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Beware of Temptation

September 19th, 2018

Temptation Is a Doorway to Regrets.

“One who perseveres under temptation will receive the crown of life.” James 1:12 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are that you, “Beware of Temptation.”

Days earlier, Gayle and I were having a late lunch at an oriental restaurant. I enjoy fortune cookies for their flavor, not so much for their advice. Occasionally, I am amused by a clever insight about life contained inside a fortune cookie. This was one of those times. What I read made me ponder. “Do not mistake temptation for opportunity.” Those few words were worth the cost of the meal. Know this. Temptation parades in the disguise of an irresistible opportunity. How often have we all been misled and tempted, and to our eventual regret, have embraced a temptation that we incorrectly saw as an opportunity.

Be wary of temptation. Temptation lures you to places unprofitable to be, takes you further than you expected to go, and can cost you more than you can afford to pay. Paul was concerned when he wrote about people being led astray, “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3 NIV.

Because you are offered something, or want to do something, or can do something doesn’t mean you should. The Bible is filled with examples of those who lacked self-control: Satan himself, Adam and Eve, Samson, Jacob, Esau, Saul, Demas, and a host of others stretching from then to now.

As always, the Bible offers guidance and encouragement when temptation exposes its strength and source. God’s Word is clear. “No temptation has overtaken you, but such as is common to man. And God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” I Corinthians 10:12-13. NIV. Yes, God is faithful. Self-control is a virtue, and a fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23.

It is wiser and far better to seek an exit from a temptation in the guise of an opportunity. Don’t look for a way in. Look for the way out.Blessed is the one who perseveres under temptation because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12 NIV.

But there is good news. Others like Joseph, who at the cost of prison, fled from the allure of his master’s wife rather than defile himself and his God. The supreme example is Jesus, who when tempted to circumvent the cross, refused to succumb to such a temptation. Read Matthew 16:21-26 NKJV.

Because you want something, and what you want is available to you, should not be an indication that what you want is best for you. Reflect on that for a few moments. I expect that we have all made that mistake and always to our regret. Know this.”‘ When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone.” Read James 1:13-15 NIV.

If we were not commonly vulnerable to temptations due to our fallen nature, there would have been no necessity and priority for Jesus to teach His disciples, as well as us, to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for Yours is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew 6:13 NAS. Temptation is always a doorway to regrets.

It appears to me that Jesus’ concern for us was and remains primary, rather than secondary. Temptation is an intruder because our common enemy, the devil, is the Tempter. Wisely, we are cautioned, “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak!” Matthew 26:41 NLT.

Even Jesus was tempted by Satan, until He commanded that enemy, “Get behind Me, Satan.” From where did Satan, that evil Tempter, come? Read Genesis 3:1-3 NIV. His tragic story of rebellion, disobedience, and deceit began long before the Garden of Eden, when and where the devil tempted Eve to ignore God’s clear instruction, who in turn tempted Adam, to eat of the forbidden fruit.

Adam and Eve were lured by the false promise that, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” See Genesis 3:4-8. Temptation never turns out well. Too late, they both learned more about, “good and evil,” than they ever wanted or needed to know. Obedience is better than curiosity.

Pride exposes you to temptation, while deceiving you to believe that you are invulnerable to it. The Apostle Paul was concerned for the Corinthian Christians, and his concern is relevant to us, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3 NIV.

Here is the great news! “God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” I Corinthians 10:13. NIV.

Today I pray for you to live free of regrets.

Christian Communications 2018

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Content or Coveting

January 17th, 2015

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6 NIV.

EDL Contentment graphic

Coveting is the enemy of contentment.

My thoughts and comments today are about being “content or coveting.”

The world surrounding you is incurably materialistic yet increasingly discontented. Commercial advertising fosters discontent, until you not only want more, you think you actually need more. Never confuse luxuries with necessities or desires with needs. Your Father promises to supply all your needs, but not all your wants. Paul was clear, “My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NIV. Of that you can be absolutely sure.

The complication comes when you covet what you see others have. Coveting is a wicked thing, causing you to envy others to the extent that you would prefer you were so fortunate, and ultimately that they were not. The Bible speaks wisely and practically, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with what you have.” Hebrews 13:5 NKJV. Coveting is the enemy of contentment. Contentment is the cure for coveting.

