Archives for the month of: March, 2014

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There are two things you can count on in life besides death and taxes. The first is temptation.

A well known country music song has this petition: “Please help me I’m falling in love with you. Close the door to temptation. Don’t let me walk through.” The plea for the “door of temptation” to be closed is futile. That door is always open.

Temptation is ever present. No one is exempt. Someone has said that opportunity may knock only once but temptation leans on the door bell. It is not coincidental that the Lord’s Prayer includes the request “lead us not into temptation.”

I believe that people and steel are alike inasmuch as both are uncertain until they are tested. An old proverb says that you cannot prevent birds from flying over your head but you can prevent them from making a nest in your hair. In other words, you cannot avoid temptation but you do have the strength to resist it.

I agree with Henry Eyring’s assertion that “God’s purpose in creation was to let us prove ourselves” and we were given “the opportunity to choose against temptation here to prepare for eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God.” The gift of free will is one of humankind’s distinctive characteristics.

Dr. Charles Stanley, pastor of AtlantaFirstBaptistChurch, bemoans what he believes is reality in today’s world.  He says, “Too many Christians have a commitment of convenience. They’ll stay faithful as long as it’s safe and doesn’t involve risk, rejection, or criticism. Instead of standing alone in the face of challenge or temptation, they check to see which way their friends are going.”

We are entering the third week of the Lenten season. The forty days leading up to the celebration of Easter is a time of introspection and self denial. A time of spiritual reflection and meditation. As we progress through these days it is a good thing to focus on gaining victory over habits and desires that are detrimental to our well being. That includes everything from unhealthy eating to more serious matters of morality. Confronting our weaknesses and disciplining ourselves to overcome them.

However, make no mistake. It is not easy whether this exercise occurs during this special time of the year or at any other moment of our life. Temptation to “stray from the path” of what we know is good and right is always a challenge. Oscar Wilde was wrong that the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it. Rather, good habits result from resisting temptation.

Immediately after Jesus’ baptism he withdraws to the Judean wilderness for a time of spiritual preparation for all that was ahead for him. God’s voice from heaven had proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” His time in the wild allowed him the opportunity to demonstrate how to deal with temptation.

After forty days of fasting he was understandably very hungry. At that point he was tempted to satisfy his own needs, to use his power selfishly, but he refused. Next he was tempted to misuse his privilege and presume on God’s protection in a way that would focus attention on himself. Again he refused. The third temptation was to succumb to the opportunity to have unlimited power “at a price.” For the third time Jesus refused to compromise his principles (Matthew 4:1-11). He not only demonstrated his ability as the Son of God, he left an example for how we should act when faced with temptation.

Two things you can count on in life. temptation AND the presence and power of God to help you resist and overcome temptation.

Billy Sunday said, “Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in.” I believe it is true that “the person who patiently endures the temptations and trials that come to him is the truly happy person. For once the testing is complete they will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to all who love him” (James 1:12).

Jamie Jenkins

They are siblings. One is an athlete. The other is an artist.

Family members value this brother and sister equally. They recognize that they have different natural tendencies and talents. Not in competition with each other. Not better or worse- just different. Both are encouraged to apply themselves and develop their abilities. 

Society does not necessarily concur with this family’s perspective. The educational system seems to validate the assumption that athletes are valued more highly than artists. When school budgets are discussed the arts are subject to reduction far more often than the funding for the athletic program. Our economic system certainly rewards the athlete more generously than the artist. Huge multi-million dollar contracts for talented athletes are commonplace because of the revenue they generate. At the same time a good case can be made that the “starving artist” moniker is not a misnomer.

It is easy to conclude that one person or one skill is more valuable than another when often it is simply a matter of being different. Actually all are important. I have a friend who can build a house, repair a car, oversee a huge program of activities, excel in certain sports, relate well to people, and succeed as a public speaker. He can do almost anything. Is he more important than persons like me who are more limited in scope?

One of my former co-workers has the wonderful ability to listen to ideas and then take the words and translate them into visual images. I am amazed at that skill. Another colleague designs websites and writes computer programs that enable others like me to sit at our computer terminal with a keyboard and mouse and be productive. I know people who can paint a picture with words so that you can really visualize what they are describing. Is one more important than the other?

Recently I met an individual in Nashville who was planning to come to Atlanta for a business meeting. In discussing the location of their gathering she remarked that she was “directionally challenged.” Fortunately, she said, a friend was coming with her and would serve as her navigator. Of course, she could have used a GPS which is designed by someone to help us get to our destination. Which of these persons is most important?

My wife and I are engaged in a remodeling project at our house. No, we are not doing the work (although the friend mentioned above could). We have engaged a contractor to oversee the effort. He will utilize designers, draftsmen, granite and tile specialists, painters, carpenters, flooring installers, electricians, and plumbers. There will be others who assist with clean up and tasks that require less specialized skills. Are any of them less important than the other?

