Eggs and Scorpions

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 122; 149, Micah 7:1-7, Revelation 10:1-11, Luke 11:1-13


What is the difference between being persistent and being stubborn?

Jesus told his disciples a parable about a man who went to his friend’s house in the middle of the night to ask for three loaves of bread to share with an unexpected visitor. Because it was so late, the friend tried many excuses to turn the man away and stay in bed. In the end, Jesus said, the man got his bread not because of friendship but because of persistence. Jesus continued to say:

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Taken alone that last bit almost seems like a magic formula – just ask for what you want, and you’ll get it. Of course we know it doesn’t work out that way in real life. But just because we don’t get something right away doesn’t mean we should stop asking. Yes, God hears you the first time, but your persistence isn’t about changing God: it’s about changing you.

Jesus tells his disciples that when a child asks for an egg or a fish, a good parent doesn’t give them a scorpion or a snake. Better and more holy than the best of parents, God wants us to have things that are good for us. But what if the child, not knowing what adults know, asks for a scorpion? Or grabs for it? The good parent doesn’t allow it to happen. Eventually the child either grows more wise or gets stung.

And therein lies the difference.

With persistence comes growth and wisdom. God does not change, but our understanding does. Maybe we aren’t ready, maybe we don’t need it, and maybe we learn to live with not knowing. With stubbornness there is no change. We keep insisting on getting we want, and never learn to ask if we should. Both may result in getting what we ask for, but is it the egg or the scorpion?

Comfort: God wants only good for you.

Challenge: Make a list of the things you are asking God for, but have not yet received. Honestly evaluate whether you are being stubborn or persistent about each.

Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Discussion: Today’s reading from Luke begins with a short version of The Lord’s Prayer. How do you think this is related to today’s topic?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group or follow @comf_and_chall on Twitter. You’ll  have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

Holy Indifference

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 81; 150,Job 38:1, 18-41, Revelation 18:1-8, Matthew 5:21-26


 “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference… The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
– Elie Wiesel

When disaster strikes, some preachers can’t wait to blame the tragedy on their favorite – or would that be least favorite? – group of sinners. Never mind that disaster falls on the righteous and unrighteous alike, and any given hurricane or shooting may completely miss God’s alleged target; they can always blame America’s general decline into sin. Once they’ve drummed up sufficient guilt and fear in their listeners, they graciously offer an opportunity to relieve said guilt and fear in the form of donations to their own righteous organization.

Except … according to Psalm 81 and other scriptures, God’s worst reaction might not be punishment, but indifference. Our own life experiences tell us God is not some petty bureaucrat handing out punishments for every moral misdemeanor. Neither is God a tin-pot dictator forcibly bending us to his will. He invites us to love and obey Him, and acceptance of that invitation is not without obligation, but if we decline, the consequences – at least in this life – seem to be God’s withdrawal from our lives. The psalmist warned Israel they were suffering because they were bowing to foreign gods so the Lord had left them to the counsel of their own stubborn hearts. In Romans 1, Paul tells us about people who traded God for idols, and how “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves.” When a people stopped listening to God, he let them go. The bed they made was their own to lie in.

The good news is that no matter how badly we’ve screwed up our own lives by rejecting God, He will always accept an invitation back into that life. Whatever false idols we’ve been worshiping, God waits with the open arms of a father welcoming home a runaway child. Whether we’ve abandoned that home for an hour or a lifetime, God will be there.

For further reading on today’s reading from Matthew, see Pass the Peace.

Comfort: No matter how badly you’ve screwed up, someone who’s done worse has turned their life around.

Challenge: Be diligent about discerning between your own voice and God’s.

Prayer: God of mercy, forgive me for the times I choose my own counsel over yours. Thank you for leading me home to you again. Amen.

Discussion: What consequences have you suffered as a result of relying on your own counsel instead of God’s?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!