Category Archives: Lectionary

Temptation

 

00803

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11
Psalm 32

Sin is now the human condition.  It is fruitless to speculate about what life in the Garden would have been like had Adam and Eve not sinned.  We live in sin.

Because of the destructiveness of sin, it is imperative that we learn to control it.  History shows us the folly of our attempts.

A close look at Adam and Eve can help us.  When the sin occurred, they were away from God, not looking at Him, not paying attention to Him.  Rather, they saw what looked scrumptious and reached for it, they fell to temptation.

Solutions?  We can study the problem and learn ways to avoid many sins.  Often, that involves the approach of alcoholics, avoid that which tempts.   Pharisee men used to walk on the other side of the street if a woman was coming toward them.  Stay away from the Christmas fudge eating contest.

In the end, all we can ever hope is to reduce sin in our lives, never to eliminate it.  We must take the approach of King David and ask God to cover our sins.  My sins are too numerous for me to keep track, mostly because I sin without knowing it.  I meet a female friend and say, “You look nice today.”  She thinks I am flirting.  I meet a female friend and say nothing.  She thinks I am stuck up.  Sin on my part?  Perhaps, but not intended.

How does God cover over our sins?  We Christians are fond of saying, “Jesus.”  But God has a whole tool shed filled with ways to cover our sins, mercy being high on the list.  It is not for us to know all of the whats and ways, He just does it.

Jesus is the main tool in the shed.  He met the Evil One head on, but kept himself focused on his Father.  The account of his temptations is helpful for us in our own puny efforts to defend against the temptations of the Evil One, but we can also study how Jesus reacted throughout his ministry.

When he healed, he told them not to advertise.  When the crowds became too large, he went in hiding.  When temptation came on strongly, he went into prayer.  Jesus did everything he could do to avoid becoming impressed with himself.

When Jesus went back home, the people who had known him as a child could not believe all the talk about miracles and his being an extraordinary teacher.  He was too ordinary.  He looked just like his brothers.  Remember, he was such a sickly kid.  His brother James is the one to watch, he’s a go-getter.  Jesus is just a flash in the pan.

Jesus needed to hear all that.  It reminded him he was one of us.  He was capable of sin.  Do not give him too much Godly power in your thinking.  He was a human.  He was Adam.  Unlike Adam, Jesus made smart decisions.  He never did anything without consulting God.

That is the solution, but we are not up doing it.  So?  Ask God to cover your sin.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Mountain of God

 

Exodus 24:12-18
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9
Psalm 99

Ambrose: If anyone therefore desires to behold this image of God, he must love God so as to be loved by him, no longer as a servant but as a friend who observes his commandments, that he may enter the cloud where God is. (333-397 AD)

Starting with chapter 19, Moses makes several trips up and down the mountain.  Just to clear away the Charlton Heston mistake, the first time the Ten Commandments, and others, were given, Moses and all the people were standing on the plain just outside the camp.  They were not burned into stone.

But the mountain is what we are considering today.  In Exodus, God descends to the mountain and Moses (with others at different times) ascends the mountain.  We could say they met half-way except that God was already with them.  In Psalms, we are to go to God at His Mountain.  In Matthew, Jesus went up the mountain to talk with Moses and Elijah, kind of reversing the roles from the Exodus account.  Finally, Peter comments on what he heard on that same mountain when he, James and John were invited along.

What does it take for us to ‘enter the cloud where God is’?  The scriptures tell us that Jesus had 120 faithful disciples, 12 of whom he appointed apostles.  Yet, when it was time to climb the mountain of God, he invited 3.  Why?  They were ready; they had grown in their faith and could look upon the heavenly body of the Messiah without dying.

Consider what it would do to look upon Perfection with sinful eyes; to feel the heat of Truth on our false flesh.  I want to be ready to go to the Mountain of God, but for me and most of us, it might be best to do it after we have given up these bodies.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Teach me, O Lord

Leviticus 19:1-2,9-18
1 Corinthians 3:10-11,16-23
Matthew 5:38-48
Psalm 119:33-40

What a great set of readings.  Leviticus has the Ten Commandments, Corinthians describes us as God’s Temple, Matthew has us loving our enemies, and Psalm 119 (the letter H of the alphabet Psalm, the longest at 176 verses) starts, “Teach me, O Lord.” 

