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The Way of Salvation

Read Acts 16.16-34

“What must I do to be saved?” This is the question the jailer asks of Paul and Silas. It is a question loaded with meaning and significance.

The jailer is poised, ready to take his own life. He has failed at his job, fallen asleep at his post. The doors are open, the prisoners have escaped. The jailer is distraught. He wants to take his own life, rather than risk public humiliation. Death seems to him his only escape. He readies himself, draws his sword from its sheath and prepares to face the unknown.

And then, a loud voice is heard, Paul shouting out, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” Strange, the prisoners haven’t escaped. What possessed them to stay? The jailer had fallen asleep, had failed to watch over these prisoners and yet they had not escaped. The jailer flings himself at the feet of Paul and Silas, no doubt relieved and yet trembling, coming so close to taking his own life, he asks them, “What must I do to be saved?”

There are many ways to approach this question. The jailer may be asking: “How can I be saved from my bosses?”  Paul and Silas, however, hear the deeper meaning behind this question. The jailer has just had a near-death experience. Faced with being a failure at his job, he found nothing else worth living for.  Paul had seen this and even though the jailer had been rescued from the immediate crisis, there was still much missing in his life. Paul and Silas see this and hear the deeper question of purpose in “What must I do to be saved?” It is a question of ultimate importance, “What can I lean on when the going gets tough? Where can I turn when it feels like I’m going in circles? How can I get the faith you seem to have?”

Paul and Silas hear this deeper meaning and respond quite simply, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” They go on to say, “You and your household.” Should the jailer believe, not only will his life be affected, but his whole family’s life. Belief in this sense is an active verb, it means much more than to agree or consent that Jesus was real, or that faith is a good idea. Belief here means ultimate trust, risking your life for the sake of Christ, looking to Jesus for your purpose in life. For the jailer this would mean in his moment of crisis turning to prayer rather than the sword.

I am amazed at the power these simple words have in the life of the jailer. Clearly, he was ready to hear and respond. Immediately, he takes the risk of releasing these prisoners, inviting them into his home, washing and caring for their wounds, listening to their teachings, receiving baptism and rejoicing over a feast that he had become a believer in God. He turns from being ready to take his own life to rejoicing at a feast. It is awesome to think that such dramatic life changes could happen. It is even more awesome to know that they do.

Each of us in need of conversion. The salvation of God is more than just a one-time event, but an ongoing way, a path that leads us through the periods of crisis and difficult decisions in life. The salvation made possible through Jesus Christ, in his life, death and resurrection, is made real to us as we turn from the ways of the world, of sin and death, and turn to God, allowing the grace of God to bring us to tears, to produce the changes necessary in our lives.

The good news is that God is always ready to change us, even before we know change is needed. I’ve talked with a number of people who have felt themselves getting into ruts with their lives, struggling to overcome routines that once were meaningful but over time had become burdensome. People who can’t accomplish what they want because there is just so much that needs to be done and they wind up going through the motions and losing their sense of purpose or significance.

It is important when you find yourself in these ruts, or when you find yourself at a point of crisis to ask, “What must I do to be saved?” Ask it in prayer; ask it in faith with those you trust. God may well be moving you to a point of conversion, a life change that may not be as dramatic as the Apostle Paul falling off his horse, but could have an awesome impact on your life and the lives of others.

The way of salvation leads through the cross. The path of salvation leads us through dark valleys and long stretches of dry land. We can follow the path because we know that God walks with us and in the end, God will welcome us home with a feast. There will be much rejoicing and in our rejoicing even the dark places, the points of crisis, even the dry ruts have meaning and all things work together for the glory of God. We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way.  Praise God. Amen.

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How Do Christians Deal With Conflict?

Read Acts 15.1-29

How do Christians deal with conflict? This is a difficult question, partly because we aren’t used to thinking faith and conflict together. We think of our faith in terms of peace and joy, of praise and gladness. When we begin to experience conflict, we assume that there must be a lack of faith on our part, or someone else’s. 

