Friday, September 24, 2010

What's it Worth?

Do you believe in Heaven?

I know that not everybody believes in heaven. And I know that not everybody's beliefs about heaven are the same.

So let's start by saying that if you don't believe in heaven, you can go ahead and skip this post. There isn't anything here that is going to try to convince you of heaven's existence or my idea of what it takes to get into heaven. It's more about what is heaven you?

It's kind of odd that not everybody that believes in heaven, also believes in hell. And there are some people believe that everybody gets to heaven. (I guess there's not a lot of real value in living a life worthy of heaven if everybody gets to go.)

So for the context of this post, let's assume that heaven is a place to be greatly desired and hell (where everybody that doesn't get to heaven goes) is a place to be greatly shunned. If you're just an end results kind of person, it probably doesn't matter if your motivation is to attain heaven or to avoid hell. However, your motivation may make a difference between living a life of joy or a life of fear.

The reason that I ask this question is that I was reading in Matthew, chapter 13.
Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he buried it again and then went and sold everything that he had and bought the field.

Wait a says in his joy he sold everything he had. I imagine him as absolutely giddy about knowing that this great treasure is soon to be his. He knew that the value of the field was equal to everything that he owned but was willing to give it all up for the value of the hidden treasure which was worth so much more. I'm sure that the only way for him to obtain the field was to sell everything he had. In doing so, he purchased the field and all that was in it (the treasure).

So what if the only way to heaven is to surrender all that we have to God? I'm not suggesting that heaven can be bought, but I'm wondering just how literal does Jesus want us to take this little example of "the kingdom of heaven is like..."?

First of all, I don't see too many modern day Christians that are willing to give everything in exchange for heaven. Secondly, I don't see them doing it joyfully. Truthfully, if this is a realistic example of what the kingdom of heaven is like (and I have no reason to believe that Jesus is kidding around about it), then I'm currently left out in the darkness. There are plenty of things that I do for myself or my family that are done without a thought of how little impact they have on eternity. Dinner out tonight, new carpeting in the upstairs bedrooms, hardwood in the living room and hallway, vinyl in the upstairs bath--all nice (not necessary) but all for us. You can say that this is good stewardship; that we are just taking good care of our home, or you can say that we have too much and give too little to the cause of expanding the kingdom.

I really think that this should be a matter of great concern for professing Christians. In Southern Baptist culture, there is this mythological belief that if you pray a certain prayer Jesus will come into your heart and save you from eternal damnation. I don't find that in the Bible. I think that we've fooled millions of people into believing that they're going to heaven and they are as condemned as any unbeliever can be.

They have given nothing of themselves to following the Jesus that they say is their Lord.
They are not disciples that give themselves to studying His life and imitating His character.
There is little difference between the life they lead and the life of the average Joe without any thoughts of heaven and hell, good and evil, God or no god.
They bear no good fruit for the glory of God.

...And they (we) keep their stuff.

As I try to work this out in my own mind (and for my own sake), I am troubled. I take comfort in knowing that my God is far greater than I can imagine and His ways are far beyond my understanding. I am grateful for the comfort I find in Jesus' words just a few chapters away. A rich young man comes to Jesus searching for eternal life. You can read the encounter here.

Okay, that part is pretty discouraging. The encouraging part is what Jesus says next:
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then, can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Are the riches of heaven enough to cause you to surrender your earthly possessions? Is the promise of eternity worth more than anything this world can offer? Have you taken too lightly the parable of the buried treasure or the encounter of the rich young ruler?

If Jesus was serious when He told this story and when He encountered the rich man, how do you stand on the question of eternal salvation?


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sent into Battle

Wow. Reading through chapter 10 of Matthew isn't really the kind of stuff that a content middle-class Midwestern American boy wants to hear.

Jesus' warning to the troops as he sends them out kind of reminds me of a locker room pep talk before a big game--you know, the kind of speech the coach gives when you're the underdog and are going to get slaughtered.