The Bible states a sure and simple truth, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6 NIV. Paul’s reasoning is also simple; “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Timothy 6:7-8 NIV. Know when enough is enough. Discontentment leaves you vulnerable to covetous desires, insatiably wanting what you do not have and begrudging what others enjoy. “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:9-10 NIV.

That is the reality that corrupted the bliss of the Garden of Eden, “When Eve saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eye, and desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” Genesis 3:6. She saw; she desired; she took. That is a formula for a spiraling regression to discontent. Instead, may your heart pray, “Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your Word.” Psalm 119:37 NIV.

Years earlier, my friend, Campbell, shared a wise and invaluable lesson with me: the heart cannot desire what the eye has not seen. Looking produces longing; longing creates a need to possess. Having too little money is not your biggest problem; the real dilemma and one that touches every soul is when you covet what others have, thereby loving money as a necessity for supplying your desires without reliance on God.

When you covet what others have, you will eventually doubt God’s willingness and ability to provide your needs. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”  2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV. It is simple; present every need to God in prayer, trusting Him to give you whatever is wise for you, consistent with His will, and in His time and manner. Paul found contentment to be a lesson learned, ”. . in any and every situation . . whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Read Philippians 4:6-7, 11-13 NIV. Imagine your life satisfied and content.

Today, my prayer for you is that you avoid struggling to have things you don’t need.

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Appetites

June 28th, 2013

“Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Matthew 5:6 NIV

Your passions foretell your direction and destination.

My thoughts and comments today are about “appetites.”

Everyone is hungry for something at some time. Here’s what I’ve learned: hunger insists on attention, resists attempts to ignore, and persists until satisfied. Original sin resulted from Adam and Eve’s appetite for something God was accused of withholding. Read Genesis 3:1-6 NKJV. They were tempted and sinned when they would not trust God to be enough. 2 Corinthians 9:8/10 NIV. If you are not wise and careful, physical desires can displace spiritual values.

My thoughts today are about far more than physical appetites. There is a God given desire in your spirit that is stronger than any physical hunger, yet can be overlooked if your priorities and preoccupation are on physical desires alone. How you satisfy your natural desires can foster appetites that become more controlling as you indulge them. Right appetites ennoble behavior; wrong appetites cause unproductive conduct. Guard your inner life carefully. Avoid the whim of momentary desires, and you will choose well and live prudently.

Appetites you allow determine choices which impact your life, for better or worse. Those lesser appetites produce strong passions, difficult to control if not scrutinized and rightly directed. Wrong appetites can easily become addictions, which are increasingly insatiable when gratified without constraint. Be careful what you want, because you just might get it. Lives have become shipwreck, and too many remained so, simply because they neither deliberately chose nor conquered the cravings that drove their passions. Apart from God, the heart is “Deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it? But I, the Lord, search the heart . .” Jeremiah 17:9-10 NKJV. Expose your heart to God. He knows you better than you know yourself.

Your passions foretell your direction and destination. Consider the power of centering your heart and passions on God. Outside of Jesus Christ, satisfaction is illusive as well as elusive. Jesus was crystal clear about where your soul finds satisfaction, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be [satisfied].” Matthew 5:6 NIV. Jesus chose words that were not casual; His words are extreme, desperate even, about strong yearning, “hunger and thirst.” Jesus spoke of intensity and focus on a clear and noble objective, “Righteousness.” Right desires produce right results. I love Paul’s description of people whose whole heart was on serving God and others: ”The house of Stephanas . . have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 16:15 KJV.

Here’s what your passion for righteousness would look like. Love and obey the Word of God. Job 23:12 NIV. Prioritize quality time in God’s presence. Psalm 16:11 NIV. Observe quiet times of prayer and Biblical meditation. Psalm 1:2 NASV. Cultivate the spirit and practice of worship. Psalm 29:2 NKJV. Practice the discipline of fasting. Matthew 6:16 NIV. Fellowship with others who mentor your spiritual growth. 1 John 1:7 NIV. If you are going to run with a crowd, run with people who are going the direction you want to go.

My prayer for you today is that your strongest desires are directed toward righteousness.

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Right Desires

January 4th, 2013

Govern your desires and you will rightly direct your life.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Matthew 5:6 NKJV.

