Connectional Motivation — 21 February 2020

Mark 8:27–33, Luke 4:1–13

Giving up others to God’s hands can be very hard. It’s interesting that Jesus explained (in basic terms) what was going to happen. It wasn’t could happen; it was would happen. Peter, emotional Peter, didn’t want to lose his friend. There also could have been a bit or, “things are going so well for you (and us). Why wreck it now?” We often look at Peter with something less than sympathy, saying, “don’t you know?” No! Peter didn’t know. He didn’t understand at all. Besides, the Messiah was supposed to be a triumphant (some form of it) figure, not a tragic figure.

Jesus’ calling Peter out as, “…Satan…” it always interesting. Some imagine that Satan possessed Peter or whispered to Peter, and Jesus responded to Satan. Yet, the real issue isn’t so much Satan (though it is an issue), but the worldly perspective that Peter was operating under. This worldly view was present with Jesus’ temptation in the desert.

When Jesus addressed Peter as “Satanas”, it was likely more a title or appellation, rather than the individual called Satan. We can draw this from the words that Jesus continued with afterward. Satanas means adversary or someone being in the role of adversary. One could go so far as to say that this was a temptation to worldly things presented by a friend (Peter) rather than an opponent (the Devil who tempted Jesus in the desert); harder to dismiss because of one’s feelings.

Depending on where one is on their journey with Jesus Christ, choosing to follow God’s path can be a very hard path of suffering and cross-bearing. Depending on what one has to surrender, it could be quite difficult (parents, spouse, children). This is not to say we are to develop some of the Eastern austerity traditions of disassociation or detachment. It does mean we are called to practice releasing to God.

As long as we live in the world, the world will call upon us to put it first, along with what it values. God calls upon us to value God first. If we are properly oriented in that direction, other concerns and cares will take their appropriate place.

1) In what ways are you currently struggling with what the world wants and what you believe God wants? How do you discern what God wants?

2) Where and when have you been guilty of responding like Peter, putting what you think God should want versus what the world expects?

3) Why would detachment or disassociation from the world be bad from a Godly perspective?

Chained — 20 February 2020

Romans 5:12–21, Philippians 2:5–11, Hebrews 5:1–10 (read online ⧉)

Obedience is hard. God knows that it is hard for us. That doesn’t excuse us from it, however.

It seems perfectly reasonable to draw from the Scriptures that part of Jesus’ unspoken mission was to show obedience and that obedience is possible. There were points in Jesus’ earthly ministry that he could have not obeyed and had a completely different result. Obedience was hard. Jesus did it anyway.

It is amazing (and depressing) that the first disobedience led to a very long line of disobedience. Paul points out that Adam was the first man, and through Adam death came. This is, for the record, more of a story, as it does exclude Eve’s contribution. Paul was trying to tie all the prophets together, even Moses, into a big line of sin and death. This chain of sin and death was a result of disobedience. The Jewish perspective by this point was not an overwhelmingly positive one. Sin and death were very much a part of their concepts. To some degree, First Century Jews had an almost dystopian view of the world (as do many people today). Finding the positive was hard.

Paul states that while the sin that brought sin and death to the world may be overwhelming, the grace and mercy wrought through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was greater still. So much greater was this gift that it didn’t stop merely with canceling sin and death, it brought abundant life.

This gift of grace and mercy is given through obedience. It is not an obedience of fear. It is an obedience of gratitude for the sacrifice made that we couldn’t make and acceptance of it.

1) As a child, what was the hardest rule of your parents to obey? Why?

2) Why is it important to understand that sin and death are chains? Whose chains are they?

3) What is your understanding of Jesus’ obedience? What does that mean right now for your life?

Give Us More to Bear — 19 February 2020

Psalm 119:9–16, Proverbs 2:1–22, Ephesians 1:17–19 (read online ⧉)

There is an old editorial cartoon…2 people come up to a fence with a sign. On the sign it reads, “do not cross over fence.” One person says to the other, “ rules are meant to keep you under control,” and the person jumps over the fence. The fence? Well, it was to keep a person from going over the cliff…

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the sheer number of choices people have regarding food, toiletries, college majors, college classes, cars, homes, and so on. In fact, since Barry Swartz wrote The Paradox of Choice in 2004, psychologists and anthropologies have started to document what happens when we have too much choice…we actually become paralyzed in our thinking: analysis paralysis. There have also some business studies that show when there are boundaries, people make more creative and even out-of-the-box solutions to solve problems.

The rules that Adam and Eve…correction, the single rule that Adam and Eve had to follow…they didn’t. Christian apologists and theologians have for centuries knocked the rules set out in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy as overly onerous. Yet, the civic code for many cities far outweighs the 613 rules (both positive and negative ones) that were a result. There are around 200 basic rules for American Football. If you add the permutations/variables, some counts put it close to 400. Think about that for a moment. People declare that the rules were too hard in Jesus’ time, but scream at the television during a football because the referee got the call wrong (maybe).

A report from 1982 (the last time this was attempted) put the number of federal crimes as around 3000. First, that was 1982. While some offenses have definitely been eliminated, others have been created. Even the U.S. Federal Government cannot count how many laws, regulations, and even criminal offenses there are. This also doesn’t account for other rules regarding international behavior, nor does it cover states, nor does it cover counties, nor does it cover cities. Any organization you are a member of (including businesses, schools, churches) have their own sets of rules, too. Just setting aside speeding, most people break laws every day, and a lot of them we may not even know (if the monitors of the laws don’t even know what the laws are).

We don’t seem to mind the laws of man. In fact, in pretty much every election cycle there is some call for some new regulation/law/crime…but God better not tell us what to do! There is something…bothersome…that just bugs us that God tells us, “no”. Part of it, so it seems, is that we think we understand other humans. So, we regulate them to protect ourselves. We push for laws for “them”, but don’t think of ourselves as “them”. Of course, “they” want to regulate us, so they pass their laws, too.

God, on the other hand, really is not the God of regulations. That’s a human thing. God gives us free will. God did give us boundaries. As the Creator, God might just happen to know what is best for us. Still, we seem to struggle.

1) What is the one “don’t” from God that you struggle with? Are sure that is a God don’t, and not a human don’t?

2) Human don’ts can be good, too. What human don’t (or don’ts) can you think of that align with God’s?

3) Why do you think it appears to be easier to obey 3000+ human laws, but harder to obey 613 of God’s laws?*

*Note that the 613 laws are being used as an example and to make a point. They are not automatically rules for life. Jesus Christ transformed the Law into something completely different.