A Difficult Teaching

“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’” John 6:60

“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
John 6:66

Some teachings are difficult to accept.

Some teachings are difficult to obey.

Some are both.

The hardest teachings are the ones that call us to do something we don’t want to do. Maybe we don’t want to do it because it is unpleasant. Maybe we don’t want to do it because it doesn’t make sense to us. Maybe we don’t want to do it because we think it unfair. Maybe we don’t want to do it because it directly challenges what we have decided we want to do for our personal pride or pleasure.

When those difficult teachings present themselves, they provide us with an opportunity to express our trust in God and grow our faith. Or they provide us with an opportunity to demonstrate that we are more concerned about our will, our pleasure than we are about our relationship with God.

When those difficult teachings present themselves, they provide us with an opportunity to say, “Not my will, but Your will be done.” They also give us an opportunity to say, “Not your will, but Mine be done.” The way we respond reveals who is our god. God or self. The way we respond reveals who is our lord. Jesus or ego. The way we respond reveals who is controlling our life. Spirit or flesh.

So we see these people in John’s gospel turn away from Jesus. They were people who had been following Jesus. But they stopped. They turned back. They no longer followed Jesus. Why? The teaching was difficult. They were being challenged. They were being given opportunity to express their faith by demonstrating their trust. They chose another path.

How sad when we choose our will over God’s. How sad when we run up against a difficult teaching and choose to turn back and stop following. I actually had someone say to me, “I know what God says, but I care more about me. I’m going to do what makes me happy.”

What makes it even sadder is when we don’t own up to our self-deification; when we try to justify our own behavior by recreating God in our own image. “Well, I know what the Bible says, but I know God wants me to be happy. So I’m sure it’s God’s will for me to have sex with this woman who is married to another man.”

Have you run into a difficult teaching?

Don’t turn back.

Keep following.

Trust God.

Taking Up The Cross Daily

“Let’s be honest: even sedentary, overweight people can eventually run a marathon–but getting to that point won’t be easy. In the same way, pleasure-loving, weak-willed Christians can be transformed to more accurately represent the risen and ascended Christ — but getting there takes a lot of effort and constant focus.

Perhaps this is why Jesus told us we must take up the cross daily. True transformation isn’t built on a onetime decision or on a spark of inspiration and motivation after attending a prayer meeting or reading a book. It’s built on consistent choices. Small events eventually create big characters.”

Gary Thomas in The Beautiful Fight, pages 201-202

The Next Day

“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God'” (John 1:35-36)!

“The next day.” For some reason, these words just seemed to jump off the page at me today. I see them in John 1:29. Then there they are again in John 1:35.

As I meditate on these words three things keep tugging at my heart.

First, I am struck by John’s consistency. In verse 29 John sees Jesus and says “Look, the Lamb of God.” “The next day,” in verses 35-36, John sees Jesus and says, “Look the Lamb of God!” John had what I need, next day-consistency.

Second, walking with Jesus is done in a day-by-day fashion. God’s mercies are new every morning. The challenges and the opportunities change from day to day. With Jesus, life is lived one day at a time. You walk with God one day, and then there is “the next day.” Walk with God one day, then the next day, and before you know it, you see a godly lifestyle emerge.

Third, when I read these words I start hearing the lyrics of a song from the Godspell Soundtrack which happens to be one of my favorite prayers.

Day by day
Day by day
Oh Dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day

God,
Help me with three things on a daily basis —
To see you more clearly
To love you more dearly
To follow you more nearly
In Jesus’ name,
AMEN.

The Throne

“Follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money and your allegiance. At the end of that trail, you’ll find a throne; and whatever, or whomever, is on that throne is what’s of highest value to you. On that throne is what you worship.” Louie Giglio, The Air I Breathe

The Becoming

“This life therefore, is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished but it is going on. This is not the end but it is the road; all does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified.”
— Martin Luther

Total Body Fast

“Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works!

Is it said by what kind of works?

If thou seest a poor man, take pity on him!

If thou seest an enemy, be reconciled to him!

If thou seest a friend gaining honor, envy him not!

If thou seest a handsome woman, pass her by!

For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.

Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice.

Let the feet fast, be ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles.

Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves with strange beauties.

For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting.

For it would be among things the most absurd to abstain from lawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden. Dost thou not eat flesh? Feed not upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes.

Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive all evil speakings and calumnies. ‘Thou shalt not receive a false report,’ it says.”

— John Chrysostom

How Right You Are

“Faith is more than beliefs to be learned; it is bonds to be lived. Faith is more than holding the “right” beliefs; it is holding the “right” (that is, the “least of these”) hands. We are judged by the world not on the basis of how “right” we’ve gotten what we believe but on how well we’re living it – on how we love God and people.”
–Leonard Sweet
Out of the Question…Into The Mystery, p. 21

So What’s New?

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4).

“. . .having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:12-14).

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

Paul makes it clear, we are buried with Christ, then raised so that we can live a new life with new hearts and new minds, with new passions and new pursuits.

So as I reflect on these passages I have to ask a simple question.

So what’s new?