People look to the church as a sanctuary from the conflict of the world, a safe place to feel loved and accepted by God and each other and when conflict erupts in the church, it is like a lightening bolt that comes from a clear blue sky. Yet, there is conflict in the church. There always has been and there always will be until God sees fit to in the end to bring us together in a lasting peace. For now, the question is not, how do we avoid or prevent conflict, but how do we as Christians deal with conflict.

The Book of Acts provides us with a record of how early Christians dealt with conflict. One of the big debates in the early Church was over what the requirements were to be a Christian. Many believed that since Jesus himself was a Jew and since his teaching upheld the traditions of his ancestors, that in order to follow him- to be a Christian- one must also become a Jew and adhere to Jewish custom.

Paul saw things differently. In his work with the Gentiles, Paul and Barnabas witnessed how God was working miracles in the lives of people; bringing healing, changing lives, helping people turn their lives away from sin to God. These Gentiles were not Jews, were not even familiar with Jewish customs, and yet they were being filled with God’s Spirit and doing great things for the work of Christ’s church.

Paul believed you did not have to first become a Jew to be a Christian, but the God in Christ could convict people regardless of their background and lead them in faithfulness without their being circumcised. Paul argued that the Jewish standard of circumcision was an obstacle for Gentiles receiving God’s grace.

People within the church were offended by Paul’s openness and a group from the Jerusalem congregation went out into Gentile territory to try to convince the Gentiles to receive circumcision. Conflict erupted between this group and the group represented by Paul and Barnabas. Acts records how this conflict is dealt with and in this way provides a model for how we as Christians might deal with the conflicts we face. The final decision was that Gentiles need not be circumcised, but need to respect Jewish traditions. Basically, it was decided that Gentiles need not become Jews to be Christians, but must live as respectful foreigners in Jewish territory.

Even more important than the decision reached was the process used to reach the decision. There are many important elements of this process that can help us deal with conflict today. I want to focus on three. The Concerns, the Consultation, and the Consensus.

First, the concerns. Notice how the concerns from all parties are expressed and listened to in an effort to understand the nature of the conflict. The leaders don’t just take Paul and Barnabas word as gospel truth, but listen to those with a different perspective, persons of opposing viewpoints. There are always many concerns that surround any given conflict, and to approach one and not the others might widen the gap.

Secondly, the consultation. Not only did the affected persons consult with the leaders of the church, but the leaders themselves consulted Scripture. Throughout the process, but specifically after the concerns are voiced, the leadership seeks the counsel of Scripture. James quotes the prophets in Acts 15.13-18 and applies it to the situation faced. This is an essential part of dealing with any conflict — to seek the guidance of Scripture. James does not simply quote something from the Bible to prove his point, but seeks the counsel of Scripture that God’s guidance may be found.

Finally, consensus is reached. Once a solution is discovered, there is a temptation to act quickly, to get the conflict over sooner. The wisdom of the council gathered at Jerusalem that day knew enough to work first to arrive at consensus, to help everyone see the value in the decision before it was carried out. This could not have been done had not all the concerns been listened to and addressed, had not the Scriptures been consulted. Consensus is not arrived at quickly. We are only able to discover what we can agree on after we recognize our differences.

How do Christians deal with conflict? In Acts, the process involved hearing the concerns, consulting the Scriptures, and arriving at consensus. This process may seem tedious and burdensome. I’m sure there were those in the early Church who wanted quick results and were frustrated at the deliberate nature of the process. Why can’t we just act, just do something and let the chips fall where they may?

The reason why is that too often when we act quickly, we act alone. God is active in our conflicts and yet we may fail to recognize this when we seek easy solutions. Through prayer, both on our own and within the church, we can seek God’s guidance even for the most difficult conflicts. God is concerned and willing to work with us through our conflicts that we might move toward harmony in the church and in our world.