Life is driven by desires and appetites, not casual whims. Those desires can be oriented spiritually or will originate carnally. As early as the Garden of Eden, human nature has suffered from a resident fallenness which is not naturally inclined heavenward. “When [Eve] saw that the tree was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, and . . desirable to make one wise, she took of the fruit . .” Genesis 3:6 NKJV. Her direction was set when her natural desires overpowered her longing to obey God.

Desire must be wisely governed and purposefully directed or will express your baser nature. Know this; wrong appetites are never fully satisfied. Right desires and Godly appetites always are. “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you your heart’s desires.” Psalm 37:4 NLT. In describing the pathway to “supreme blessedness,” Jesus promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6 NKJV.  The original word translated as “filled” is so much more. The Greek word suggests the idea of “being saturated.”

The Biblical concept is more akin to the Bible’s description of a person experiencing, “. . good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over . . filled with all the fullness of God . . always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance . .” See Luke 6:38/Ephesians 3:19/2 Corinthians 9:8. Even those superlatives are inadequate to describe all God desires for you. Clearly, the Father’s will for you is overflowing, everlasting fullness but His love for you will not allow your satisfaction with unworthy desires. Read Isaiah 55:1-2 NIV.

Life is not really determined by your decisions and directions; those are just symptomatic. Decisions and directions are subtly, or strongly, determined by your desires. Govern your desires and you will rightly direct your life. David learned first-hand the danger of not monitoring and ruling his desires. In repentance, he sought to recapture the purity of his heart for God – the recovery of his “first love.” See Revelation 2:1-5 NKJV. “One thing I have desired of the Lord; that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” Psalm 27:4 NKJV. See Psalm 42:1-2 NLT.

Jesus was clear about the power of desires and appetites to direct a person’s life in pursuit of things either perishable or imperishable: “But you shouldn’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I, the Son of Man, can give you. For God the Father has sent me for that very purpose . . Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’” John 6:27 NLT/7:37-39 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you desire the highest and best of all that is eternal.

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Understanding Temptation

June 15th, 2012

“Each one is tempted when . . enticed.” James 1:14 NKJV

Temptation is unavoidable; yielding to temptation is preventable.

My thoughts and comments today are about “understanding temptation.”

Is there anyone who is not tempted to do what they know they should not? I think the answer to that would be obvious. Inclination, not ignorance of wrong, is usually our common dilemma. We are not all tempted by the same things, but we are all tempted. Things that are wrong seem so incredibly enticing, therefore difficult to resist. That’s what the Bible calls temptation. Temptation is a favorite tactic of the enemy of your soul to cause failure and then justly condemn you, dominating your thoughts with remorse and ruling your emotions with shame. Remorse and shame simply lead you deeper into your failure.

You are not a bad person when you feel tempted. Temptation is unavoidable; however, becoming a victim of temptation is preventable. James, the brother of Jesus, explained, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” James 1:14-15 NKJV. My thoughts are captured by a phrase in that verse, “drawn away from . .” This all you need to understand about temptation; temptation draws you away from something God has for you, and pushes you toward things far less beneficial, even harmful. Too often, attention is given to the temptation that entices you, when a more profitable focus would be your Godly concern for what you would be drawn away from. Temptation lures you toward sin; sin separates you from God and others. Grace restores!

We should have learned from Eve’s ancient mistake; she was tempted when she believed the serpent’s lie that “. . the tree was good for food . .  pleasant to the eyes . . desirable to make one wise. She took of its fruit!” Genesis 3:6 NKJV. John wrote that people are still struggling with the same areas of temptation, “Do not love the world . . for all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1 John 2:15-16 NKJV. It seems too many of us too many times have not learned a thing. Understand this; temptation never results in your good.

Our common struggle is akin to Jesus’ own temptation in the wilderness. Jesus is your example and deliverer in times of temptation. Read Luke 4:1-14 NKJV. “Because Jesus Himself suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them [rush to the aid of a distressed cry for help] that are tempted . . understands our weaknesses, for He faced all the same temptation we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.” Hebrews 2:18 KJV/4:15-16 NLT. At the first sign of temptation run quickly to Jesus, “to the throne of our gracious God.”

Here is the good news. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will make the way of escape.” Read 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you know what to do when tempted; tell Jesus.

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