There was a young seminarian who was taking a pre-ordination oral examination. During the questioning, one of the examiners asked him if he believed in a personal devil. "No," he replied, "I do not believe in the devil." Hearing this, the examiners began to discuss the seminarian's fitness for ordination. They were on the verge of disqualifying him when one of the older faculty members spoke up: "Don't worry about this young man's present position on whether or not the devil exists. This whole thing will take care of itself. After working in a church for a few weeks he'll change his mind."
In today's Gospel Lesson, Jesus withdraws to the desert wilderness for a long prayer retreat. There He is put to the test when he encounters Satan who offers Him the ultimate in power, money and creature comforts. The offer is conditional, of course: Jesus is to acknowledge Satan as supreme being. "I will give You all these if You fall at my feet and worship me," the devil says to Jesus (Mt. 4:9). But there's no changing Jesus' mind. Instead, He answers with an emphatic "No," saying in effect, "Have you forgotten, Satan, that God exists?"
Not long ago it was reported that a woman accused of taking more than $73,000 from a church in Washington state told detectives that (quote) "Satan had a big part in the theft." If you are old enough, or a fan of iconic performers from the past, you'll likely be reminded of comedian Flip Wilson, and his most popular character, Geraldine Jones, whose line "The devil made me do it" became a national catchphrase.
While we could say that Satan may have played a role in that woman's choices, we can also say she has some more thinking to do about about the subject of temptation and sin. The devil tempts all of us, but he doesn’t make us sin. James tells us that God isn’t to blame either: “Never, when you have been tempted, say, 'God sent the temptation'; God cannot be tempted to do anything wrong, and he does not [...]
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Stories you can use...
We've got a million of them (well, almost).
”A word spoken in due season, how good it is... like apples of gold in a silver setting, a word that is aptly spoken” (Proverbs 15:23, 25:11). Two men who hadn’t seen each other in several years chanced to meet... ”How is your wife?” asked the first man. ”She’s in heaven,” the other answered. ”Oh, I’m sorry,” said the first man. But that didn’t sound quite right to him, so he added, ”I mean, I’m glad!” Again, it didn’t sound quite right. Reaching for just the right word, he then said, ”I mean, I’m surprised!”
When a young woman from Norway moved to America, she chose not to live in the largely Scandinavian area of rural Minnesota where her relatives had settled. Instead she chose New York City. Several years after her arrival, she paid a visit to her family in Minnesota. Her cousins asked her why anyone from a land of open and beautiful fjords would want to live in such a crowded urban setting like New York City. One of her American relatives said that her cousin’s answer grew more meaningful with each passing year. “You see,” she said with a gentle accent, “in Norway we have only Norwegians. But in America you have everybody!” -Sanvik, D. R. (adapted).
A monk found a precious stone which he kept in a bag with his meager possessions. One day he met a traveler, and when the monk opened his bag to share his provisions, the traveler saw the jewel and asked the monk to give it to him. The monk did so readily. The traveler departed, overjoyed with the unexpected gift of the precious stone—a jewel valuable enough to give him wealth and security for the rest of his life. However, a few days later he came back in search of the monk, found him, gave him back the stone. He begged the monk, “Now, please give me something more precious than this stone, valuable as it is. Give to me that which enabled you to give freely to me.”
A group of artists were asked to paint a picture of peace. While there were many and varied interpretations, the winner was a painting of a small bird calmly sitting in a nest built on a slender branch overhanging Niagara Falls. Most of us have known the feeling of being in just such a location. But usually without an accompanying sense of peace. “… since we are justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s Love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:1, 2-5).More