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Families in Christ

Read Genesis 12.1-9 & Genesis 17

I picked up a newspaper this week and on the front page alone there were two stories of family in crisis.

There was a story of the family unable to pay the loan on their farm. The farm that had been in the family for years was now being auctioned off. The paper said emotions were high, the anger and frustration of people losing not only their livelihood, but also their home. A family in crisis.

Just below that was the story of a man who had been laid off at the Glass Works. He had been there five years, but he and his wife had just bought a home and were hoping to settle down and begin their family. All of a sudden, the bottom had dropped out. They didn’t know where they would turn. A family in crisis.

A family that has worked together to preserve and now must scramble to make ends meet. Sometimes the threats to our family life come from the outside. This is true for those faced with economic hardship. For laid off workers. For families that must take second and third jobs to make ends meet. The routines and schedules that used to make families click become jumbled and family time is squeezed in between so many other pressing commitments.

What hope is there for the family? If left to us, there is no hope. The good news is – we’re not alone. The God who created us and set us in families to live together has not abandoned us and left us to work things out on our own. God provides the support and direction we need to make family life work, even in the midst of crisis. Our God becomes involved in family life.

God becomes involved in family life. First, God calls people to be a blessing to families. When God makes a covenant with Abraham and Sarah, God does not just say, I’m going to bless your family but that your family will be a blessing to other families. God does not play favorites and choose select families to rescue from  the wicked ways of the world. Through one family, as others come to know the loving mercy of God.

Sarah and Abraham recognized that they were on a journey with God. Even in their old age, they continued to follow where God called them. There was no point at which they felt they had arrived, they continued to trust and look to God for guidance and direction.

Abraham and Sarah were real people, with real struggles of their own. Sarah was barren for years.  In her day, a woman unable to have children was scorned by the community, looked down upon by friends and neighbors alike.

Abraham, or Abram as he was then called, was a common wanderer. He was so afraid of others that he told his wife Sarah to pretend to be his sister so if they wanted her they wouldn’t kill him first. Abram was a common man, frightened by a world beyond his control.

And yet Abraham and Sarah trusted God and this trust rubbed off on others. They became a blessing to families who thought they had to make it on their own by living a life that pointed to something more, trusting in God. They were a blessing not so much because they told families how to live but they showed in their own family life that they depended on God.

There have been and continue to be those within the church who, like Abraham and Sarah, are a blessing to families. The church itself plays this role as we respond to the needs and concerns of all family members. As we point families beyond themselves to the household of God.

This function of the church, to be a blessing to families, is particularly important as people face new family situations. As couples are newly married, as step-families are formed, as single parent families look for ways to structure relationships, to provide their children with support and guidance. We, as the church need to recognize that families aren’t what they used to be and that support for families now is going to look different that support 20 years ago.

Another way that God becomes involved in family life is by calling the church to be a family in Christ. For some, the church family provides a home away from home, a safe place to be loved and accepted

I was talking with a pastor friend of mine who told me that growing up, she was one of the neighborhood kids dropped off at Sunday school. The church became a second home for her. When her own family life became chaotic, she turned to the church and found there a safe place to grow up and build trusting relationships. The church became a family for her and she has since devoted her life to service within the church.

At our best, we as the church can be the home away from home, the family that can be a blessing for other families, the family to turn to when life becomes chaotic. By ourselves, we could never pull it off. In our own families. In our church family. Pressures within and without to be something other than who we are.

But we’re not alone. God gives us the strength to face the challenges. God walks with us. God blesses our church family to be a blessing to other families. God calls us to be a family in Christ that doesn’t tear down, but builds up everyone within the family.

As you look at the paper, the news doesn’t look good for the family. As you look to God, in Christ, there is good news. 

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Two Lost Sons

Read Luke 15.1-32

The parable of the Prodigal Son has been called “the gospel within the gospel.” In this beautiful short story we are given a glimpse of what God’s forgiving love looks like. It contains the core message of the gospel — that nothing can separate us from God’s love, not even our own desire to separate ourselves. While we get caught up in the character of the two sons, the story begins and ends with the father and while Jesus does not come right out and say this father represents God, clearly God’s love is evident in the actions of this father.

