Resist Temptation

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:7-14)

 

My son Robby preached a great sermon recently. One of the things he shared was that Jesus never got a release from temptation because he never gave in to it. Jesus had to continue on with temptation nagging at Him. The example Robby used was about cookies. He said, if you are craving cookies and are tempted to eat them, you keep thinking about them. After you give in and eat them you stop thinking about them. Your craving is gone because you gave in to temptation.

This point got me thinking about my view and attitudes about temptation. Somehow I got the idea that the closer you get to God and the more you live like Jesus, the less temptation bothers you. Now I am thinking that temptation may bother us more as we become like Jesus. To be like Jesus means we have to bear up under the temptation. As we resist, the desire and craving initially gets stronger and plays with our minds more.

There is nothing that I could find in the Bible that said that temptation, craving and desire would go away if we resist. What I did find was that the Apostle Paul often spoke of striving and persevering to reach the goal. He talks about discipline and determination. He doesn’t talk about an easy stroll through life but a battle that must be fought, a race that must be won. In fact, we may not get release but we still must choose to serve God. “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). This is taking up our cross daily, resisting the things that tempt us and obeying God.

Unfortunately, we don’t always choose to live this way. One of the reasons is that sin does give that temporary release. It does feel good in the moment. We often justify our sin because of this “good feeling”. We fail to look long term at the consequences. Sin is never the best choice, even if it feels good at the time.

Paul understood this. That is why he talks about loss, a giving up of one thing for something better. The something better is eternal and valuable. What we give up is garbage. What we gain is a relationship with God! We get to know Him and relate to Him by understanding His emotions, thoughts, righteousness, and eternity.

We do have to share in His sufferings. That means that we resist temptation even when it nags at us. That means that we choose righteousness even in the face of adversity. In this way we participate with Jesus in the life He lived and continues to live through us. We participate with Him because He first came and lived life like us. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus knows what it takes to resist sin. He knows how difficult it can be. He knows that the cravings and naggings persist, but He also knows the reward of resisting. It is the abundant life and brings with it eternal reward.

 

Dear Lord, without you persevering through temptation and resisting the cravings of the flesh, I would not have eternal life. You do understand what it means to be tempted and you know that with your power I can stand firm for you. Lord, help me to do that. Let me continue to stand firm even when I experience difficult emotions. Opposing sin and resisting temptation are often mentally and emotionally exhausting. Let me trust in You and not my feelings. By faith I trust that your righteousness will be made manifest in me. I ask for strength to press on and strain for the prize. I love you Jesus for resisting temptation and becoming my perfect and whole sacrificial Lamb. To you be all glory and praise.

 

A Crown of Thorns, A Symbol of Love

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“And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe” John 19:2

 

One morning this week I prayed that God would be with me through my day and remind me of his presence. I told Him that I want to know Him better. I went to work and got caught up in the commotion of the day. But then the Lord in a rather unexpected way reminded me that He is close to me and He loves me.

I was organizing some things in a back room. It was quiet and I was by myself. I picked up a heavy item that needed to be moved. I accidently dropped it and set off a chain reaction of crashes, the domino effect. One of the things that fell was a huge bougainvillea and it fell on my head!

Ouch! One of the thorns stabbed my head and a couple of others scratched me. The one that stabbed me actually broke off in my head and I had to scrape the point out of my scalp. I had been “crowned” with thorns. Through the intervention of the Spirit, my thoughts immediately turned to the Lord and His crown of thorns. I remembered the words from John 19:2. The soldiers made a crown of thorns and put it on Jesus.

I knew that my pain was nothing in comparison to what Jesus went through. I was hurting and I had just a few scrapes and one stab wound. Wow, I felt bad. So I can’t imagine the pain the Lord suffered and He suffered it for me. And the crown of thorns was only a small part of the agony that Jesus experienced.

What amazing love that crown of thorns pictured for me. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). I suffered because I was clumsy. He suffered because I was sinful. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He loves me so much that He demonstrated it when He suffered and died for my sins, and he shows it to me day by day.

He showed it to me when He answered my prayer. He was with me through my day. I was reminded of God’s presence in my life and my thoughts were steered towards Him. Being crowned by thorns reminded me that I am loved, because I better understood His suffering and what it meant for me.

