Faith Words – Satan

Lent – “Satan”

Read Mark 8:31-37

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?

During the season of Lent, Christians ask the question: ‘What does it mean to be a faithful disciple of Jesus? In this text, Jesus tells us what it means to follow: it is a call to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and trust that, in giving of ourselves, we will discover the essence of abundant life God has in store for us.

  • What does it mean to deny ourselves? Or said another way, what “self” are we called to deny?
  • What does it mean to take up our cross?

There are lots of things as we go through life that try to get us to go another way. Lots of voices that try to overpower the voice of God and steer us away from the call of God on our lives. The word in the Bible often translated as Satan means accuser, opponent, adversary. Satan is anything that tries to stand between us and God’s will for our life. We call our adversaries by different names: doubt, fear, pride, addiction, hatred, anger, greed, insecurity, and a million others.

  • Have you heard this definition of Satan before? Is it different than how you typically think of Satan?
  • What are the adversaries in your life that try to lure you away from following the way of God?
  • What helps you distinguish between God’s voice and Satan’s voice?

To follow the way of the cross is risky, counter-cultural, opposite of what our world tells us is the point of life.

  • Has there been a risk you’ve considered taking that feels like it comes from God? What keeps you from taking the risk?
  • What in your life helps you resist the power of Satan and follow the voice of God?

The call to take up our cross is a call to accompany those who suffer, to be with those who are marginalized or judged by society, to go into the trenches, to let God lead us out of our comfort zone, to live not for ourselves but for God and for others.

  • How do you practice this self-emptying love in your life?
  • How could you practice it?

Our faith tells us that, when we let the adversary win, when we choose comfort over vulnerability, or our own gain over the path God has set for us, we rarely find true life. We might get the money, or the promotion, or the knowledge that our job is safe, but one has to wonder over time, how does this affect our soul? What kind of life could we discover if we, instead, said to our adversaries what Jesus says to his, “Get behind me Satan?”

  • Do you feel alive? How is your soul today?


Faith Words – Temptation

Lent – “Temptation”

Tempted to Greatness from Daily Devotionals, UCC. []
January 29, 2016
Written by Matthew Laney

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” – Luke 4:1-2

There’s a lot of emphasis on excellence and greatness these days, even in the church. The temptations of Jesus caution against all that. Here’s why: if we pursue and achieve “greatness” we will most likely pat ourselves on the back rather than praise God on our knees. The devil’s invitations to: 1) make bread from a stone; 2) impress crowds with death-defying leaps; and 3) claim political power for global domination; are all invitations for Jesus to pursue greatness over faithfulness. And Jesus was tempted. That’s why they are called the temptations of Jesus, not the charades of Jesus. We tend to think of temptation as the sort of things that happen in Vegas and we’d rather have stay in Vegas. Yet temptation is mostly a habit of turning good things (such as food, credentials, influence) into ultimate things, giving them far greater worth and allegiance than they deserve. Jesus refused temptation in favor of faithfulness. And blessedly, what happened in the wilderness did not stay in the wilderness:

• Jesus refused to satisfy his own hunger, but later he fed thousands in the wilderness with just a few loaves of bread.
• He refused to showboat his divinity from the heights of the Temple, but later he was lifted up on a Roman cross for all to see.
• He refused earthly dominion but offered the kingdom of heaven to those who take up their cross and follow him.

Throughout his life and death Jesus demonstrated what faithfulness looks like, and in doing so he revealed the greatness of God.

Faith Words – Repentance

Lent – “Repentance”

What is repentance?

  • Comes from Hebrew word teshuvah (pronounced chu-va), which means “turning” or “returning”—returning to God, to one’s starting place, to one’s center and core identity
  • Comes from Greek word metanoia (meta: change, noia: mind): means a changed mind, changed perspective

Repentance involves two things: 1) returning to God, who tells us the truth about who we are—both that we are unconditionally loved and that we are human and imperfect AND 2) turning to God’s power and grace to help bring change and transformation to our lives. Repentance doesn’t let us stay stuck!

A quote by Barbara Brown Taylor: “Forgiveness is a starting place, not a stopping place. It is God’s gift to those who wish to begin again, but where we go with it is up to us. Most of us prefer remorse to repentance. We would rather feel badly about the damage we have done than get estimates on the cost of repair. We would rather learn to live with guilt than face the hard work of new life.”

Questions to reflect on:

  • Of what is God calling you to repent? Where do you see the power of sin at work in you, in your relationships, in our world? Take some time to write your confessions down or to name them aloud to God in prayer.
  • What keeps you from being honest about the power of sin in your life? Pride? Fear? Shame? For as uncomfortable as it can be, can you think of a time when you also experienced the freedom that comes with being honest about your transgressions?
  • Think of a time when your mind was changed—about yourself, someone else, a political issue, or even God. How was it for you to have your mind changed? Are you continually open to the ways God will change your mind about something?
  • We often think of repentance as a 180-degree turn, where we literally “turn around” and walk in a completely different direction. But repentance could also involve a turn of 1 or 2 degrees; even one degree of change sends us walking in an entirely different direction. Isn’t that a liberating thought? What 1 or 2 degree change could you make in your life that would draw you closer to your most authentic self?

Why do we resist the new life God offers us? Where is God trying to bring new life into your midst? How might you embrace it?