1 By this time the crowd, unwieldy and stepping on each other’s toes, numbered into the thousands. But Jesus’ primary concern was his disciples. He said to them, “Watch yourselves carefully so you don’t get contaminated with Pharisee yeast, Pharisee phoniness. 2 You can’t keep your true self hidden forever; before long you’ll be exposed. You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known. 3 You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day’s coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town. 4 “I’m speaking to you as dear friends. Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies. True, they can kill you, but then what can they do? There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. 5 Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life – body and soul – in his hands. 6 “What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. 7 And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail – even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries. 8 “Stand up for me among the people you meet and the Son of Man will stand up for you before all God’s angels. 9 But if you pretend you don’t know me, do you think I’ll defend you before God’s angels? 10 “If you bad-mouth the Son of Man out of misunderstanding or ignorance, that can be overlooked. But if you’re knowingly attacking God himself, taking aim at the Holy Spirit, that won’t be overlooked. 11 “When they drag you into their meeting places, or into police courts and before judges, don’t worry about defending yourselves – what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. 12 The right words will be there. The Holy Spirit will give you the right words when the time comes.”
13 Someone out of the crowd said, “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.” 14 He replied, “Mister, what makes you think it’s any of my business to be a judge or mediator for you?” 15 Speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” 16 Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. 17 He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ 18 Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, 19 and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ 20 “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods – who gets it?’ 21 “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”
22 He continued this subject with his disciples. “Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. 23 There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. 24 Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more. 25 “Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? 26 If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all? 27 Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance – but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. 28 If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? 29 “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. 30 People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. 31 Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
1 God visited Sarah exactly as he said he would; God did to Sarah what he promised: 2 Sarah became pregnant and gave Abraham a son in his old age, and at the very time God had set. 3 Abraham named him Isaac. 4 When his son was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him just as God had commanded. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born. 6 Sarah said, God has blessed me with laughter and all who get the news will laugh with me! 7 She also said, Whoever would have suggested to Abraham that Sarah would one day nurse a baby! Yet here I am! I’ve given the old man a son! 8 The baby grew and was weaned. Abraham threw a big party on the day Isaac was weaned.
9 One day Sarah saw the son that Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, poking fun at her son Isaac. 10 She told Abraham, “Get rid of this slave woman and her son. No child of this slave is going to share inheritance with my son Isaac!” 11 The matter gave great pain to Abraham – after all, Ishmael was his son. 12 But God spoke to Abraham, “Don’t feel badly about the boy and your maid. Do whatever Sarah tells you. Your descendants will come through Isaac. 13 Regarding your maid’s son, be assured that I’ll also develop a great nation from him – he’s your son too.”
14 Abraham got up early the next morning, got some food together and a canteen of water for Hagar, put them on her back and sent her away with the child. She wandered off into the desert of Beersheba. 15 When the water was gone, she left the child under a shrub 16 and went off, fifty yards or so. She said, “I can’t watch my son die.” As she sat, she broke into sobs. 17 Meanwhile, God heard the boy crying. The angel of God called from Heaven to Hagar, “What’s wrong, Hagar? Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy and knows the fix he’s in. 18 Up now; go get the boy. Hold him tight. I’m going to make of him a great nation.” 19 Just then God opened her eyes. She looked. She saw a well of water. She went to it and filled her canteen and gave the boy a long, cool drink. 20 God was on the boy’s side as he grew up. He lived out in the desert and became a skilled archer. 21 He lived in the Paran wilderness. And his mother got him a wife from Egypt.
22 At about that same time, Abimelech and the captain of his troops, Phicol, spoke to Abraham: “No matter what you do, God is on your side. 23 So swear to me that you won’t do anything underhanded to me or any of my family. For as long as you live here, swear that you’ll treat me and my land as well as I’ve treated you.” 24 Abraham said, “I swear it.” 25 At the same time, Abraham confronted Abimelech over the matter of a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had taken. 26 Abimelech said, “I have no idea who did this; you never told me about it; this is the first I’ve heard of it.” 27 So the two of them made a covenant. Abraham took sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech. 28 Abraham set aside seven sheep from his flock. 29 Abimelech said, “What does this mean? These seven sheep you’ve set aside.” 30 Abraham said, “It means that when you accept these seven sheep, you take it as proof that I dug this well, that it’s my well.” 31 That’s how the place got named Beersheba (the Oath-Well), because the two of them swore a covenant oath there. 32 After they had made the covenant at Beersheba, Abimelech and his commander, Phicol, left and went back to Philistine territory.
1 Bilious and bloated, they gas, “God is gone.” Their words are poison gas, fouling the air; they poison Rivers and skies; thistles are their cash crop. 2 God sticks his head out of heaven. He looks around. He’s looking for someone not stupid – one man, even, God-expectant, just one God-ready woman. 3 He comes up empty. A string of zeros. Useless, unshepherded Sheep, taking turns pretending to be Shepherd. The ninety and nine follow their fellow.
4 Don’t they know anything, all these impostors? Don’t they know they can’t get away with this – Treating people like a fast-food meal over which they’re too busy to pray? 5 Night is coming for them, and nightmares, for God takes the side of victims. 6 Do you think you can mess with the dreams of the poor? You can’t, for God makes their dreams come true. 7 Is there anyone around to save Israel? Yes. God is around; God turns life around. Turned-around Jacob skips rope, turned-around Israel sings laughter.