Not only does the story reveal something about God, but something about the nature of being human. Some can identify with the younger son, who wants to make it on his own, but just doesn’t have what it takes. Others can sympathize with the older son, who is angry that his obedience doesn’t win him favor. I’m sure some parents can imagine what the father goes through, trying to be fair with the two sons and yet not wanting to create more distance. 

This is what the younger son in the story hopes to achieve. He goes to the father and says to him, “Father, please give me that part of the inheritance which is mine.” On one level, he simply wants what’s coming to him. Still, as one writer points out, he comes to the father not because of who the father is, but because of what he has.

The father divides up the inheritance among his sons. He gives the younger son the opportunity, the freedom to make it on his own. From here, the son wastes no time selling his share and taking off for a far country. He wants to make it on his own and the only way he knows to do that is to put some distance between him and his family. The story tells us that he “squanders his property in dissolute living.” Some people take this to mean he was out “gallivanting” (as my father calls it), that he used the money for drinking and sleeping around. This is what his older brother accuses him of later in the story.

But there’s no indication of this the way Luke tells the story. To “squander his property in dissolute living” means basically that he spent the money foolishly, not thinking ahead. In no time at all he was broke. Not only was he broke, but he found there was a famine in the land. There was a recession; there were no good jobs to be found.

Still, he doesn’t give up. He hires himself out as a farm hand. In one sense you can admire his willingness to work in a desperate situation. He doesn’t give in to hard times. To take a job feeding pigs, however, would be to move further away from his family. Pigs were considered unclean by Orthodox Jews. It would be like taking a job as a Sunday bartender on the Riverboat when you grew up in a family that didn’t drink or gamble and went to church on Sundays.

Then, there is a turning point. Verse 17 reads, “when he came to himself.” He has hit rock bottom and he looks around and says, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough to spare, but here I am dying of hunger.” There are two things that make it possible for this turning point. First, the desperateness of his need, the fact that he has hit rock bottom, but more importantly, the memory of his father who was good and kind and saw that even the hired hands were cared for.

We read that he prepares a confession and goes back home, but even before he has the chance to speak, his father, who has been looking off in the distance waiting for him to return, runs up and gives him a hug. He has a robe put on him, a ring on his finger, and shoes on his feet. The celebration begins.

The story could end here and we would have a wonderful story of how the father does not forget his son, even though he has done foolish things. But there’s more to the story. There is the older son, off working in the fields, slaving away under the hot sun while back at home they are preparing for the feast.

It’s great to be able to identify with the prodigal son– to know that no matter how far we stray, God is always there ready to welcome us home. But what if we’re more like the older son?

The older son refuses to join the celebration, so his father seeks him out. The father listens carefully as his first born lays out the concerns of his heart. Yet, mixed with these concerns there is also a spirit of abandonment. He has stayed on the farm not out of love, but out of a sense of pride. He no longer feels the bond with his father, but views his condition as that of a slave, as he says, “I have slaved for you all these years.”

Finally, the father responds. “My child, you are constantly with me. Everything I have is yours.” The father’s love for the younger son does not mean he loves the older son less. The beauty in this story is not that father is inconsistent, but that his message to both sons is the same. You are my children, and I love you. You are welcome here. This is your home. I see in this story hope for everyone.

The amazing love of God is big enough for those who wander away as well as those who stay at home.

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Washing Before the Meal

Read John 13.1-17

Jesus and his disciples have entered time Jerusalem.Their time, though brief, had been a whirl-wind of activity. Jesus’ reputation was spreading like wild fire. Crowds of people gathered wherever he went, anxious to see this prophet from Nazareth the whole town was talking about.

