The door to heaven is narrow. Work hard to get in, because many will try to enter, but when the head of the house has locked the door, it will be too late.

Luke 13:18-35

18 Then he said, “How can I picture God’s kingdom for you? What kind of story can I use? 19 It’s like a pine nut that a man plants in his front yard. It grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches, and eagles build nests in it.” 20 He tried again. “How can I picture God’s kingdom? 21 It’s like yeast that a woman works into enough dough for three loaves of bread – and waits while the dough rises.” 22 He went on teaching from town to village, village to town, but keeping on a steady course toward Jerusalem.

23 A bystander said, “Master, will only a few be saved?” 24 “Whether few or many is none of your business. Put your mind on your life with God. The way to life – to God! – is vigorous and requires your total attention. A lot of you are going to assume that you’ll sit down to God’s salvation banquet just because you’ve been hanging around the neighborhood all your lives. 25 Well, one day you’re going to be banging on the door, wanting to get in, but you’ll find the door locked and the Master saying, ‘Sorry, you’re not on my guest list.’ 26 “You’ll protest, ‘But we’ve known you all our lives!’ 27 only to be interrupted with his abrupt, ‘Your kind of knowing can hardly be called knowing. You don’t know the first thing about me.’ 28 “That’s when you’ll find yourselves out in the cold, strangers to grace. You’ll watch Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets march into God’s kingdom. 29 You’ll watch outsiders stream in from east, west, north, and south and sit down at the table of God’s kingdom. And all the time you’ll be outside looking in – and wondering what happened. 30 This is the Great Reversal: the last in line put at the head of the line, and the so-called first ending up last.

31 Just then some Pharisees came up and said, “Run for your life! Herod’s on the hunt. He’s out to kill you!” 32 Jesus said, “Tell that fox that I’ve no time for him right now. Today and tomorrow I’m busy clearing out the demons and healing the sick; the third day I’m wrapping things up. 33 Besides, it’s not proper for a prophet to come to a bad end outside Jerusalem. 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killer of prophets, abuser of the messengers of God! How often I’ve longed to gather your children, gather your children like a hen, Her brood safe under her wings – but you refused and turned away! 35 And now it’s too late: You won’t see me again until the day you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of God.'”

Genesis 24

1 Abraham was now an old man. God had blessed Abraham in every way. 2 Abraham spoke to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of everything he had, “Put your hand under my thigh 3 and swear by God – God of Heaven, God of Earth – that you will not get a wife for my son from among the young women of the Canaanites here, 4 but will go to the land of my birth and get a wife for my son Isaac.” 5 The servant answered, “But what if the woman refuses to leave home and come with me? Do I then take your son back to your home country?” 6 Abraham said, “Oh no. Never. By no means are you to take my son back there. 7 God, the God of Heaven, took me from the home of my father and from the country of my birth and spoke to me in solemn promise, ‘I’m giving this land to your descendants.’ This God will send his angel ahead of you to get a wife for my son. 8 And if the woman won’t come, you are free from this oath you’ve sworn to me. But under no circumstances are you to take my son back there.” 9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and gave his solemn oath.

10 The servant took ten of his master’s camels and, loaded with gifts from his master, traveled to Aram Naharaim and the city of Nahor. 11 Outside the city, he made the camels kneel at a well. It was evening, the time when the women came to draw water. 12 He prayed, “O God, God of my master Abraham, make things go smoothly this day; treat my master Abraham well! 13 As I stand here by the spring while the young women of the town come out to get water, 14 let the girl to whom I say, ‘Lower your jug and give me a drink,’ and who answers, ‘Drink, and let me also water your camels’ – let her be the woman you have picked out for your servant Isaac. Then I’ll know that you’re working graciously behind the scenes for my master.” 15 It so happened that the words were barely out of his mouth when Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel whose mother was Milcah the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with a water jug on her shoulder. 16 The girl was stunningly beautiful, a pure virgin. She went down to the spring, filled her jug, and came back up. 17 The servant ran to meet her and said, “Please, can I have a sip of water from your jug?” 18 She said, “Certainly, drink!” And she held the jug so that he could drink. 19 When he had satisfied his thirst she said, “I’ll get water for your camels, too, until they’ve drunk their fill.” 20 She promptly emptied her jug into the trough and ran back to the well to fill it, and she kept at it until she had watered all the camels. 21 The man watched, silent. Was this God’s answer? Had God made his trip a success or not? 22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man brought out gifts, a gold nose ring weighing a little over a quarter of an ounce and two arm bracelets weighing about four ounces, and gave them to her. 23 He asked her, “Tell me about your family? Whose daughter are you? Is there room in your father’s house for us to stay the night?” 24 She said, “I’m the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah and Nahor. 25 And there’s plenty of room in our house for you to stay – and lots of straw and feed besides.” 26 At this the man bowed in worship before God 27 and prayed, “Blessed be God, God of my master Abraham: How generous and true you’ve been to my master; you’ve held nothing back. You led me right to the door of my master’s brother!” 28 And the girl was off and running, telling everyone in her mother’s house what had happened.

