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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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The Capacity to Regress

July 28th, 2014

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do.” Romans 7:15 NIV.

Your capacity to regress to unprofitable behaviors is a besetting temptation.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the capacity to regress.”

At times, I am bewildered by how little I really understand about myself. While feeling proud of my progress, I am puzzled by the ease with which I revert to ways and habits I previously found unworthy. As old as I am, that still perplexes me, as it did Paul, “I do not understand what I do.” Romans 7:15 NIV. I surrender progress achieved with much effort and diligence, and find myself closer to where I was than where I need to be. My capacity to regress to unprofitable behaviors is a besetting temptation.

When where you have been still holds attraction, the path of progress can be challenging. Read James 1:12-15. Temptation alone is not sin, but spiritual maturity and Godliness are measured by your recognition and rejection of any temptation to regress to familiar yet ineffective ways of coping with everyday life.

You will never find confidence or growth by returning to options once familiar and places formerly comfortable. As danger threatened or opposition arose, Israel looked over their collective shoulder with misplaced fondness for what they left behind in Egypt. “In their hearts they turned back to Egypt.” Acts 7:39. Read Nehemiah 9:9-17.

Before judging Israel harshly, consider your own temptation to return to negative emotions, old prejudices, wrong attitudes, unworthy appetites, unholy ambitions, or unhealthy habits. Paul encouraged and warned the Galatians, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1.

Let me suggest some Biblical examples of regression and suggest their causes, (1) Complicated discipleship, “From that time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” John 6:66-69. (2) Competitive affections,Demas has forsaken me having loved this present world.” 2 Timothy 4:10. (3) Confusing circumstances, After Jesus’ death and reports of His resurrection, Peter and other disciples returned to fishing. See John 21:1-5. A vulnerable time is when disappointment in people or situations and the resulting discouragement dissuade you.

Maybe today you identify with the Apostle Paul in his struggle with bewilderment. Paul wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I allow . . for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” Romans 7:15-21 NIV.

In the succeeding verses, Paul confessed his despair over his spiritual frailty.  “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:24-25 NLT. I suggest three spiritual practices that bring clarity during bewildering times: God’s Word, (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV), Jesus’ example, (Hebrews 4:14-16), and the Holy Spirit’s empowering, (Acts 1:8/Romans 15:13). In your panic, the answer may first appear to be running back to your weaknesses; God’s answer is fleeing to a safe refuge – into the arms of God. See Proverbs 18:10/Psalm 27:5/91:1-2.

Today, my prayer for you is to set progress as your highest, spiritual priority.

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Prayer and God’s Reinforcement

March 10th, 2014

“Our Father . . don’t let us yield to temptation.” Matthew 6:13 NLT.

Prayer is a preemptive strategy against evil in any form.

My thoughts and comments today are about “prayer and God’s reinforcement.”

With self-mocking humor, a person confessed, “I can resist anything except temptation.” Seriously, temptation is exactly what you must resist. Temptation has a potential far beyond what you first assume. I have never heard of temptation referring to things noble, charitable, or sacrificial. Temptation always refers to being lured into conduct or conversation harmful and shameful.

In answer to the disciples request that Jesus teach them to pray, Jesus set forth a pattern in what is commonly called, “The Lord’s Prayer.” Read Matthew 6:9-13. “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father . . don’t let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:13 NLT.

There are moments and situations when your will and best efforts need spiritual reinforcement. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” James 1:12-14 NKJV. Here is the problem; you can too easily be enticed by wrong desires if not vigilant. Read Romans 7:15-25 NKJV.

Prayer is preemptive. Your first defense for temptation is aversion and avoidance. To His disciples, Jesus’ was clear, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 NKJV. Jesus’ words apply to you as well. Your humanity is vulnerable; prayer is among the greatest of means whereby you weaken the flesh and strengthen the spirit within you. Prayer keeps your focus where it needs to be. “Since you have been raised with Christ, set your heart on things above, where Christ is . . and not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2 NIV. Prayer sets your thoughts and emotions firmly on what is holy, rather than things base and carnal.

Prayer reinforces resolve. The battle is fiercest in the midst of temptation. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 NIV.

Prayer fortifies reinforcements. “For in that He himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:18 KJV. “Succour” is an old English word, rich in significance, translating a Greek word meaning, “to come hurriedly at one’s call for help.” Prayer marshals the reinforcements and resources of Heaven to your defense, relief, and aid to, “Deliver [you] from the evil one.” Read Luke 4:1-13 NKJV/Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV.

My prayer for you today is: in temptation, you will stand strong in Christ and His Word.

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Distractions and Diversions

September 18th, 2013

One thing I do . . I press toward . . the prize of the upward call of God.” Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV.

Be vigilant; the insistent threatens the important.

My thoughts and comments today are about “distractions and diversions.”