Although pain is never fun, I can see how God used it to benefit me. My little disaster could have been so much worse than it was. But the Lord was with me and used this small discomfort to turn my thoughts to Him and to remind me of His goodness.

 

Thank you, Jesus, for taking the negative and making it good. It is hard to understand how you can take an instrument of torture like a crown of thorns and turn it into a symbol of love and hope. If you can do that, you can certainly take the most despicable things and make them good, even lovely. I pray that you do that for me. Take the wrong, the sin and the pain and turn it into glory for your name.

Deep and Profound Thoughts

“How great are your works, O Lord, how profound your thoughts!” Psalm 92:5

After writing about the sun flares, my mind kept drifting toward deep and profound thoughts of God’s power and greatness. If our sun, just one of the stars in the universe can produce so much heat and energy then how much energy and power is there in the universe? How immense is the Creator who controls all that power. This is profound. He is profound. He is deep and unfathomable; He is at times difficult to understand. He has depth of insight and understanding that are beyond my grasp.

My finite mind cannot comprehend the infinite. Most of the time my mind can’t even comprehend a lot of what is finite. I discussed this with a friend recently. We were talking about the hard to understand passages of Scripture and how we recognize that these are profound. We realize God is so big and immense that thoughts of His grandeur are deep. But what of the simple things in life, are they profound? Are they beyond my depth of understanding?

I realized that some of the most profound and unexplainable things in my life are truths I trust every day. God loves me and cares for me. “You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit” (Job 10:12). God is generous and provides all I need to live a life that glorifies Him. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). He works profoundly in my space-time existence continuously.

Examples in my life are innumerable so I will give but a few. Sometimes I can’t find my keys and I cry out, “Lord I cannot remember where I put my keys and I am running late. Can you show me where they are?” Like a close friend and loving brother he reminds me of where I left them. When I am anxious and I cannot rest my mind, I pray “Give me peace and rest”. Miraculously, without human reason or understanding, he quiets my mind and takes the burden from me. He heals relationships. He frees us from scary circumstances, or gives us unexpected courage to deal with them. He gives us fellowship with others in His family. He fills us with joy that confounds those around us. He allows us to submit and surrender and then He lifts us up. All these things are common but they are still profound and stem from the power of God.

I put my trust in an omnipotent Being who oversees the whole universe. My commitment is to a Lord who is master of all things. I rest in a God who has power over life and death and has chosen to let me live and live abundantly. The God whose power is only glimpsed in the immensity of the suns energy is at work in my life because he chose to be in a relationship with me. This is profound.

Thank you, Lord. Mere words are not enough to praise you and worship you adequately. Work in my life so that I live worship and praise. I want my body to be a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable. “Now to You Lord, the one who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to you be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever” (Eph 3:20-21). Amen

The Sun’s Power

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard” (Psalm 119:1-3).

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CLICK HERE to view the NASA sun flare video

 

I was reminded of this Psalm yesterday when I saw the weather report. A NASA video of the sun was a featured story. The video showed the cycle of the sun flares over a three year period. It was amazing. I googled it and found it on youtube and watched it again.

 

I was mesmerized. That ball of gold spoke to me of the glory and greatness of God. Verse 1 of Psalm 19 says, “The heavens are telling the glory of God” and verse 2 says, “Day to day pours forth speech”. The sun was speaking to me of the greatness and power of our Creator. I had to learn more.

 

According to NASA, a single solar flare explodes with as much explosive power as billions of hydrogen bombs all exploding at once. They can be as hot as 100 million degrees Celsius. This information made that video incomprehensible to my simple mind. How many solar flares were on that video? The flares are only a very small portion of the suns overall power. My mind is just too small to comprehend this.

 

If my mind cannot comprehend the sun and its power, how amazing and powerful is the sun’s Creator? God is the Maker of this amazing explosive power that we depend on for life. I cannot, in my finite mind, begin to understand this much greatness.

 

But I can depend on it! I can put my trust in someone so great and powerful. He put the sun in the sky. He put it at exactly the right spot to give life to the earth. He put it at exactly the right spot to keep us from burning up from these solar flares. He keeps it burning brightly day after day, year after year. If He can control the sun and its power, can He control my life? Absolutely!

 

Today I will reverently and worshipfully say with the Psalmist, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer”.