Actually, it might be more like the what you may have heard as the Spartans battled at Thermopylae. The warriors knew they were greatly outnumbered and knew they would probably die in battle, but knew that their deaths would not be in vain if they could hold on and stop the advance of the Persian army. They fought with their king and for their king. They left their families behind. They were revered by their countrymen; respected and despised by their enemies. They did not fear death, but welcomed it if it came while defending their country, their king and their loved ones. In the end, they were defeated by information that was given to their enemies by a traitor.

Keep this scenario in mind as you read through chapter 10. Listen to what Jesus says about what the disciples will encounter.

They will go out among their countrymen (the Jews). They will be betrayed by their own families. They will be persecuted by the enemies of their king. They will be called on to give their lives.

Those that receive them and care for them will be blessed. Those that don't will receive harsh judgment.

Jesus warns them not to be reckless, but to be wise. He tells them to guard themselves from men that would betray them. He reminds them that there are many that hate him, so many will hate them. He tells them to tell the truth and proclaim it boldly.

He tells them not to fear persecution or death on Earth, but to fear the Father in heaven who has power over our eternal souls.

And Jesus reminds us that the truth will divide families against one another.

Yes, the truth divides. It divides families, and it divides nations. But the Bible tells us that our citizenship is not of this world. We are travelers in this life, in this world. Our home is in heaven. This is a battleground...and we are at war.

Unfortunately, this is not our mindset. Our guard is down. Our armor is on the shelf. Our enemies don't even know that they are our enemies or that we are warriors because we have been away from the battle for too long. We have made friends with the enemies of God and have become traitors to the cause of Jesus.

It seems that we all want to be diplomats and nobody wants to be a warrior. We want to talk the talk (when it won't get us in trouble) but walking the walk is for somebody else.

Jesus sends us so that others will call on God the Father. The Bible asks, "How can they call on on one they don't believe in? And how can they believe in one that they've never heard of? How can they hear if nobody tells them? And who will tell them if nobody has been sent to tell them?" (John's paraphrase of Romans 10:14-15)

Time to get dressed for the battle. Fight a good fight today.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Early Morning Rant

One of the few downsides to my job as an air traffic controller is the crazy schedule that I work. I did a swap with one of my co-workers that had me working the mid shift on Friday night/Saturday morning--not a big deal but I find myself wide awake at just past midnight. I slept from 8 to 12:30 earlier today, spent a few hours at Silver Dollar City with Chris this afternoon, took a little nap when we got home--now I'm awake. After laying awake for more than 45 minutes, I just decided to go with it and get up for a while.

Lately, I've been thinking about how we do church--not just at Hopedale, but Christian churches in general.

Back in 1995, Rick Warren wrote The Purpose Driven Church. In it, he named five purposes of the church: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry and Mission (Evangelism). These were the five keys to successfully growing a church.

One of the things that I've noticed is that we try to accomplish all of these things--at the same time on Sunday morning. Sunday morning church has become a "one stop shopping" kind of venue so that we can satisfy all of the requirements in a few hours and check all of the boxes for the entire week with a single visit to the church of our choosing. The problem is that it doesn't really work that way. By taking the time that is set aside for worship and trying to roll everything else into it, we may do all of those things--we just don't do them well.

What should be all about worshiping our great God has turned into a time of fellowshipping with one another, teaching (discipling) from the Bible, evangelizing (that is our pastor's job, right?) and ... well, let's face it, ministry isn't really our strong suit. If we can't find a way to take care of it on Sunday morning, it just isn't going to happen.

Oh yeah...and worshipping. Don't forget that. It is why we do Sunday mornings, isn't it?

What would happen if the only thing we do when we get together on Sunday mornings is to worship our God? What would happen if the pastor never made an altar call or shared the plan of salvation from the pulpit and that became our job as followers of Jesus (evangelism)? What would happen if we really started meeting each others needs and the needs of the community around us (ministry)? What would happen to the church if the people of the church became committed to learning about the Savior that we claim to be following (discipleship)? What would happen if we became a true family of believers that met with each other and shared a meal once in a while--away from church (fellowship)?

What would happen if we came to church and didn't expect to receive one little thing? What would happen if the only thing that we wanted to do, on any given Sunday morning, is to worship--truly worship--our God?

Honestly, I have to say that our church attendance would drop off dramatically.

And since butts in the pews or cars in the parking lot equates to dollars in the offering, we don't want to do anything that will keep people away. We would rather have a church full of people that are happily checking off the religion box each week (and throwing a few dollars our way) as they travel the broad road to hell than to worship God and to follow the teachings of Jesus.

It's almost 1:30 in the morning now and I doubt that many will read this before going to church on this last Sunday of summer. If you are one of the few readers that read this before church this morning, I want to encourage you to set everything else aside and just worship God. Don't ask Him for a single thing. Give to Him. Paul writes that we should be living sacrifices. That we should live for Him. Paul says it's our reasonable act of worship.

Maybe you're reading this and you don't go to church. Maybe Sunday morning is past and you missed the opportunity...for this week.

Find a way to worship God. Find a fellowship of believers that you can learn from and work with. Be purposeful in your daily walk with God. Don't wait for next week. Begin by worshipping Him now.


Friday, September 17, 2010

More From Matthew

Matthew 7:13-14

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

I always wonder why we miss these two verses. Oh we see them and read them plainly enough, but why is it that we are surprised to find that we (Christians) are in the minority? How is it that we seemed shocked that the way of the majority is not The Way?

It wasn't that many verses ago that Jesus compared us to salt and light. Is salt the primary ingredient in any food? Of course not. It is just a seasoning.

If we look at an image of the universe or of Earth taken from space, is there more light or more dark? There is always much more dark.

Jesus says that the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction...and many will take the easy way. He warns us that the gate is narrow and the way is hard...but it leads to life! And few will find this way...perhaps, even fewer will take it.

As I look at humanity, I am convinced that there are many that choose to ignore God's call--not because they don't believe in Him or His Divinity, but because they just don't want to live life on the narrow way. It's too hard. We like the easy way. We like it our way.

We go through life following the masses. They can't all be wrong, can they? Besides, it's easy...and it's fun. Sure, we hear stories about the ones that are suffering for Jesus. We're even inspired by them. Maybe a little outraged at their suffering and persecution, but that's them and we aren't being called on to suffer...or are we?

Maybe there isn't any suffering on our path because it is the broad path; the easy path. Maybe we're just fooling ourselves into thinking that we're following Jesus when really He is calling to us from a narrow path that branches off of the road that we're on. It looks like a lonely path and nobody else is walking that way. It looks to be narrow and difficult with rocks to climb and obstacles to negotiate. The wide road is easier and it looks like it's going in the same general direction. After all, we desire to find God; to serve Him. Isn't that enough?

That narrow, winding path has crossed this road before. Perhaps it will cross it again. We'll think about taking it then. For now, we're enjoying the easy way and the company of our friends--our "church" friends.

A short while ago, I was thinking about all of the people that I know that smoke. I'm sure that it's a very difficult habit to break, but let's face it--people smoke because they want to smoke. In spite of all of the evidence that smoking causes cancer, heart disease, emphysema, stroke and other health conditions, people choose to smoke. It's not that they disagree with the science--they just choose to smoke anyway.

I think that we respond to God's call to walk the narrow path the same way. It's not that we don't believe Him. It's not that we really think that we can do this eternity thing on our own. It's that we are just going to choose to do it our way...for now. We'll get on the narrow path later. We'll keep our eyes open and not let it get out of sight for too long. We'll call out to Jesus often enough to know where He is. But that's all we're really committed to...for now.