The physical body is a wonderful example of the value of diversity. The hand, foot, eye, ear, and other body parts all have different functions that are necessary for the efficient operation of the body as a whole. Which of these would you want to do without?

Likewise different people have different gifts that equip them to contribute to the whole. What is true for the physical body is also relevant to the family and to society as a whole.

Only as you accept your part does your “part” mean anything because you become aware that other “parts” are necessary for full and effective functionality. This realization helps us to keep our role in perspective and not feel too self-important. No matter how significant our role is, it is important only because of what we are a part of.

Jamie Jenkins

“Simple courtesy, the ability to compromise, and the willingness to think of the larger good – those things seem to be in short supply. We are reaching the point where the very social fabric is coming unraveled.”

If these words written by United Methodist Bishop Mike Coyner are true, there is reason to share his serious concern for government and church leaders. He goes on to say that “we live in a time when there are too many conflicts, too little cooperation, and too few people who are willing to get along.”

According to the good bishop this climate has given rise to situations that we see and hear in daily news reports. But physical violence is not the only way these attitudes express themselves. Verbal and emotional abuse are also examples of our increasing inability to relate to one another in a civil and respectful manner.

Bishop Coyner notes that the Apostle Paul was distressed when he saw Christian people at odds with one another. He appealed to the folks at Corinth to “get along with each other.” In his first letter to the Corinthians he told them that they “must learn to be considerate of one another” and work to “cultivate a life in common.”
(I Corinthians 1:10)

He offers the following suggestions of how we can reverse the trend of disharmony among people in all walks of life.
• Start by saying “I could be wrong” when expressing your opinions. That simple caveat allows room for the other person to have a different opinion. And it is also the truth – we may well be wrong, even when we have a strong opinion.
• Practice stating opposing opinions without labeling or cynicism. The ability to explain positions with which we disagree means that we have truly listened and learned. It also makes it more likely that we will convince others to consider our opinions.
• Agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable. There is nothing which says we must always agree, but our disagreeing can be civil and polite.
• Don’t go thermo-nuclear on every issue. Most issues are not ultimate, so don’t ramp up the rhetoric on every little thing.
• Allow God to speak for himself and don’t presume God agrees with you on every one of your opinions.

The church leader concludes with these words: “Will these five steps eliminate all of the divisions and violence in our society and all the divisions in our churches? Of course not. But we must start somewhere. As the Apostle Paul says, ‘We must get along with each other.’ We must.”

Jamie Jenkins

One of the first signs of spring is when the redbud trees start to bloom. I don’t know why they are called redbuds because the flowers are pink and very pretty. Anyway, I saw the first one in bloom a week or so ago. When that happens you can count on it, winter is on the way out and spring time is near. About the same time I saw little green shoots coming up out of the ground in my yard and in a couple of days the first daffodils burst forth attesting to the reality that warmer temperatures are on the way.

I am in Orlando, Florida at the time I am writing this. In just a week or two this area will welcome throngs of folks during school spring break. Thankfully I am here before that onslaught. Millions of other people from all over the world come here every year to visit the many theme amusement parks. There is even a Holy Land Experience that attempts to portray life in the time of Jesus in the land of the Bible.

The many fine golf courses in central Florida also attract a lot of people. I am not a golfer. I don’t even own a set of clubs but I understand why someone would come here to play.

In addition to all that is stated above, I suspect there are many other attractions that bring people to this part of the Sunshine State in the spring. I believe the best reason for visiting this magical city and surrounding areas is baseball spring training. There are fifteen teams that have their spring training facilities along the coast and in the central part of Florida. There are another fifteen teams in the Cactus League in Arizona.

My wife and I enjoy watching the Atlanta Braves play other teams in the Grapefruit League. This is a time for teams to prepare for the regular season as the players get into the swing of things after the off season. It is also a time for other players to prove they are ready for the big league.

The Braves lost the first game we attended. The Washington Nationals came from behind to win 16-15. Although the score looks like it, this was not a football game. 31 runs. 37 hits. Seven errors. Braves pitchers issued 11 walks.

To say the least, it was a poorly played game that lasted about four hours. Even though it was not a good game we came back the next day. After all, this is spring training. A time for everyone to do their best and for everyone to have a chance to show what they can do. A time for veterans and newcomers alike to hone their skills and build on their past experience.

In a real sense I think life is like that. Most of “the game” is not life or death. It is a time to show who we are and to learn how to be better. It is a time for growing and maturing. We are given the opportunity to prepare for times when the stakes are high and we need to be at the top of our game.

In the meantime there will be days like that Braves-Nationals game last week. We will not be at our best but we will not despair. We will keep working at it. Hopefully others will be patient with us and we will not be too hard on ourselves.

Welcome to spring training. Make the most of it because the games that count are ahead.

Jamie Jenkins