****This morning I woke up super early (earlier than a normal Sunday morning) to the sounds of the snow plow clearing my street and creating a heftier barrier between me and the road as the end of my driveway (I imagine) only gets compacted with more snow. I haven’t gotten up to look and assess the situation just yet. I know that it is still snowing and while the plows have been out working throughout the early morning hours, the decision to cancel worship was a wise and safe decision. However, I’m still tempted to stay in bed and not go outside to begin to shovel.
While this reflection is not the sermon one would have heard had we been able to worship together this morning, it is just a few thoughts I share with you today. ****
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” 11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. 12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Being out in the wilderness by yourself seems like a lovely thought, right? Well, at first it does. But odds are that after a day or two (give or take a day or two for some of us) after experiencing a moment of solitude, we find ourselves in a space where we begin to feel all alone, where we begin to feel insecure, for some fear and anxiety settle in, we doubt ourselves and our decisions, we question the other people in our lives because they let us go out into the wilderness alone, we question and doubt the authenticity of every relationship we’ve ever had… we begin to question everything … we dream of what we need, what we want and eventually the longer we might be in the wilderness, the more things will make us happy and content, and eventually there is a sense of depression that might set in.
Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, and at the end of his time, we read that the very hungry Jesus was tempted. We read that the tempter shows up on the scene and tempts Jesus three times with a variety of things … food, power, control, security, prestige, and more.
Chances are you have been tempted in one way, shape or form over your lifetime. Whether it is tempted to have that last piece of dessert, tempted to buy that bigger and better item, tempted to sleep in, call out sick (when you’re not really sick), to click on that link, or take that drink, temptations exist and depending on where we are in our lives, it becomes a slippery slope and we can easily fall into temptation.
When we are in the wilderness, temptations are harder to resist. We begin to become desperate and might find that we will do whatever we think is best to help us feel better, even if it is short lived.
When we are in a space in life in which our perspective is tad healthier/clearer, we are not isolated from others and we find ourselves grounded, it is most likely that we will be able to process and talk ourselves out of needing or wanting that one thing that we absolutely believe we cannot live without. We are quicker to find value in the relationships and community to help walk us through the challenges and temptations of life.
When Jesus was tempted, he responded in a way that quoted Scripture. He responded in a way that was reflective of his life and what he knew: Scripture. Each time the devil, the tempter, Satan tempted Jesus with something, Jesus used scripture to respond. He used what he knew and believed. Was it to prove to the tempter that he didn’t need all that was promised through the temptation? Or was it to remind himself that he didn’t need it because he had all he needed for that moment?
What is it that tempts you today? How will you respond? What do you know that will help you respond in a way to ward off the temptation? Jesus quoted scripture and what he knew. When we find ourselves in the wilderness, facing temptation or alone, we can remind ourselves that we are not alone, that God is with us, and that our strength and refuge comes from the Lord. I simply leave these few verses as possible reminders that might help …
Philippians 4:13“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Psalm 121begins with: “I lift my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”
Psalm 18:2“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 46begins with “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Hebrews 4:14-16 “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Philippians 4:6-9 “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him,and he will make straight your paths.”
Matthew 22:37-40: “He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Yes, yes, I know these are just a brief selection of verses. And it might seem like they won’t work or help us resist temptation, but they do have the potential (if we allow it) to transform our hearts, to re-focus our hearts and our minds on the things that matter, on the ONE that matters. And sometimes to get our mind off that one fixation, that one temptation, we just need to refocus.
When you find yourself facing temptation…before plunging in full force, stop and take a deep breath, pray asking God to refocus your heart and mind. Recall the words of Scripture that are shared here, ask yourself if you really need that thing, will it truly fill your life with all that is promised? Are you in a wilderness? Who can you share and talk with to help talk you through what you are facing? And then remember, even if you feel you are in the wilderness, you are not alone.. God is surely with you, and all it takes is one phone call or text to reach out to someone to be reminded that God’s people are also with you as we walk on this journey together.
Please know that if you are feeling in the wilderness and reading this, and feel you have no one to call, please reach out to me by sending an email (email@example.com) or call me. My prayers are with you all.
Be safe out there this week, it is going to be cold, so exercise caution when traveling. Pray for the many folks out in the cold.
And may the peace of Christ be with you today and always.
All Lands Summoned to Praise God
A Psalm of thanksgiving.
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
14 Then the Lord said to Moses: 2 Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall camp opposite it, by the sea. 3 Pharaoh will say of the Israelites, “They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has closed in on them.” 4 I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, so that I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army; and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord. And they did so.
5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the minds of Pharaoh and his officials were changed toward the people, and they said, “What have we done, letting Israel leave our service?” 6 So he had his chariot made ready, and took his army with him; 7 he took six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly. 9 The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot drivers and his army; they overtook them camped by the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.
10 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” 13 But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. 16 But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. 17 Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.”
19 The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. 20 It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. 22 The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. 24 At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. 25 He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”
26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. 29 But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.
30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.
1 Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. 2 Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. 4 Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.
7 Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.9 Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10 As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
12 Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.
19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20 you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
4 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,
“God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” 14 Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.