It's like we're watching Jesus, but not really following Him. We'll learn about the narrow way. We'll study stories of those that have walked that path. From time to time, we'll even try it out for a few miles...but it's hard. We grow weary. We digress. We decide that the broad way is easier.

Even though we never have a real encounter with God on the broad path, we're with people that talk about God. They're good people. Maybe if we just hang around with them, their goodness will count for something.

Maybe not.

If it sounds like I'm frustrated,
I am.
I am tired of playing church.
I am tired of saying that I'm a Christian.
I'm tired of feeling like this is too easy.
And I'm afraid that I might be fooling myself and walking the wrong road.

Skip down a few verses. Here are the ones that truly trouble my soul:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Price of Freedom

This past weekend I was doing a little channel surfing and came across the movie National Treasure. It was towards the beginning--the scene in the ice encrusted ship; the scene where they determine that they need to look at the back of the Declaration of Independence.

I watched it for a while but I had too much to do to sit for a couple of hours. However, I got to thinking about the Declaration of Independence, the men that signed it, and the principles for which they stood and for which it still stands.

There is a line that I think we should review as Americans from time to time. It's the last sentence before the fifty-six men sign their names and make their Declaration against the King of England.

It reads:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

When I read that today, I can't help but wonder if we remain as committed to our country as our forefathers were. Would we pledge our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor to preserve our country and our freedoms for future generations?

You don't have to look very far to see that there are many men and women that take up arms and stand ready to defend our nation, our citizens, and our principles by risking their lives in our Armed Forces. And while there may be many that don't necessarily support all of the country's military actions, you'd be hard pressed to find an American that doesn't cherish the freedoms that these men and women stand guard over. For the most part, our soldiers and sailors have the respect of masses and are applauded for their service at every opportunity. My sincere apologies for the few that use their Freedom of Speech to deride our military forces when ever they get the chance.

It's the second thing that really gets me thinking.

"...our Fortunes..."

Today we are a nation that is in great debt.

According to Forbes magazine, there are 403 billionaires, with a collective net worth of $1.3 trillion dollars, living in the United States. (422 according to 66 billionaires living in China...2nd most)

Our 4,715,000 millionaires is nearly 4 times second place Japan's 1,230,000.

We are the nation with highest GDP (Gross Domestic Product). At $14.6 trillion we are nearly twice second place China's $7.8 trillion.

The National Debt clock shows our debt at a staggering $13.45 trillion -- $43,000 per citizen!

When you stop and think of the billions of borrowed dollars that our government has promised in corporate bailouts, it's enough to make you sick. Instead of our citizens pledging our fortunes to secure our country, our country is borrowing fortunes to bailout mismanaged corporations and CEO's are continuing to get wealthy.

In an political climate that is still screaming "tax cuts", one has to wonder what would the men that gave everything have to say about those that have used the system to secure personal wealth but forgotten the country that provided that freedom.

Don't misunderstand me, I don't think that we should penalize those that have made their fortunes in our free enterprise system. But recognizing our need and realizing their ability, I don't think that this is the time for extending tax breaks for the wealthiest. I think that it's time for taxpayers at every income level to recognize that we are burdening future generations with the debt of our irresponsibility. It's time for us to quit figuring out how to pay less in taxes and to start figuring out how we're going to reduce our debt.

If it was your household budget that was in trouble, you would begin by finding where you could reduce spending. As citizens of this country (and voters) we need to begin by getting the irresponsible spenders out of Washington. Fire them! Vote them out. I don't care what party they belong to, if they have spent our money recklessly, get rid of them.

There has been much written about the fates of those that signed the Declaration--some of it true, some not. To get the real story, go here. The reality of the Revolutionary War is that many gave their lives, fortunes and honor to pay for the freedoms that we enjoy today. The Declaration of Independence lists many reasons why the colonists wanted freedom England. Taxation without representation was only one of the many reasons that was listed. That, and all of the many other injustices were corrected when we were able to set up our own government-- the Great American Experiment. The representative form of government has suited us well until it has been hijacked by high paid lobbyists and easily corrupted representatives--both have exchanged honor for money and power.

