Thursday, October 27, 2016

This week's lesson (October 22-28): Curse the Day

It's easy enough to say, "for better or worse."

But when it comes to living those words?

"Better" is definitely better.

And that's just as true when you're following God as it is when you're married.

Yes, when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and there's a chocolate cake just waiting for you on your kitchen counter, then it's easy to believe you made the right decision when you chose to:

A) Follow God.

B) Get married.

C) All of the above.

But when it's been raining all week . . .

And the kids are down with the flu . . .

And the only thing on your kitchen counter is that stack of bills you've been avoiding . . .

Then it's easy to say, "I don't want this. I don't deserve this. And I don't need to stick around for this."

Or as Job's wife says, "Curse God, and die."

To be sure, I understand why she says this.

What's more, I know how difficult it is to argue against this -- if you're not getting anything from a relationship, after all, then why stick around?

No, all I can say is that we all understand why we might feel this way about someone else . . .

But we all hope there's somebody else who would never feel that way about us -- someone who loves us, even in the bad times.

And if that's something we all want . . .

Then why shouldn't God want the same?

Yes, why can't God hope we'll say, "For better or or worse."

Even when it's worse?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

This week's lesson (October 15-21): God and Human Suffering

Why doesn't God do something about human suffering?

Perhaps the best answer comes from Christ's parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 
 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
If you're wondering why God doesn't do something about human suffering, in other words . . . 

The truth is, He's asking the same question about us.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

This week's lesson (October 8-14): does Job fear God for naught?

"How can you tell if someone is good?"

"Why . . . if they do good things, of course!"

"But maybe they're not good -- maybe they're just afraid to be bad. If you do bad things, after all, then you are punished."


"And if you do good things, then you are rewarded."

"Also true."

"That means some people do good things, not because they're good, but only because it pays them to be good."

"True again."

"But you it paid them to be bad, then they'd do bad things."

"Just because you do good things, in other words, doesn't necessarily mean you're a good person."

"No, you may just be sneaky!"

"So how can you tell is someone is truly good?"

"Well, if a bad person is good only when it pays to be good . . ."

"Then a good person would be good, even if it didn't pay off."

"How could you make sure of this?"

"Obvious: see to it they're punished for being good! Yes, let them be accused, tried, beaten, and killed through no fault of their own."

"And if they continue to be good, even then?"

"Then we'll know they are good all the time -- and not just when it's convenient."

Adapted from the dialogue 
between Glaucon and Socrates in Plato's Republic.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

This week's lesson (October 1-7): the Great Controversy

Think of him as a bureaucrat -- a fussy little bureaucrat in a cheap suit with scuffed shoes and a bad haircut who shuffles into your office, opens his battered briefcase, and starts asking for your receipts.

That's the literal meaning of "satan," after all; it means "auditor" -- and throughout Scripture, the Auditor continually tries to poke holes in anything good that comes along.
  • Take Eve, for instance -- as far as the Auditor's concerned, she's good only because she doesn't know what she's missing. 
  • As for Job, the Auditor's sure that he's good only because he's been bribed to follow God.
  • And with the Auditor's help, Jesus will realize there's an easier way to get what He wants than to follow God --right? 
Well, no -- though not for lack of trying.
But as Kierkegaard and C. S. Lewis have both pointed out, the Devil may be a lion in his effects -- but in his tactics, he's more of a weasel. 
Yes, he slinks, he skulks, he insinuates . . . 
He whines, he nags, he prevaricates . . . 
He points out the lemon in the lemonade, the cloud behind the silver-lining, and the bug that's floating in your half-full glass . . . 
But despite his worst efforts, it turns out that he's no match for God.
If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39, NIV).
This post first appeared on December 15, 2013