49Jesus said, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
54Jesus also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
Reflection: Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!
I took the picture above ten years ago when I was taking a media ministry course in seminary. We were tasked with going around the town of Wilmore, KY, photographing interesting scenes which might correspond to some deeper truth. This scene caught my eye because it represented to me the back-and-forth struggle between nature and human progress. At one time this ground had been natural dirt and grass. Then human beings came and paved over that area. At some point later the grasses underneath the pavement kept growing and spreading their roots, until that growth cracked through the pavement. The final step is the one I find most intriguing. When it came time to repaint the curb, instead of uprooting the small growth of grass that was poking through, somebody just painted over it! It was as if the painter was saying, all while thumbing their nose at the grass, “Humanity triumphs over nature again!” Perhaps that grass was left there as a warning to all other grasses who might be daring enough to try and grow there!
We fight many battles and face many divisions in life. Surprisingly, in our passage for this week, Jesus does not promise us freedom from conflict. In fact, he promises the opposite, boldly claiming that his work is intended to bring division. At its very core, the Christian life is counter-cultural. If we are serving God, then we will encounter those forces of society that are in opposition to what we are doing. Ultimately, our focus has to be pleasing God over pleasing others. This may even mean that we live against the grain of our families and peer groups, if their influence would cause us to stray from the ways of the kingdom of God.
Yet, we should not seek conflict. When those divisions happen, we are still called to be people of gentleness and goodness. In the conflicts we face in life, we are never to take the position of aggressor. We are called to stand firm on the truth of God and allow God to be our source of justification. Consider this week what it means for you to live a Christ-centered, counter-cultural lifestyle. How can you do so without judging others and without being a spiritual aggressor? How will you respond when the Christ-centered life opposes the currents of society? Trust that God will always honor committed devotion to the ways of kingdom.
Journaling Focus: You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
Reflect on the different “signs of the times” that you see in our world. In what direction are we heading as a society? What might empower us to head in positive directions in the future? We know that God will ultimately have the final say in the unfolding future of the world and humanity. Imagine what it would be like if we trusted God with the unfolding of our present situations. How might you be an agent for godly change in your own spheres of influence?
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (sometimes in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Explore: If you would like to explore the Scripture more deeply, go to our Exploring Scripture page!
Listen to this amazing presentation of The Evolution of Worship Music by David Wesley. It is incredible! Let the generations of music inspire you and draw you closer to God. Styles may change and the world around us may change, but God is good from everlasting to everlasting! What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three.
Think of a family member with whom you have had a difficult relationship. Perhaps this person has wronged you significantly. Pray for them this week. Ask God to draw them closer to him and soften their heart. If you are part of the reason for conflict, trust God to soften your heart as well. Seek God’s guidance in finding either reconciliation or the power to forgive.
Meditation Focus: I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!
You may remember your actual baptism if you were a child, teenager, or adult when you were baptized. If you were an infant when you were baptized, then you definitely do not remember that moment. Take some time to imagine yourself at your baptism, whether you physically remember it or not. As the waters flow over you, imagine the Holy Spirit descending upon you, sealing and anointing you for the work God had planned for you. Hear the words of God pronounce favor over you as a child of God. Then reflect on your life’s journey since your baptism. Do you see the Spirit of God present, guiding you and empowering you? What next steps in your journey as the baptized child of God is the Holy Spirit leading you into? How might you continue to “complete” the purposes of your baptism?
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it is Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- In what ways has your faith been challenged?
- In what ways have you remained faithful to God when it has been difficult?
- How have you seen the ways of God undermined in our society?
- How have you seen the ways of God promoted in our society?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
If there is a situation in your life in which you can make peace with someone without compromising your commitment to God, begin taking the steps to do so. Remember the words of Paul: “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18).
Breath Prayer: LORD God, grant us wisdom and boldness.