 

 

Thank you, Lord, for being so faithful, dependable, and powerful. You keep the sun in check and control its power. You do this for the sake of mankind. Out of your loving kindness and mercy you give us life and warmth every day. You are dependable. You are our rock and redeemer. Your power will sustain me.

 

I thank you and praise you. You have declared your glory and I need to worship you. I need to fix my thoughts on you so that what pours forth from my heart and life are pleasing to you. My meditation and my speech need to declare your glory because you alone are worthy.

My Smoothie Debacle

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

This was one of my memory verses from Sunday school. I have had this verse hidden in my heart for many years. And this week the Lord brought it to my remembrance during a comical situation.

Here is the whole embarrassing story. I did not sleep well the other night. I was still very tired when I had to get up and go to work the next morning. I got up and got ready to go. I went to the kitchen to throw together a smoothie to drink on the way, because I didn’t leave myself enough time for breakfast. I didn’t turn the overhead light on. The night light on the microwave was on and I thought that was enough.

I grabbed some strawberries and peaches from the freezer. I got some OJ and yogurt out of the fridge. I put my ingredients in the blender. At the last minute I decided to add some coconut. I grabbed it from the dark pantry. I bet you can see where this is going.

I added the “coconut” and quickly poured my smoothie into cup. I put the lid on and ran out the door. As I started drinking the smoothie on the way to work I noticed that my coconut was really hard and not sweet. I was still so tired and had trouble even thinking through what the problem could have been. I drank the smoothie because I needed breakfast and the hard coconut seemed edible.

I made it through work and came home. I took my cup to the kitchen and put it in the sink. I started to clean up the mess I left from morning. I put the yogurt cup in the recycling and the empty strawberry package in the trash. I picked up the coconut to stick it in the pantry and noticed it was rice! The hard, not sweet coconut was uncooked rice!

I started laughing out loud. How stupid. The rice and coconut were sitting near each other on the shelf, in similarly colored bags, and both were closed with wooden clothespins. I just grabbed the wrong one in the dark. I made a mistake because I couldn’t see. It would have been so easy to prevent, just flip a light switch. I neglected to use the resources and power at my finger tips.

Psalm 119:105 came to my mind. God’s Word lights my way. How many preventable errors do I make because I don’t flip the switch? In the Word of God we find the power that floods our world with light, just follow Jesus. “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). If I walk in the light, follow Jesus, then my life (and smoothies) will be sweeter.

 

Thank you, Jesus, for using simple things from my day to remind me that you are there and you care about me. Thank you for communicating with me through your Word. Thank you for reminding me that life can be even sweeter as I walk in your light. You are so good. Help me to continually access the power and illumination you have freely provided. Let me walk in the light and not in darkness.

I Just Want to Be Loved

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15)

 

Recently I have been suffering from some sadness and internal turmoil. It is over a relationship with someone I care deeply about. I love this person and they say they love me. The problem is I do not feel loved by this individual. I do not experience a loving relationship with them. It feels theoretical not real.

This person has been involved in my life for a long time. So yes there are good things about them and happy memories. They have done kind things for me. So I do not want to say that the relationship is totally worthless. There is a connection and a commitment. But there is something lacking. And I feel more and more sadness when I think of the things that are lacking. Instead of growing closer as time goes, we are becoming emotional distant.

This person will on occasion say that they love me but it is not expressed in tangible ways. They do not make efforts to spend time with me, although they expect that I am there for them when they need it. They are not generous with me although they are generous with others in their life. They do not say words of encouragement. They are not affectionate. I have been in great need of help over the last few years. At no time did this person offer help, even in their areas of expertise. In other words, with me, they exhibit no signs of the five love languages; No acts of service, gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, or physical touch. I am not feeling loved and it is painful.

Today as I was reading my Bible, I read John 14. In this passage Jesus expresses His commitment to His disciples. He expresses his love. He is preparing a place-act of service. He promises to keep in communication with through the Spirit-quality time. The Spirit will live with us and comfort us-physical touch. He promises to answer our prayers, give us a new home, and give us peace-gifts. He shares truth and promises a bright future. He says that His disciples will do great things in His name-words of affirmation. This passage affirms that Jesus loves his followers and he expresses it in concrete ways.