The time has come for our representatives to set aside party agendas and fix our broken economy. The time has come for each of them (and us) to pledge our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor to securing a free country for our kids, grandkids and generations beyond.

Midterm elections are only a few weeks away. I honestly don't know if any of the candidates would meet the Revolutionary requirement of even having honor to pledge to our country. The Congressman that has represented my district for years and is running for the Senate was named in 2005 as one of the most corrupt Congressmen in Washington. How's that for honor?

Along with many other Congressmen and Senators, he pays off contributors with favors of contracts, jobs, appropriations, legislation, etc. This has to stop. Unfortunately it's the people that are corrupted by lobbyists that are tasked to make the laws to police them--the foxes are guarding the hen house! It's time for us to hold them accountable, look at their voting records and hold them accountable--every time, every vote.

I realize that this has been quite a rant--I didn't really plan on that. I guess you could say that my ire is up!

I feel better. Now it's your turn...comments, anyone?


Monday, September 13, 2010

Not Funny

Next week, on Thursday (the 23rd), NBC will air one of its new sitcoms. As you probably know, "sitcom" is short for situation comedy. The problem with this particular show is that there is nothing funny about the situation being portrayed.

The show is called Outsourced and is about a company that sends its call center to India. While I'm sure that there will be much to laugh about as we poke fun at the cultural collide that happens when American management invades a foreign country, I just don't think that this is a show that I want to watch or encourage as millions of Americans find themselves the victims of corporate downsizing/rightsizing/outsourcing or whatever else you want to call putting fellow Americans out of work for the Almighty Dollar.

Maybe I just see this as an insensitive way to interject humor into the poor economic atmosphere in which we find ourselves. Maybe it would be a good laugh and a way to lighten the spirits for an out of work or underemployed American worker. Maybe I'm letting my union background get the best of me and I'm over reacting to NBC's joking around about the situation that has caused financial ruin for so many families. Outsourcing of American jobs has caused families to lose health care benefits, homes and even...families as the divorce rates among the financially stressed are high.

With hundreds of channels to choose from (almost all of them with tasteless programming) I'm sure that we can find something else to watch on Thursday nights. Maybe you'd even consider turning the TV off and spend time conversing with your family or reading a good book (or reading The Good Book!). It would please me a great deal if NBC would have to drop this show after a few weeks because Americans decided that there is nothing funny about companies sending our jobs overseas. Maybe the people in India would find it funny and they can ship their show over there.

I don't know what companies will sponsoring Outsourced (and I won't be watching it to find out) but it may be worth letting the sponsors know if you are offended by the program.

As it stands in our grand land, NBC is free to produce this insensitive program and we are free to watch it--or not.

I choose--NOT!

How about you? Thumbs up /\, or thumbs down \/?


Friday, September 10, 2010

What Would Paul Have Written to the Church in the USA?

I'm just wondering here...I'm not afraid of your comments or criticisms, I'm just warning you that I'm writing pretty much as things come to my head and I haven't really sorted all of the thoughts out yet.

I begin with that disclaimer because I know that there are pastors and evangelists, as well as seekers and critics that will read this and I don't want to be misunderstood. I want to state--right up front--that I believe the Bible. I believe that the writer's of the New Testament (Old Testament, too--but this post deals with the New Testament) are writing as God's agents, under the Divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Having said that, I believe that we also have a responsibility to realize that they were addressing the culture in which they lived. Though the truths of the Bible are timeless, I have to believe that the methods employed by the first century evangelists would differ greatly if they were to share the Gospel in the 21st century in the United States of America.