29 Rebekah had a brother named Laban. Laban ran outside to the man at the spring. 30 He had seen the nose ring and the bracelets on his sister and had heard her say, “The man said this and this and this to me.” So he went to the man and there he was, still standing with his camels at the spring. 31 Laban welcomed him: “Come on in, blessed of God! Why are you standing out here? I’ve got the house ready for you; and there’s also a place for your camels.” 32 So the man went into the house. The camels were unloaded and given straw and feed. Water was brought to bathe the feet of the man and the men with him. 33 Then Laban brought out food. But the man said, “I won’t eat until I tell my story.” Laban said, “Go ahead; tell us.” 34 The servant said, “I’m the servant of Abraham. 35 God has blessed my master – he’s a great man; God has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, servants and maidservants, camels and donkeys. 36 And then to top it off, Sarah, my master’s wife, gave him a son in her old age and he has passed everything on to his son. 37 My master made me promise, ‘Don’t get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites in whose land I live. 38 No, go to my father’s home, back to my family, and get a wife for my son there.’ 39 I said to my master, ‘But what if the woman won’t come with me?’ 40 He said, ‘God before whom I’ve walked faithfully will send his angel with you and he’ll make things work out so that you’ll bring back a wife for my son from my family, from the house of my father. 41 Then you’ll be free from the oath. If you go to my family and they won’t give her to you, you will also be free from the oath.’ 42 “Well, when I came this very day to the spring, I prayed, ‘God, God of my master Abraham, make things turn out well in this task I’ve been given. 43 I’m standing at this well. When a young woman comes here to draw water and I say to her, Please, give me a sip of water from your jug, 44 and she says, Not only will I give you a drink, I’ll also water your camels – let that woman be the wife God has picked out for my master’s son.’ 45 “I had barely finished offering this prayer, when Rebekah arrived, her jug on her shoulder. She went to the spring and drew water and I said, ‘Please, can I have a drink?’ 46 She didn’t hesitate. She held out her jug and said, ‘Drink; and when you’re finished I’ll also water your camels.’ I drank, and she watered the camels. 47 I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel whose parents were Nahor and Milcah.’ I gave her a ring for her nose, bracelets for her arms, 48 and bowed in worship to God. I praised God, the God of my master Abraham who had led me straight to the door of my master’s family to get a wife for his son. 49 “Now, tell me what you are going to do. If you plan to respond with a generous yes, tell me. But if not, tell me plainly so I can figure out what to do next.” 50 Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is totally from God. We have no say in the matter, either yes or no. 51 Rebekah is yours: Take her and go; let her be the wife of your master’s son, as God has made plain.” 52 When Abraham’s servant heard their decision, he bowed in worship before God. 53 Then he brought out gifts of silver and gold and clothing and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave expensive gifts to her brother and mother.

54 He and his men had supper and spent the night. But first thing in the morning they were up. He said, “Send me back to my master.” 55 Her brother and mother said, “Let the girl stay a while, say another ten days, and then go.” 56 He said, “Oh, don’t make me wait! God has worked everything out so well – send me off to my master.” 57 They said, “We’ll call the girl; we’ll ask her.” 58 They called Rebekah and asked her, “Do you want to go with this man?” She said, “I’m ready to go.” 59 So they sent them off, their sister Rebekah with her nurse, and Abraham’s servant with his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah saying, You’re our sister – live bountifully! And your children, triumphantly! 61 Rebekah and her young maids mounted the camels and followed the man. The servant took Rebekah and set off for home.

62 Isaac was living in the Negev. He had just come back from a visit to Beer Lahai Roi. 63 In the evening he went out into the field; while meditating he looked up and saw camels coming. 64 When Rebekah looked up and saw Isaac, she got down from her camel 65 and asked the servant, “Who is that man out in the field coming toward us?” “That is my master.” She took her veil and covered herself. 66 After the servant told Isaac the whole story of the trip, 67 Isaac took Rebekah into the tent of his mother Sarah. He married Rebekah and she became his wife and he loved her. So Isaac found comfort after his mother’s death.

Psalms 17

1 Listen while I build my case, God, the most honest prayer you’ll ever hear. 2 Show the world I’m innocent – in your heart you know I am. 3 Go ahead, examine me from inside out, surprise me in the middle of the night – You’ll find I’m just what I say I am. My words don’t run loose. 4 I’m not trying to get my way in the world’s way. I’m trying to get your way, your Word’s way. 5 I’m staying on your trail; I’m putting one foot In front of the other. I’m not giving up. 6 I call to you, God, because I’m sure of an answer. So – answer! bend your ear! listen sharp! 7 Paint grace-graffiti on the fences; take in your frightened children who Are running from the neighborhood bullies straight to you.

8 Keep your eye on me; hide me under your cool wing feathers 9 From the wicked who are out to get me, from mortal enemies closing in. 10 Their hearts are hard as nails, their mouths blast hot air. 11 They are after me, nipping my heels, determined to bring me down, 12 Lions ready to rip me apart, young lions poised to pounce. 13 Up, God: beard them! break them! By your sword, free me from their clutches; 14 Barehanded, God, break these mortals, these flat-earth people who can’t think beyond today. I’d like to see their bellies swollen with famine food, The weeds they’ve sown harvested and baked into famine bread, With second helpings for their children and crusts for their babies to chew on. 15 And me? I plan on looking you full in the face. When I get up, I’ll see your full stature and live heaven on earth.


– 1/18/2005 12:13:35 AM

I’m back. Sweet Dreams, Phil.


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