His fame, though, was a mixed blessing and curse. The enthusiastic welcome Jesus received entering Jerusalem had quickly turned to anger, doubt and confusion. Merchants cursed this crazy prophet who had turned over their tables in the temple courtyard. Jesus had ruined their business on one of the busiest days of the year. Business leaders grumbled when the name “Jesus” was even mentioned.

Religious leaders were also upset. They warned Jesus if things didn’t settle down, there would be trouble. All this commotion over Jesus was taking away from the celebration of Passover, they said. It was time to focus on God- time to focus on the Exodus-how God delivered their ancestors from slavery in Egypt. It was not the time to stir up anger against Rome. It was not the time to promote false hope in a Messiah who could not deliver. Leaders in the religious community felt this Jesus had to be silenced.

Even the crowds of people who had welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem with waving palms and songs of praise were beginning to wonder what was going on. When would he mobilize his forces? How did he expect to take over without any weapons, without an army? Why was he upsetting the community by destroying the business of the temple marketplace? What kind of Messiah would do that? The people were confused. They watched Jesus anxiously, but with growing doubt that he was the One sent by God.

As the disciples entered this upper room, they were tired and confused. They were hot; their skin burned under the blazing sun. They were dirty; their sandals and feet covered with the sand of Jerusalem streets. Exhausted, they welcomed this quiet space away from the crowds like an old friend with a cool cup of water on a hot day. Here they could regroup and spend some time with Jesus alone. They could let go of the fury of the past few days. Now they could renew their faith in God and their teacher. God’s chosen one.

The disciples collapsed around the table prepared for the Passover feast. They tried to put out of their mind the past few days and focus on God and this meal. They began to tell the story of Passover — how God sent plagues on the land of Egypt because Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go. God’s people, Israel, escaped these plagues. They were delivered from the hard life of slavery. Someone spoke the words the LORD gave to Moses and Aaron.

“This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.”

They remembered and gave thanks to God.

Jesus sat quietly with them around the table. Without saying a word, he rose to his feet, took off his robe, grabbed a towel and a basin and began to wash the feet of Simon Peter.

Peter was stunned. He objected.

Jesus smiled. “You don’t understand. Maybe someday.”

Peter continued. “You will never wash my feet, Lord. You’re not my servant.”

Jesus explained, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

Peter still confused and a little embarrassed, said, “Well then, wash my hands and head also.”

“That’s not necessary,” said Jesus as he washed and wiped Peter’s feet.

Peter felt the blood rush to his head. All his pride escaped through his pores like the Jerusalem sand from his feet. He felt like a little boy in the hands of a loving parent, gently washing and wiping him clean.

The disciples looked at each other, embarrassed and confused. They were so tired they had forgotten to wash their feet before gathering at the table. There were no servants around to do it for them. Here was Jesus, their teacher, taking the role of the servant, kneeling down to their grimy feet, taking them in his hands, gently washing and wiping them until they were clean. The words of Jesus kept ringing in their ears.

“Unless you let me wash your feet, you cannot share in my inheritance.”

No one was more uncomfortable with this than Judas. He sat quietly, staring straight ahead. He could not get his mind off what he had done. Earlier that day, he had met with Jerusalem authorities. They convinced him to turn Jesus in. After supper, Judas would sneak out, meet with the soldiers, bring them back and they would arrest Jesus.

Now this great leader, considered a threat to the community, picked up the foot of Judas, washed and wiped it clean. Judas looked down at him. Jesus looked up. As their eyes met, Judas felt his face burn. “My God, he knows!” thought Judas. “Why else would he look at me like that? He knows. Why doesn’t he run? Why doesn’t he escape?” Judas felt like running himself, but stayed, not wanting the others to know.

After Jesus had washed their feet, he put on his robe and returned to the table.

“You call me teacher. Lord. If I, your Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash each other’s feet. I have set an example for you. Do as I have done.”

Are you willing to wash each other’s feet? Are you willing to let your feet be washed? Are you willing to serve? Are you willing to let go of your pride and let someone serve you?