We need to learn from God, not from men, though we learn from God through men, men of God.  From Lev 9-10, we learn that God expects us to give a fair share of everything to the poor and from v. 15 to judge everyone fairly.  Generally, Americans think that smacks of socialism, so it is a hard sell.  Yet, that is God’s word.  How should it work?  Instead of paying Lawrence J. Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation $96,160,000, why not pay him $160,000 and spread the $96 million among the other employees?  Why should Mark G. Parker get $35.2 million from Nike when there are thousands of workers for the company making $5 a day?  You get the idea.  In the world of humans, greed rules, but God commands generosity.

Notice in Lev 19:18 the verse quoted by Jesus that has a way of making us uncomfortable.  If I choose to follow Jesus, I must give up the ways of the world.  Negotiate a contract that gives you a living wage and pays the rest to other workers; or take the ‘extra’ money and give it to a charity that actually helps people in need (for feeding people, Action Against Hunger and Bread for the World Institute have great ratings).  Why not give it all to your church?  Most of that goes to keeping the doors open.  That is good and we need to support it, but it is not the same as helping the poor, healing the sick, etc.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Now Choose Life

Child born

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Matthew 5:21-37
Psalm 119:1-8

Step back a few verses to Deut. 30:11.  “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.”  God simply commanded us to choose prosperity or destruction; life or death.

If everything had a label, ‘Life’ or ‘Death’, it would be simpler.  In the day-to-day living though, we too often miss the labels that are there, or we fail to understand them.  Jesus gave us some clarification.  Do not murder, but more, do not be angry.  What am I supposed to do when someone hits me, steals my car, fires me from my job, has sex with my spouse?  Anger is the preferred response, yet that is the way of death.

Why death?  Anger breaks the connection with God.  God is life.  When we lose, God we die.  That is the story of the first sin.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God, separating themselves from God.  When God called out, “Where are you,” He knew where they were and why.  God was commenting on their disconnect, their sense of loss.  They could no longer feel God, even though He could feel them.

Jesus goes on through adultery, divorce, breaking oaths, and one beyond today’s reading, an eye for an eye.  He summed it all up with, “I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you….  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Anything that causes a division, a separation, with another person, causes a division or separation from God.  God is in both of us.  God wants us close to Him.  Therefore, I must choose life; kindness, politeness, friendliness, even in the face of hostility.  It will not always win them over, but anger never does.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Temptation

 

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11
Psalm 32

Sin is now the human condition.  It is fruitless to speculate about what life in the Garden would have been like had Adam and Eve not sinned.  We live in sin.

Because of the destructiveness of sin, it is imperative that we learn to control it.  History shows us the folly of our attempts.

A close look at Adam and Eve can help us.  When the sin occurred, they were away from God, not looking at Him, not paying attention to Him.  Rather, they saw what looked scrumptious and reached for it, they fell to temptation.

Solutions?  We can study the problem and learn ways to avoid many sins.  Often, that involves the approach of alcoholics, avoid that which tempts.   Pharisee men used to walk on the other side of the street if a woman was coming toward them.  Stay away from the Christmas fudge eating contest.

In the end, all we can ever hope is to reduce sin in our lives, never to eliminate it.  We must take the approach of King David and ask God to cover our sins.  My sins are too numerous for me to keep track, mostly because I sin without knowing it.  I meet a female friend and say, “You look nice today.”  She thinks I am flirting.  I meet a female friend and say nothing.  She thinks I am stuck up.  Sin on my part?  Perhaps, but not intended.

How does God cover over our sins?  We Christians are fond of saying, “Jesus.”  But God has a whole tool shed filled with ways to cover our sins, mercy being high on the list.  It is not for us to know all of the whats and ways, He just does it.

Jesus is the main tool in the shed.  He met the Evil One head on, but kept himself focused on his Father.  The account of his temptations is helpful for us in our own puny efforts to defend against the temptations of the Evil One, but we can also study how Jesus reacted throughout his ministry.

When he healed, he told them not to advertise.  When the crowds became too large, he went in hiding.  When temptation came on strongly, he went into prayer.  Jesus did everything he could do to avoid becoming impressed with himself.

When Jesus went back home, the people who had known him as a child could not believe all the talk about miracles and his being an extraordinary teacher.  He was too ordinary.  He looked just like his brothers.  Remember, he was such a sickly kid.  His brother James is the one to watch, he’s a go-getter.  Jesus is just a flash in the pan.

Jesus needed to hear all that.  It reminded him he was one of us.  He was capable of sin.  Do not give him too much Godly power in your thinking.  He was a human.  He was Adam.  Unlike Adam, Jesus made smart decisions.  He never did anything without consulting God.

That is the solution, but we are not up doing it.  So?  Ask God to cover your sin.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence