he shows his power: He brushes aside people who are full of themselves. He can bring down an emperor in a skinny minute. On the other hand, he raises the rank of people who never considered themselves deserving of honor. He gives the best provisions to the hungry, and sends the rich off to beg. Just look at all he’s done for the nation of Israel, just like he promised Abraham he would.


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Jesus’ Mother Named: Luke 1:26-45 (how I would say it)

fireworks

When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent Gabriel to the town of Nazareth, in Galilee, to see Mary, who was already engaged to Joseph, who, recall, was a descendant of King David. Now Mary was a virgin.

Gabriel found her and said, “Hi there! Well, aren’t you the fortunate one—a real favorite of God.”

This was a highly unusual way to start a conversation with a stranger, and it freaked Mary out. But Gabriel said to her, “It’s OK, Mary, nothing to fear. God is quite pleased with you. So much so that you’re going to be the mother of a son who you’ll name Jesus. He’s going to be amazing and people will call him the Son of God. God himself will set him as king in the Davidic dynasty. He’ll reign over all of your forefather Jacob’s descendants forever—and I mean forever, like never-ending forever.”

“How exactly will this happen,” Mary asked Gabriel, “since I’m a virgin?”

He answered, “Well, God’s Spirit is going to come and sort of hover over you, and use the power of God to cause you to conceive, which is why the child will be called the Son of God. Oh, and, did you know that your relative Elizabeth is going to have a baby too—even at her age? Yep, the very one people called a barren old woman is now six months pregnant! God commanded it, so basically, it’s a done deal.”

“Well, my life is devoted to service to God,” Mary answered, “so I’m totally on board with this.”

Gabriel left, and Mary got ready and hurried out to the town in Judea where Zechariah and Elizabeth lived. As Mary was entering their house, she called out a greeting, and at that moment, little unborn John jumped inside Elizabeth’s belly, and Elizabeth became possessed by God’s Spirit. She shouted out, “You’re the most fortunate woman ever, and your child will be fortunate too. And to what do I owe this great honor of a visit from the mother of our future leader? Do you realize that as soon as I heard your voice, my baby jumped for joy inside me? What an incredible honor, this promise from God, and how wonderful that you’re so accepting of it!”

 


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The Backstory on John, Jesus’ Lead Act: Luke 1:5-25 (how I would say it)

About five years before Jesus Christ was born, there was a priest of the Abijah order named Zechariah. His wife’s name was Elizabeth; they both were descendants of the honorable Aaron  (Moises’brother), and both also sincerely sought to live in a way they believed would please God. The couple didn’t have children—not of their own choice, and now they were too old to have children.

One day at work, it was Zechariah’s division’s turn to burn incense in the innermost room of the Jewish temple. Only one man could go in and it was a big deal to be the one, so they drew straws to see who would go in to burn the incense. Zechariah got the long straw, so he went in while the rest waited outside with all the people who were in attendance that day at the temple. They all silently pleaded with God during this ritual.

As Zechariah was going about the task, an otherworldly being, a messenger from God, appeared and stood at the right side of the place where the incense was. Zechariah startled when he saw him, and starting shaking in his boots. But the being said to him: “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah; we have heard your inner conversations with God and your wife Elizabeth will give birth to a son, and you are to name him John. He’ll be a joy and delight to you, and a lot of people will be excited and happy about his birth. He is going to be a great man in the eyes of God. Don’t ever let him taste wine or any kind of alcoholic drink, and even before he is born, he will be filled with God’s Spirit. He will be the impetus for many people in Israel to restore their relationships with God. He is going to have the same spirit and power as the honorable prophet Elijah, and he’ll use it to cause parents to genuinely seek the welfare of their children and cause fools to seek the wisdom of God’s people—all of this in preparation for the big boss to do his work.”

Zechariah asked the being, “How can I be sure of this? After all, I’m an old man and my wife is a senior citizen too.”

The being replied, “Do you have any idea who you’re talking to? I am Gabriel. I report directly to God, and I come all the way here to speak to you and give you good news and you dare to doubt it? Well, then you can just shut up until the day this happens, because you didn’t believe what I said, which will come true at the designated time.”

Meanwhile, outside people were beginning to wonder what was taking Zechariah so long. When he came out, he couldn’t speak, but he used gestures to tell them he had just seen something incredible.

When his duty was over, he returned home. Soon after, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant. She kept it under wraps for five months. She kept saying, “Thank you, God, for doing this for me—for showing you care for me and taking away the humiliation I felt as a childless woman in a nation that values large families.”


