God's Great Desire for our Good

Jesus uses hyperbole (exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally) to make the point that what is a sin pattern in our life can steal, kill and destroy us. It also can be a hindrance to others, affect our peace and cause us to feel we have no worth or meaning.

We know that cutting off a hand, foot or gouging out an eye doesn't get to the inner life issues that can keep us caught in a sin pattern: addiction, resentments, fears, shame, and hiding. Maggots and fire suggest decay and destruction as a result. The imagery reveals that this is a really big deal to God.  Instead of destruction, God wants to give us life in abundance, freedom and joy. God desires that we be fully engaged in life and that we become a source of life to others.
So how do we get rid of it? Let God be God. Give up trying to control it yourself. Invite God to give you the power to do what you cannot do on your own. Get honest with another. Confess, name what is going on, and trust another to come alongside you who will accompany you through the healing process into freedom and restoration.

MARK 9: 38-50 NLT
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”

39 “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck.

43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.

49 “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
•    What did you hear as you listened/read?  What stood out to you? What seems to be just for you in these words?

•    Jesus uses radical language to emphasize dealing with sin in one’s life. What is Jesus really inviting?  What has this been like for you?  Painful? Convicting? Life-giving? How would you describe the process that you have experienced? How has sin crippled you?

•    What is your source of saltiness?  What keeps you going, nourishing and preserving your desire for God?

You're Not In the Driver's Seat

Sometimes we would like to remake God into whom we want God to be. Sometimes we live out of a distorted perception of who God is. Or, sometimes we buy into popular "easy speak" about who God is because it feels safer or more comfortable and might be all about our happiness. 

When Peter declared Jesus to be "the Christ" he apparently had a distorted perception of what that meant rather than how God actually was revealing himself to be in the person of Christ. Jesus clearly tells the disciples what was coming, and it was a path of suffering, death and yes, also the reality of resurrection and new life.

Of course, we would love to get to resurrection without entering the pain and suffering path. Pain comes, suffering comes, as unavoidable realities of human life. We are invited to embrace them not run from them, learn from them, rely on God in them, and allow them to change our heart into a heart like Christ's. The process of dying to a self-absorbed life can be painful but it holds great hope for becoming fully alive. 

Mark 8:30-9:1 The Message (MSG)
Jesus warned them to keep it quiet, not to breathe a word of it to anyone. He then began explaining things to them: “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.” He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it.

But Peter grabbed him in protest. Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.”

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

“If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.”

Then he drove it home by saying, “This isn’t pie in the sky by and by. Some of you who are standing here are going to see it happen, see the kingdom of God arrive in full force.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
•    What stood out to you in this passage?  A word, a phrase?
•    What is your inner response?  Can you name it?
•    Any thoughts about how you might like to remake Jesus into someone else other than who he is?
•    Where are you with the invitation for dying to self, your human way of seeing, a spiritually false way of living?
•    How have you witnessed the kingdom of God in “full force?”