Jesus, fully God, shows us what it means to be fully human. It is by loving service that we become all we are capable of becoming. By becoming the servant of all, we rise above ourselves and join God in loving service.

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God Breathes in Dry Bones

Read Ezekiel 37.1-14

It is within the desert of life that Ezekiel speaks. God’s spirit leads Ezekiel into a valley full of bones. This image has a dream-like quality, but it is very real. The prophet Ezekiel is speaking to a people in exile, unwanted refugees. Hard times have fallen on the people Israel. They have been uprooted and forced to relocate. Traveling was not easy in those days. Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones was a reality for many of those families, some of whom didn’t make it through the desert.

In the midst of this relocation, of the pain and despair of a people facing death, God tells Ezekiel to proclaim new life. “You see those dry bones,” asks God, “Flesh will form on those dry bones. Muscles will connect the flesh. Skin will cover and protect from disease. Where there was no breath, only dry bones, there is now breath. New life.

God’s spirit breathes new life in us.

God’s spirit is here closely connected to the breath which brings new life and the wind that blows energy into those dry bones. In the Hebrew language, the word, “ru’ah” may be translated either as spirit, wind, or breath. This tells us something about God’s spirit. The Spirit is as basic to our lives as the breath that we breathe. The Spirit is also as unpredictable as the wind, which blows where it will blow.

It is this aspect of the Spirit I often find most troubling. I have no trouble believing that God’s Spirit is a basic part of our lives, but still I’d like to think I could drum up the Spirit, or contain the Spirit at least enough so that the world might make sense. It would be nice if God’s Spirit would always work with us that our dreams and goals might be realized. But the Spirit blows where it will blow. God’s Spirit is not contained even by our best laid plans. The new life that Ezekiel sees is not simply at our fingertips. The Spirit blows where it will.

How can we respond not knowing which way God’s Spirit will blow? Philippians provides us with some direction. In chapter 3, verse 14. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of god in Christ Jesus.” Set your sights on Christ and strive to do what Christ would have you do, regardless of what has gone on in the past, or what lies ahead in the future. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” Not allowing the past to govern your action as you prepare for the future and anticipate the coming of Christ.

Ezekiel’s image of bones that are given new life is a fitting one as we see countless people, including many Christians, uprooted from their homelands and forced into exile where they are deemed “illegal.” It is a hopeful image of the resurrection we know to be possible through Christ Jesus, the one God raised from the dead. We set our sights on this hope, pressing forward confident that our dry bones will be given new life.

There are a lot of dry bones in our world. You can look around and see people hurting, people hungry, people lonely. It’s easy to despair and give up hope. Imagine what the people in the desert must have said when Ezekiel shared his image. They were tired, worn out, facing the hard times without much chance of survival. What real hope is there in this crazy image?

The image of dry bones that lay strewn along the ground brings to my mind newsreel of the footage taken when the Allied forces liberated those locked away in German concentration camps in WWW II. Gruesome images of contorted bodies stacked in mass graves. Nightmarish scenes.

A while back I heard a news report that a group of Jewish cantors had returned to the concentration camps and on the same sight that their ancestors were killed. They sang the Psalms, praise and thanksgiving to God for deliverance. They gave witness that love is stronger than hate, life more powerful than death.

What real hope is there in this crazy image? There is hope, a hope that teaches us to look for signs of new life in the midst of the desert. A hope which won’t let us settle down to the fact that life is only miserable, but pushes us to see that God is active in the world, that we are to join God at work in the world as he breathes life into dry bones.

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Temptation

Read Luke 4.1-13

Temptation itself is not a sign that we are unfaithful. As one writer has put it, “According to Scripture, it is precisely those who are called by God that are tempted because they are torn between their God, who will not set them free, and the world, whose suffering they share.” We experience the tension of temptation because we want to be loyal to God and at the same time not forget who we are as human beings.