In the 17th chapter of Acts, Paul is in Athens and addressing the philosophers of Greece. He talks to the stoics and epicureans and uses the teachings of their own philosophies to introduce them to the idea of a God that is greater than the gods of their beliefs. He even uses their "unknown god" to tell them about the God that he knows and worships. While some of them sneer (there will always be those that sneer at different ideas), others are interested in discussing these new ideas.

Paul didn't introduce God by saying that they were all wrong and that the real God was going to condemn them because they had worshiped idols. He didn't threaten to destroy their idols or burn their scrolls because God was offended by them. He didn't tell them that their epicurean ways of satisfying the lusts of the flesh were leading them down the road to a hell that they didn't believe in.

Paul simply introduced them to God.

He told them that this God created all things. That He gives life to men. That He created us to seek Him. That He doesn't live in temples built by men and He isn't like the statues of gold that men have made. And Paul tells them that God has overlooked these things in the past but now has made Himself known to man and will one day judge us accordingly...and He has shown us by raising Jesus from the grave!

In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that he has become all things to all men so that he can save some.

If Paul was as a Jew to a Jew; as one under the Law to those under the Law; as one without the Law to those without the Law; as a slave to all (though he was free); how would he present himself to the people that I encounter everyday?

I know that there are great lessons to be learned in the history and teachings found in the Book of Acts. I know that there is great doctrine and instruction found in Paul's letters to the churches throughout the Roman Empire. The letters that were written by Peter, James, Jude, John and the unknown author of Hebrews are full of instructions for living the life that follows the teachings of Jesus.

But what if there is a greater lesson that we've been missing? What if the real lesson is in learning to present the teachings of Jesus (from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) in a way that is relevant, meaningful and attractive to the society in which we live?

I'm not suggesting that we water down the Gospel. I'm suggesting that we engage people in dialogue--you know, talk to them about the things that they believe as well as the things that we believe. It doesn't have to be an argument. It doesn't have to be "I'm right and you're wrong." It just needs to be an exchange of ideas.

Here in the USA, we really don't have to endure persecution for our beliefs--prejudice yes, but not real persecution. We like to think that we're being persecuted, but The Constitution is still doing a pretty good job of protecting us and allowing all Americans to worship (or not to worship) as we please. If we feel that our belief in Jesus compels us to share our faith (and we should), then let's do it in a way that doesn't turn people away from the Cross.

Paul often talked of his life before his encounter with Jesus, then told of that meeting on the road to Damascus and then told of his life's call to tell others about Jesus. Couldn't we do the same? Could it be that simple? What if we just shared the Jesus that we know--the one that died for our sins and dwells in our hearts? The one that died for their sins and longs to dwell with them, too? Would that still work?

We can't be hateful and condemning of another's beliefs and expect them to be open to hearing ours. We can't burn their holy book with one hand and and expect them to embrace the Bible that is in our other hand. (At this hour, there are conflicting reports that the Koran burning is Florida has been cancelled.) There has been plenty of killing in the name of religion throughout the history of man...and I'm afraid that there will be plenty more.

Though I know that men will continue to battle over lands, wealth, principles and ideals--as well as over religions, I long for the day when God will settle the disputes of the world. Until then, we have to find a way to talk with people and not preach at people. We have to find a way to share His message of love.


He will judge between the nations and settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Isaiah 2:4

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Temptation

Earlier this week, I began to make notes in the margin of one of the Bible reading programs that I use. The notes kind of took on a life of their own and morphed into what will eventually be a sermon.

I was reading in the fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew. You can find the text here.

These are my notes:

I really like the progression of the temptation of Jesus. In verse 3 the temptation is not only simple, it is reasonable. After a forty day fast, it is reasonable to assume that Jesus is in need of food.

I have to admit that the first part of Satan's statement confuses me a bit--"If you are the Son of God..."

As we read through the New Testament, the demons always recognize Jesus as the Son of God. They always fear Him. And they always obey his commands. Perhaps, here at the beginning of His ministry, Satan is unsure of the deity of the human Jesus of Nazareth. Is this the same Jesus that was born in a stable 30 years ago?