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Introduction to the Good News about Jesus Christ: Mark 1:1; Luke 1:1-4; Mt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23b-38 (how I would say it)

Hello! Having finished the gospel of John, how I would say it, I sense the Holy Spirit leading me to paraphrase a chronological account of the four gospels and into the book of Acts. I am using F. LaGard Smith’s “The Narrated Bible in Chronological Order, NIV” as a starting point, then putting it, as close as I can discern, into words I think we would use today, in American 21st century vernacular, hopefully, free of hard-to-understand religious vocabulary. I hope you will just enjoy it. Don’t try to judge. My theological choices are no doubt going to conflict with every reader’s at some point. Oh well. And I’m sure they will be highly inconsistent with any particular theological tradition, randomly jumping between Calvinist and Arminian, and maybe occasionally sounding like some kook who believes in an alien Jesus (which I’m not). So, my disclaiming apologies in advance. I’m not trying to stay true to anything but exactly what the Word says, as I think it would be said if the writers were telling it to me over coffee into the wee hours. So, don’t get your linen undergarments in a wad. Just read and enjoy. And if you think it might be helpful to someone who is just over and done with religiosity, or someone who has never been churched and has no concept of what “grace” or “baptism” or “Messiah” mean, feel free to direct that person to this blog!

Brotherly Love All Around,

Donna Lee Schillinger

In the beginning there was only God’s Word. It was with God and, in fact, was God. He, this Word, was with God from the start. Everything that has ever been made was made through this Word. The Word held the power of life, and that life is the trace of God in humanity – our own limited form of goodness. Our goodness is apparent in a dark world and the evil or the world has never overpowered our goodness.

God sent a man named John to tell people about this trace of God that humanity has in it. He wanted people to believe in it. He wasn’t any sort of god himself, he was just trying to point others to God.

But a real God was coming to earth, in fact, he was already in the world when John started his ministry, and in fact, the world was made through this God. But oddly enough, the world didn’t recognize this God who made it. He came to make himself known to his creation, but his creation rejected him. But not all of it – and to those who did welcome him and believed him to really be God, he offered the option of being adopted by God. Of course, we weren’t naturally born children, as if God had had relations with our mother or something, but we would have a spiritual birth into God’s family.

So, that Word, which was God, took on the form of a human and lived on Earth for a time. I (John, the author of this book) have seen first-hand how amazing this God is, the one and only Son of God who came down from Father God, genuine to the core and with arms brimming with incredible gifts for humanity.

(John, the one I mentioned before who was sent by God, said of this Son of God, “This is the very guy I’ve been telling you about – the one I said who even though he comes after me is way ahead of me because he existed long before me!”)

And I have to tell you that of all those gifts for humanity, I have gotten more than my share. And I already had a lot! We Jews had the gift of the law that Moses passed down, but now Jesus Christ (that’s his name) is bringing so much more and will set the record straight on all accounts.

No one has ever seen God, but this Word, Jesus Christ, God’s only Son who is every bit God himself – there’s no entity closer to God than him – sure has given us a glimpse of God the Father.

There have been a lot of attempts to tell all that happened during the last three years of Jesus’ life, using the exact words of those directly involved—the original followers. Knowing this, I am nonetheless compelled to write this story in a logical fashion, having fully researched it from start to finish. My purpose is to assure you that what you’ve heard is true.

Let’s start with Jesus’ ancestry, which confirms that he is the infamous descendant of Abraham and David that the ancient texts repeatedly mention will be an identifying characteristic of the one sent from God to rescue and restore the Jewish nation. The lineage goes like this, each name being a new generation and parent/child relationship, with some notable women included. These men are named in, and some renowned from the ancient Hebrew writings: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Perez (whose mother was Tamar), Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon, Salmon, Boaz, (whose mother was Rahab), Obed (whose mother was Ruth), Jesse, King David, David, Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, formerly Uriah’s wife), Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah,  Jeconiah king at the time of the exile to Babylon. The lineage continues post exile: Shealtiel, Zerubbabel, Abihud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Akim, Elihud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob, and finally, Joseph, the husband of Mary, who was the mother of Jesus, the one who was to rescue and restore the Jewish nation.There are 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the exile to Babylon, and 14 from the exile to Jesus Christ.

Working backward, we can trace Jesus’ lineage back to Adam, starting with Joseph’s father-in-law: Heli, Matthat, Levi, Melki, Jannai, Joseph, Mattathias, Amos, Nahum, Esli, Naggai, Maath, Mattathias, Semein, Josek, Joda, Joanan, Rhesa, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel, Neri, Melki, Addi Cosam, Elmadam, Er, Joshua, Eliezer, Jorim, Matthat, Levi, Simeon, Judah, Joseph, Jonam, Eliakim, Melea, Menna, Mattatha, Nathan, David, Jesse, Obed, Boaz, Salmon, Nahshon, Amminadab, Ram, Hezron, Perez, Judah, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Terah, Nahor, Serug, Reu, Peleg, Eber, Shelah, Cainan, Arphaxad, Shem, Noah, Lamech, Methuselah, Enoch, Jared, Mahalalel, Kenan, Enosh, Seth, Adam, who was, of course, the son of God.


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Mammon Spirit of the American Church

Aren't these pumps to die for?

Aren’t these pumps to die for?

A quote from Richard J. Foster’s Celebration of Discipline

Because we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things. We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. “We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like.” Where planned obsolescence leaves off, psychological obsolescence takes over. We are made to feel ashamed to wear clothes or drive cars until they are worn out. The mass media have convinced us that to be out of step with fashion is to be out of step with reality. It is time we awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick. Until we see how unbalanced our culture has become at this point, we will not be able to deal with the mammon spirit within ourselves nor will we desire Christian simplicity.