I love this and was encouraged, but then it hit me. Do I love Jesus? Or am I like the person in my life who claims to love me but shows no signs of it. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”. In chapter 21 of John, Jesus has a talk with Peter. Do you really love me? Then make it tangible. Take care of my sheep. Gal 5:6 tells us that “what counts is faith expressing itself in love”. Expressing is an active verb. To express requires action.

My heart is broken because someone I care about does not express love to me. It is not tangible. Am I breaking Jesus heart because my love for Him is only theoretical? I am in a relationship with Him because we are part of the same family, I have been engrafted in. But do I truly love him? Do I demonstrate it? Can others see it? I do not want people to just assume I must love him because we are in relationship. I want it to be clearly evident because my love is demonstrative. He deserves my love and I want to express it, therefore I will apply myself to keeping his Word.

 

Dear Jesus, I am sad and pray that you will restore the broken relationship that is causing this grief and pain in my life. You are the healer of broken relationships. You are the Balm of Gilead, the Great Physician, and the one who restores health. I pray that today you start to make the changes to bring about this healing.

Even though it is painful, I want to thank you for this trial. You are developing perseverance in my life. You are also drawing me close to your heart. You are allowing me to know your thoughts and feelings. You are allowing me to experience the sadness that you must feel when those that you love do not love you back. I know you understand because you have gone through the same thing.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:15-16). I came come with boldness and find mercy and grace today!

I thank you for also teaching me how I can best enjoy a love relationship with you. It requires me to express my love in tangible and evident ways. As we both continue to show expressions of our commitment to one another, we will be bonded together in our love and unity. Thank you Jesus.

God is Powerful

…having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. Colossians 2:6

 

God’s power is a popular subject. We sing about it. We talk about it. We memorize verses pertaining to it. Knowing we have a powerful God on our side helps us to get through the tough things in life. We know God is bigger and stronger than whatever we encounter. We are encouraged to know that our God is so mighty.

A look at what powerful means reveals some added encouragement. According to Mirriam-Webster’s Thesaurus, it means, “having or manifesting power to effect great or striking results”. So, since God is powerful, we can conclude that His power is manifested (exhibited or demonstrated) causing great (celebrated or notable) or striking (noticeable or remarkable) results or outcomes.

In Colossians 2:6 it talks about one time when God demonstrated His power to cause a notable and remarkable outcome. His powerful working brought the Messiah back to life. Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God died on the cross, was buried and then God, by His powerful working, brought Him to life once again. I would have to say that this is a celebrated and striking outcome. God is powerful.

Recently, I have encountered some people who say they believe in Christianity but they do not really believe all that the Bible says about Jesus and His life and death. They question His Deity. They question the account of the resurrection. They question whether God kept His Word intact and true. In other words, they question the power of God.

Remember, these people denying God’s power are not secular or atheist, they are people that associate themselves with Christianity. Does this form of Christianity bring real hope and peace? Does it draw us close to God? Will it transform our lives and minds so that we can have great or striking results as a normal part of our lives? No! We cannot deny the power and expect powerful results.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul wrote about those that live a form of godliness but deny the power. They have the right words, present themselves as religious people, but they are denying the power that actually makes a difference in the heart and soul. Without the powerful working of God, there is no hope. Those that are religious but not living in power are listed with the selfish, greedy, prideful and hedonistic. In other words they are headed down a bad path.

If God is not powerful, He did not raise Jesus from the dead. If Jesus is not alive, Christianity is in vain. To deny the power is to deny the faith. In 1 Corinthians chapter 15 Paul outlines this logic. The conclusion is that since God is great, the Creator of all, the One who breathed life into Adam, the One who raised Jesus, we too can be confident that we will be raised in power. In light of this passage we can see why the power of God is such an important part of our faith. We need to meditate on it. We need to sing about it. We need to reflect on it as we read the Biblical account. We need to share how God’s power is working in our lives now. We need to remember that it causes great and striking results. That power saves.

 

Dear Father, you are powerful. You raised Jesus and you will raise me. My faith is not in vain. You have demonstrated your power in notable and striking ways in my life. You have answered prayers. You have provided hope when there was no hope. You have given unexplainable peace in the midst of turmoil. You have brought clarity of mind when confusion was the norm. Viewing all that you have done historically, I have every confidence that you will continue to act powerfully for me and in me. Thank you. I look forward to the adventure and excitement that a life in your power brings.