Maybe Satan is unsure of the humanity of Jesus vs the deity of Jesus. In any case, the temptation is for Jesus to overcome His human weakness by using His divine power. “If you are the son of God...”

It's been said that character is who you are when nobody is looking. That is the position in which Jesus finds himself in the wilderness. Really--as far as the man Jesus is concerned, is it a big deal if he uses a little bit of the divine power to turn a few stones into bread? Who would know? ( As a side note: I think that Satan was foolish to tempt him with bread. I'm thinking that if I'm hungry and planning on making food from rocks, maybe a smoked brisket with a slightly spicy bbq sauce, some baked beans, corn on the cob and maybe a blackberry cobbler. Mere child's play "If you are the son of God".)

Is it cheating if, at the end of his fast, Jesus makes bread from stones? Would the Father receive glory from this use of divine power? Does that really matter? And who would know?

This first temptation is one that we often fall for--the temptation to satisfy our need. It might be something as simple as a need for food or it might be more complex; like our need to belong or be loved. It might appeal to our need to succeed in business. Or maybe to satisfy our sexual desires.

It's an "it's all about me" kind of temptation. It's about putting my needs/desires/addictions above everything else. It's about being selfish.

Don't worry.
Everybody does it.
It's not hurting anybody.
And besides, who's going to know?

These are the excuses that we use to justify doing the things that we know we shouldn't do.

But Jesus sees through the devil's temptation and turns him aside by using that which he has learned from the Scriptures. The quote that he uses is found in Deuteronomy 8:3.

In essence, Jesus says, "This isn't about me and my hunger. It's about preparing for my Earthly ministry. It's about serving God."

It is important that you and I realize that we can't expect the Scriptures to rescue us if we don't know them. It is so important that we are able to recall verses of Scripture if we are to live by the Word and if we are to count on the Word in times of trials as well as in times of temptation.

In round two, Satan steps up his game a bit. He decides that if Jesus is going to quote Scripture, so is he. Again, Satan is looking for some divine proof--"If you are the Son of God..."

In round one, Satan uses the "If you are the Son of God" line to try to convince Jesus to use his divine power to take care of himself. Here, he is saying, "If you are the Son of God, then prove it to me. The Scripture says that angels will guard you and take care of you."

Jesus doesn't disagree with Satan or argue with him. Jesus just tells him what else is written in the Scriptures. Again, Jesus quotes from the Torah, this time Deuteronomy 6:16.

I want to share my observation that this is one thing that I often hear Christians saying--that they are going to do something and trust God to stop them if it's not His will. I don't think that's the way God works. Often times, what we're asking God to do is to make our will His will. It's a lot easier than actually seeking His will.

Professing Christians have used the "it's His will" line to justify torture (during the Inquisition and Crusades) and murder. Even today, there are those that use "God's will" to harass and bomb abortion clinics or to hatefully treat gay and lesbian people. We overlay our will with "God's will" to justify abusing our children or our spouses. We decide that God wants us to be happy and so we fill our life with things that will make us happy. We decide that whatever makes us happy is God's will. We even justify leaving our marriages because we say it's not God's will for me to be unhappy.

Those that have placed their trust in Jesus have been rescued from the judgment; the condemnation that comes after this life. There is no promise that this life will be pain free. There is no assurance that we will not face the struggles of life. In fact, Jesus says that we will face trials because of Him.

Test God? If we are testing God to see if He will conform to our will, He won't. If we are testing Him to see if He's really God, He is--no matter what He does or doesn't do for us.

Finally, Satan brings out the big guns: power, wealth, fame--all the kingdoms of the world and all of their glory. Pretty tempting, indeed! And if Jesus would have had eyes that were focused on this world alone, He may have gone for it.

But His eyes were fixed on heaven and once again He relies on the Scriptures to make his choice.