Just after Jesus receives God’s confirming Spirit at baptism, he is led into the wilderness. We don’t know why, but just as the Spirit of God led Israel through the wilderness, the Spirit now leads Jesus into the wilderness where, as Luke writes, “for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” Jesus begins his active ministry with a period of fasting and prayer and he faces head-on challenges that might have prevented him from completing his mission.

As we look into these temptations, notice how Jesus responds to each temptation with words drawn from Scripture, teachings he would have received in his youth. He uses what he has learned in his faith community to meet the challenges. Even though this is a totally new situation, he responds with what he knows from his faith. There were not brochures available entitled, “What to do when the devil tempts you in the wilderness.” He draws on what he know from Scripture and finds strength and guidance from God’s Spirit to meet the challenge of each temptation.

Also notice the humanness of Jesus in these temptations. He is hot and hungry, dazed and confused and yet, he doesn’t give in. We would do well to follow in this way. To meet the temptations of the wilderness, whatever our wilderness or temptation might be, with the strength of Scripture and the leading of God’s Spirit. Being tempted is part of being human. Giving into temptation is natural, but not necessary.

As Jesus lies hungry in the wilderness, Satan comes along and says to him, “Command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” It seems like a simple task for the Son of God. And what harm could it bring? I like how one writer translates the name for Satan as “The Confuser.” This is how temptation strikes Jesus, not in some fire-breathing honed creature, but through what seems like a simple request.

Why couldn’t Jesus turn the stone into bread? His answer, “One does not live by bread alone.” We’re not just talking about bread here. “The Confuser” wants Jesus to use his authority for personal advantage. Jesus resists. “The Confuser” wants Jesus to depend on his own powers rather than remain dependent on God. Jesus recognizes that his life stems from God, not from bread, and maintains that source of life by resisting temptation.

This temptation, “to turn a stone into bread” is evident in our world today as we search for “a quick fix” to the problems we face. Many people hunger for spiritual food, for “communion with God” and the world demands that we provide “a quick fix,” “instant gratification.” The church, even if it could turn stones to bread, would be denying our faith to do so. We, too, are hungry for God and I believe for us to pray for God’s Spirit to satisfy our hunger and the hunger of our world that try to fix it ourselves.

“The Confuser” wants us to use our special standing as God’s children to get what we want, to provide for our own needs. We learn from Jesus that if we seek God first, we won’t go hungry. More than that, we will be nourished in ways bread alone couldn’t provide.

When Satan sees that he can’t tempt Jesus through his stomach, he tries his eyes. “Look around. Anything you see is yours, if you’ll just worship me.” More than instant food, Satan offers instant power if Jesus will only place him first. Just make a small compromise and all this is yours.

Once again, Jesus resists. Some have said Satan is here making a promise he couldn’t keep, that the earth is God’s domain and the authority is God’s to give. In some ways this is true and yet we can see in this temptation hints that the world is influenced and impacted by ways other than God’s. We know this to be true in our own lives. People get ahead who have no interest or concern for God. Successful people may not necessarily be faithful people. The ways of the world are impacted by hands other than God’s and we are often faced with choices to make compromises for our own advantage. Jesus resists. So can we.

For the third temptation, the Confuser reaches up and pulls an ace out of his sleeve. He leads Jesus to a high place and tells him to jump, quoting the Scripture which reads, “God will command his angels concerning you, to protect you.” If I can’t get him through his stomach, or his eyes, I’ll open up his heart and use God’s word against him.

Jesus doesn’t fall for it. “It is also written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Don’t force the hand of God by betting your life on some display of power or greatness. I also read this to mean “don’t take silly risks just to see if God is paying attention.”

Jesus resists each temptation and in doing so, shows us that though being human is being tempted. Giving into temptation is natural, but not necessary.

We make a lot of decisions in life. Sometimes it’s not easy knowing what is the best decision. Know that the Spirit of God gives us strength to face the challenges of all that seeds to confuse us. With each temptation we face, no matter how big or small, there is room to resist and as we step into this room we find ourselves open to the Spirit of God on whom we can depend.