Today’s readings:
Psalms 43; 149, Jeremiah 23:9-15, Romans 9:1-18, John 6:60-71

After Jesus declared that those who ate his flesh and drank his blood would have eternal life, murmuring broke about among the Jews. Many struggled to understand his meaning. Others said more directly: “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” Jesus replied: “Does this offend you? […] The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” As a result, many disciples turned away from him.

We can draw a couple lessons from this.

First, be careful about pledging yourself to a person or cause. Once you’ve jumped on a rolling bandwagon, it will be difficult to jump off with dignity while it’s still moving. Eventually preachers, politicians, denominations, parties, etc. will take a stand you can’t agree with. Pragmatism, pressure, and pride regrettably sway people who want to retain influence. If you followed them out of a sense of tribal loyalty, you may feel betrayed by that difference in opinion, possibly needing to turn away from them entirely. It’s wiser to attach ourselves to issues and principles rather than affiliations so we feel free to agree or disagree with a person or group without feeling conflicted.

Second, God is going to make demands of us we won’t like. In such cases, our own opinions and preferences matter little. As God said to Moses, and as Paul recalled in his letter to the Romans: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” In other words, it’s God’s show to run, not ours. The consequences of doing the right thing may seem mysterious or unfair, but since our one true loyalty lies with God, we still need to do it.

We don’t know something is right and true because our favorite preacher or candidate said it; hopefully we select our favorite preachers and candidates because they try to speak what is right and true. Whether we hear something we like or something we don’t, these words of the Twelve remain our clear standard: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Comfort: Jesus offers the words of eternal life.

Challenge: We must accept them even when they seem hard.

Prayer: Lord, teach me to lean not on my own understanding, but to trust you with all my heart. Amen.

Discussion: Does your faith ask anything of you that you don’t particularly enjoy?

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Temptation Situation


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 47; 147:12-20, Exodus 20:1-21, Colossians 1:24-2:7, Matthew 4:1-11

A friend once said no matter how obviously stupid a behavior is, if there’s a law against it someone has tried it. So the Baltimore, Maryland law against taking a lion to the movies really gives one pause. A more sobering example, child labor laws exist because not enough people found it otherwise important not to exploit children. My friend also said if we passed a law against drinking bleach, Clorox speakeasies would pop up everywhere. It can be hard to tell whether rules were made to be broken, or  made for the broken.

After God announced the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, the people of Israel fled from the foot of the mountain and begged Moses not to let God speak to them directly. They said they feared hearing God’s voice would kill them, but it probably also shamed them. Indirectly God was saying: “I know what’s in your hearts: murder, adultery, theft. Just don’t.” When Moses said God was trying to put fear into them so they would not sin, he really meant fear. Sometimes it’s all that keeps us in line.

Whether or not we are optimistic about human nature, Jesus demonstrates we can be better. Preceding his ministry, he fasted in the desert for forty days. Afterward, when he was at his weakest, the devil tried to tempt him.

Turn the stones to bread?
Man lives on every word from the mouth of God. 

Prove yourself by leaping off this cliff and letting angels save you?
Don’t test the Lord.

Worship me and rule all you see?
Worship no one but God.

Jesus said these things were written, and they were, but except for the third they weren’t hard and fast rules. There was no law about turning stones to bread, no specific definition of testing the Lord. Christ consistently showed us obedience to the law was only the beginning of being faithful to God. He tells us love is stronger than fear. He invites us to be more than followers of law, but lovers of God and humankind. When love trumps fear, obedience is not a burden but a joy.

Comfort: Everyone is tempted. We can depend on Christ to help us resist.

Challenge: We like to believe willpower should be enough to handle temptation, and can be pretty hard on ourselves when we feel we’ve failed. Read this article on the limitations of willpower and how to make real change.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for loving me enough to set rules, and trusting me enough to live beyond them. Teach me to rely on your love to make good and just choices. Amen.

Discussion: How can you implement the principles you read about in the challenge link?

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