Life can easily misdirect priorities, unless you persist with diligence and purpose. If you have not experienced diversion in matters small or large, you will. You can begin with clarity of purpose, then become diverted by things that clamor for your attention, only to realize that you have lost direction. Life is often what happens while you were busy elsewhere. Remembering his own painful experience, Solomon offers wise counsel, Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don’t get sidetracked . .” Proverbs 4:25-27 NLT. Time and energy can be wasted on needless diversions.

I benefit from my Dad’s practical counsel, “Keep the main things the main thing!” Paul’s “main thing” was voiced in this determination, “That I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me . . one thing I do, forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 NKJV. For everyone, there are three essential components, “forgetting, reaching, and pressing.” Paul knew who he was, who he wanted to be, and what diligence that would require of him. The same clarity must be true of you. Contemplate what “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” would be for your life.

Be vigilant; the insistent threatens the important. Keeping a clear focus is not always as easy as you might assume. Life can be distracting. “Your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:32-33 NKJV. Distraction results when the secondary usurps the place of the primary. Keep Jesus in the center.

Jesus asked a probing question, “For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul” Read Matthew 8:34-37 NKJV. No man begins with the intention of losing his soul. Distractions and diversions exact a terrible price. With broken heart, Paul wrote this of his former companion, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” 2 Timothy 4:10 NKJV. For a love that does not endure and cannot satisfy, Demas traded his destiny. The destroyer of your soul is the master of distractions and diversions. Do not be ignorant of his schemes. See 2 Corinthians 2:11 NLT. What he cannot take from you, he will tempt you to lay aside.

Are any of us safe? God never meant for you to live insecurely. “The temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so you will not give in to it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT. I am confident of God’s sufficiency and care.

His promise is this, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21 NKJV. The word you hear is the Spirit’s affirmation of the Word you have hidden in your heart. See Psalm 119:9-11 NIV. The path of your success is simple: keep the Word of God foremost in your heart, listen to the Spirit of God devotedly, and be true to both unreservedly. Read 1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you will be steadfast in your pursuit of God.

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Wilderness Experiences

March 18th, 2013

“He . . guided them in the wilderness . . and He led them safely.” Psalm 78:52 NKJV.

Jesus identifies with your struggle and invites you to identify with His success.

My thoughts and comments today are about “wilderness experiences.”

Everyone will spend some time in “a wilderness.” A wilderness experience is where and when you feel alone. You are somewhere unfamiliar, uncomfortably betwixt and between, not where you were nor where you want to be. The Bible references “a wilderness” as a place removed or apart, or a place barren and lacking. Life will include those moments and places. At the least, wilderness experiences are uncomfortable.

There is always a danger of knowingly walking apart from the will of God and experiencing the dearth of fellowship and spiritual emptiness that result. But at times, life’s journey may simply take you through things you do not choose. Among a litany of such experiences, The Apostle Paul wrote of “perils in the wilderness.” Read 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 NKJV. Wilderness experiences hold perils for those unprepared.

A wilderness is not as much geographical as the experience of emotional, relational, or spiritual lack; more than a place, it’s a difficult time – a circumstance and time when your heart feels adrift, your future seems uncertain. Wilderness experiences may be triggered by hurtful misunderstandings, false accusations, serious illness, financial lack, painful divorce, unemployment, loneliness, discouragement, loss of direction, or many things really.

In such wilderness experiences, it is easy to become lost, beginning to think the worst and fear there is no way out. Disappointment – “things not as appointed” -leads to discouragement; discouragement brings disillusionment; disillusionment results in despair.

Israel’s wilderness was a detour they chose out of fear and lack of trust, yet God was there with them. A wilderness was neither God’s intention nor their final destination, just an experience along their journey. “He . . guided them in the wilderness like a flock; and He led them safely, so that they did not fear . .” Psalm 78:52-53 NKJV. In every uncertain time, be sure of God and His Word.

The wilderness can weaken you, leaving you vulnerable. Very honestly, the Bible says, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 4:1-3 NKJV. Read Luke 2:4-13 NKJV. When the Devil appealed to Jesus’ humanity – “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16-17 NKJV) – and misapplied the Holy Scriptures, Jesus responded clearly and firmly with the truth. Indeed, the “truth will set you free.” John 8:32 NIV. Here is the good news: “[Jesus] was tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV. Jesus identifies with your struggle and invites you to identify with His success.

Jesus prevailed by knowing, trusting, and confessing God’s Word; that’s the same way and only way you will prevail in your wilderness experiences. The Bible is your wilderness survival guide. Luke reports, “And Jesus returned [from the wilderness] in the power of the Spirit.” Luke 4:14 NKJV. In your wilderness, you will not be alone; with the Word of God within and the Holy Spirit empowering, and God alongside, you will come out of the wilderness in the power of the Spirit with your faith intact.

My prayer for you this day is that you will walk with God confidently.

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