Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; March 5, 2017; 1st Sunday in Lent

Scripture for Sunday Matthew 4:1-11

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

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Today is the first Sunday in Lent. Traditionally on this Sunday, we talk about the period of time that Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by the Devil.

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Truth be told, most of us don’t know what to do with this reading because in our experience the Devil is not easily recognizable and he does not transport us from place to place in the blink of an eye like he did with Jesus. All of us spend time dealing with tough questions of faith but most of us do not face the devil in such an obvious way; most of our temptations are much more subtle.

So why did God make sure that this story is a part of our Holy Scriptures?

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Jesus’ temptation is not about our own ability to resist temptations. We are all tempted, and FREQUENTLY, by many things. The message from Matthew is not “resist temptation” but to take a closer look at it, think about it, do a turn-around, and figure out just what are those things that lead you astray.

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The reason Jesus allowed himself to be tempted by the Devil, and the reason that this story is in our Holy Scriptures, is because ALL of us struggle with temptations and tough questions of OUR faith.

I am talking about questions like:

  • Why are there children with cancer?

  • Why are there volcano eruptions and earthquakes?

  • Why are there drunk drivers causing accidents and killing people?

  • Why did my loved one die?

  • Why is there so much hunger and poverty in the world? Lord, with all that hunger in the world, why do we have overweight cats and need to buy DIET cat food to feed to them?

  • Jesus why is there so much conflict among people professing faith in the same God; why can’t we just get along?

  • Jesus, why did I get cancer?

  • Why is the climate changing? Why are there destructive droughts and floods?

One of the ways that God makes a new creation in us is by challenging us to ask and to seek answers to tough questions of faith. As we find answers, God renews us and God’s creation through us.

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The story of Jesus struggling with tough questions of faith in the desert is a gift from God to us. That story demonstrates that it is okay to ask such questions. That story demonstrates that it is okay to seek answers and be changed by them. That story teaches us that by seeking answers to such questions we learn who we are, we glean new understandings of God and what God is doing in the world, and we discover how we can partner with God. And when we are with God, all things are possible.

The temptation of Jesus is about being intimately connected with God, with God’s world, with God’s people and discovering God’s vision for our lives: “Be Thou My Vision” (UMH 451).

Personally, I’ve been to the “desert” a few times: the ministry inquiry process, seminary, CPE, mission trips, life-threatening illness, “Walk to Emmaus” experience. And every time that I struggled with difficult questions of my faith, every time that I had the courage to face my demons, somehow these demons faded away and I ended up facing God face to face. And every time that I face God and spend time with God, I grow in my relationship with God. That relationship gives me the strength and courage to do what I have to do, adjust where I have to adjust and adapt where I have to adapt in order to continue my God-given mission.

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In Isaiah 43:19 we hear, “See, I am doing a new thing!” In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we hear, “… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

Because of my journeys to my “desert,” I am a new creation. Because of my journeys to my “desert,” I am in a continual process of becoming something new, something that I was not yesterday, because God is molding and shaping me to be what God needs me to be tomorrow.

All of us are invited to go into the desert once in a while. Most of us don’t like the desert because it is uncomfortable there and because we don’t like change.

Most churches are invited to go into the desert every few years because the culture around us changes, and that means we need to make changes to ourselves to be able to meet others where they are.

  • God, if we are so friendly here, why do we have so few visitors and why do so few of them stay?

  • God, we are faithful, so why don’t we see renewal and revival in our midst?

  • God, why do young people who grew up in our church leave our church as soon as they can?

“Behold, I am doing a new thing…” (Isa 43:19). We don’t know yet how God will use our community in the future. We don’t know yet what God will do THROUGH our community in the future. We do not know how we will serve God in the future. But there are some things that we do know: we know who holds our future and we know that when we find the courage to honestly deal with the tough questions of our faith, we grow and we learn about God.

Every journey has its ups and downs. It takes the community of faith to charter the course. It takes patience, persistence and energy to stay the course…

In Nehemiah 8:10 we hear that the “joy of the Lord is our strength.” What Nehemiah teaches us is that without joy we have no strength. And what a joy it is for Christian sisters and brothers to celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Communion.

{Holy Communion: Nourishment for the journey: “Dance Goes On” (UMH 261).  Transition to the Holy Communion}

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