Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Way Out When Tempted

Chuckle:  "A pastor had a lady in his church who was so into TV soap operas that she would even mention some of the characters in prayer on Wednesday nights."
Good Quote:   “Temptation usually comes in through a door that has deliberately been left open.  --Unknown source 
"When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so you will not give in to it" (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT).
No doubt you and I will be tempted to sin many times today and every day.  We are all tempted as long as we are alive.  We need not feel guilty about being tempted because even Jesus was tempted.  "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:18 NIV).  "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin" (Hebrews 5:15 NIV).  The issue is not whether or not we will be tempted to sin; that's a given.  The issue is how do we react when tempted. 
The word translated as "tempted" sometimes means "tested."  Sometimes God allows us to be tempted to test our spiritual metal.  We know that when we are tested, God's purpose is to strengthen our faith and dependence upon Him.  God tested Abraham's faith and obedience by commanding him to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering.  However, it was never God's intention for Isaac to be killed -- it was a test to strengthen Abraham.  You will remember that God provided a ram at the last moment after Abraham had proven his loyalty to God.  Abraham passed the test of faith. 
Temptations to sin are always from the evil one, never from God.  "When tempted, no one should say God is tempting me. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone" (James 1:13 NIV).  If you are a Christian, I'm sure Satan wrings his hands in glee when you yield to a temptation and are drawn into sin.  He not only has destroyed your joy and peace with God but he has destroyed your testimony and credibility as His ambassador.  Satan knows your sin will negatively affect others around you and bring discredit upon our Lord and His church.  But God, through His indwelling Spirit, has provided the strength for us to resist temptation.  "The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation" (2 Peter 2:9 NASB). 
To successfully resist Satan's temptations, turn your heart toward God and make a promise to yourself that when you face temptation you will turn away from it and take that temptation to God and receive His strength to resist it.  He will show you the terrible consequences if you yield and sin; but He will also show you the way out, in His strength, and lead you to be victorious in every situation.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Knowing and Caring

Chuckle:  Friend: "Has your son decided what he wants to be when he grows up?  Father: "Yes, he wants to be a garbage collector.  He thinks garbage collectors only work on Tuesdays."    
Good Quote:  "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." --Jackie Robinson
    "As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34 NIV).
The following is by Dr. Layne Smith, Interim Transition Specialist with the Center for Congregational Health.  He wonders if the gains we have made by being more sophisticated congregations have been lost as we seem to be less concerned about caring for people.
I drove up to the small, country church to attend the funeral of the grandmother of one of the church members where I currently serve. The temporary sign on wheels announcing the Easter cantata greeted me from the front lawn as I parked my car on the dirt lot. As is often the case at these rural churches, several of the men stood out on the steps of the sanctuary visiting with each other. As I walked into the tiny foyer, the funeral home employee handed me a bulletin with the order of service. On the back was the ubiquitous Psalm 23, the source of comfort and strength to so many in times of grief and need.

As I stepped into the small sanctuary, I walked into familiar territory. It was the church of my past. The open casket was there at the front in place of the communion table. The American and Christian flags framed the choir loft behind the pulpit.  Behind the choir loft was the baptistery. The painting on the back of the baptistery wall was a river scene.  There was no organ, just an out of tune piano. The modest stained glass windows had center cameos of the Baptism, the Birth, Gethsemane, Jesus teaching the Elders, the Woman at the Well, and the Crucifixion, all familiar to those raised and steeped in the rural churches of yesteryear. 
There was a quiet buzz of conversation. These modestly dressed folk knew each other.  It felt like community. They greeted each other quietly, yet warmly. It reminded me of a story I read years ago about Sam Rayburn who was the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States for seventeen years, the longest tenure in U.S. history.  If the story isn't true, it's one of those that ought to be true. 
The story is told that "Mr. Sam" as he was known, became ill with pancreatic cancer.  It became necessary for him to resign as Speaker of the House.  He decided to move back home to Bonham, Texas.  Someone asked him why he didn't stay in the DC area or perhaps go to New York to get the latest and greatest treatments.  "Why in the world would you go back to a little place like Bonham, Texas?" the person wanted to know.  "I want to go back because in Bonham, Texas," he said, "People know when you are sick, and they care when you die."
"In Bonham, Texas, people know when you are sick, and they care when you die."  That's what it felt like to attend the funeral that day. What would it take for our modern day, sophisticated churches to create an environment like that? I think it's worth considering.
Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Cost of Following Jesus

Chuckle:  A customer said to the salesman, "I want to try on that suit in the window." The salesman replied, "Oh, Sir, we couldn't allow that. You have to use the dressing room like everyone else."
Good Quote:  "God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do."  --Regina Brett 
    Another of his disciples said, "Lord, first let me return home and bury my father." But Jesus told him, "Follow me now! Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own dead" (Matthew 8:21-22 NLT).
The central truth of this passage is that following Jesus will cost you something.  If you profess to be a Christian and a follower of Christ, but you sacrifice nothing for the relationship with him, a heart examination is likely long over due.  In our passage, it is possible that the disciple was not asking for permission to go to his father's funeral, but rather to put off following Jesus until a more convenient time -- until his elderly father had died.
Jesus never minced words and was always direct with those who expressed a desire to follow him.  He always made certain they weighed the cost of discipleship and their willingness to set aside any personal reservations or conditions which might prevent them from following him wholeheartedly.  Jesus said, "Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:38 NIV).
As God's one and only Son, Jesus did not hesitate to demand complete loyalty and devotion.  This means that nothing can be more important to us than our relationship with him.  The decision to follow Jesus should never be put off until a more convenient time.  Even when other loyalties and desires compete for our attention, they should never be allowed to become more important than our Lord.  If Jesus is your Savior, he also wants to be Lord and Master of your life.
As a pastor, I'm amazed at how many "Christians" claim the lordship of Christ in their lives, but, at the same time, sin against him by disobedience and letting sinful lifestyles prevent them from being fully devoted followers of Christ.  When we intentionally disobey God's Word, refuse to give up sinful practices, or let other priorities in life take precedence over our relationship with him, it calls into question our very salvation experience.  For a Christian, it is not enough to talk the talk, but we must walk the walk.  "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come"  (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).
At the beginning, I said following Jesus will cost you something.  But let me add, it will not cost you anything worthwhile when compared to the rewards of joy, peace, and contentment that come to fully devoted followers of Christ.  Once we surrender completely to him, everything that was once so important becomes abhorrent to us.  The apostle Paul writes, "Yes, everything else is worthless when compared to the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  I have discarded everything else, counting it all garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him . . ." (Philippians 3:8 NLT).
Love, Jerry & Dotse