Perhaps our greatest downfalls, our greatest failures come when we are focused on the things of Earth. Perhaps we too seldom think of God and too seldom serve Him only. We are weighted down with meeting the needs of our bosses, our parents, our kids, our spouses, our society, etc., etc.

We have no time to worship God; no time to serve Him only.

...And so we fall into temptation. We fall into sin. We offend God because He isn't really our God. Our gods have become the idols of self, of lust for power, wealth and fame. The gods we serve may serve us well in this life, but what of the life to come?

Who is your God? Will your God be ther for you in the next life? Will He stand with you at the Judgment? If His name is Jesus, He will.

"It is written..."


Friday, September 03, 2010

Quietly Coming Home

I got to see something pretty cool last night. At a little bit after 1 o'clock Thursday morning, an MD80 aircraft, bringing several dozen military troops home, arrived in Springfield MO. The chartered airplane parked at the old terminal building to unload its passengers.

These men and women that had been away from their families serving our country, arrived home in the middle of the night with little fanfare. Except...

The guys that man the Fire and Rescue at the airport heard about the flight and wanted to do something to let the passengers know that they are special and that their sacrifice and service is greatly appreciated. They positioned two of the fire trucks to give a "water salute" as the aircraft taxied to the ramp.

The firetrucks station themselves far enough apart that the aircraft can easily taxi between them. As the aircraft approaches, they expel water from their cannons, forming an arch of water over the taxiing aircraft.

What made this really cool was that it was at 1 am, on a dark ramp...and there was nobody there to see it--only the troops themselves and their families. Having a small part in it (coordinating between the vehicles and the pilots) made me feel like it was a personal salute from me and the guys at the firehouse; a personal thank you to the troops; a welcome home. I found myself standing to watch it--not because standing gave me a better view, but because standing seemed like the right thing to do; the respectful thing to do.

I don't know where these troops had served. It really doesn't matter. What matters to their families is that they are safe and they are home.


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

It's Raining, It's Pouring

It's raining in the Ozarks this morning; the first significant rainfall we've had in sometime. I know many people that have been saying how badly we need rain. And I know that we do need the rain, but...

When I was a kid, I never really understood the old people always saying that we needed rain. As a kid, I had little use for rain. I mean I liked playing in the rain if you could talk mom into letting you go outside while it was raining. And I liked riding my bike through the puddles or floating sticks down the water in the ditches after it stopped raining. But rain usually meant no swimming that day, no baseball that night and you were stuck inside with only your siblings to play (fight) with. You didn't get to go outside for recess during the school year and outdoor activities were cancelled--especially if there was lightning with the rain.

All in all, I never really cared if it didn't rain.

Now it's the people my age that seem to be concerned about how badly we need the rain. Notice that I said "people my age" and not me. I know that we need rain for the crop, grass, flowers, animals, yada, yada, yada. And I know that the river levels and lake levels are important for energy production and general water recreation like boating and skiing. Maybe I should be like everybody else and remind others about how we need to pray for rain. I'm pretty much not...if ya know what I mean.

First of all, I say if you're going to pray for rain, why not ask God to have it rain at night? That way we still have all of the wonderful daytime activities to enjoy at our leisure. If you're going to ask, ask for what you really want.

Second of all, I'm guessing that after a few thousand years of playing around with weather systems, making corrections for greenhouse gases, keep watch over the animals and our food supply, that God pretty much has the rain thing the way He wants it.

So if you don't mind, I'll just take what comes without expecting God to cater to my personal preferences as far as the weather goes. After all, He did give us a number of different climates and conditions to choose from and we are free to move to an area more suited to our likes and dislikes. (For example, if you're one of those people that has to have a "white Christmas", don't pray for it to snow in Southern Missouri--move to Iowa. I don't want to have to shovel your snow!) And if you feel that you just have to pray for rain--pray that it rains at night.

Just sayin'.