Third Temptation

"The Bible says no one should judge, so who are you to tell me what's right for me?"

"Doesn't the Good Book say God helps those who help themselves?"

"The Bible says we're all God's children..."

Do those sound familiar?

Fallacies fly thick when the self-righteous start trying to quote from a book that wasn't written for them.

They sound spiritual and make the speaker feel Biblically literate. However, they are either outright lies or they are distortions of truth taken out of context. It's an old trick; Satan's been using it for centuries.

His most famous attempt was with Jesus. "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself off this peak. Doesn't your Bible say God won't let anything bad happen to you? Let's see if it's true. Prove it."

There he went again, jabbing at the identity of Christ because he knows if enough doubt is cast, some eventually believe it. Has he been throwing darts at your self-worth? Hinting that not even God could love and forgive you? Have you started to believe it?

When we approach Scripture with the intent of proving our point, we can twist it to say anything we want. You could find enough phrases to prove your point from Moby Dick if that's all you're interested in.

The scary part is that so few who call themselves Believers truly know what the Word of God says. Unless you know God, know what He says and what He doesn't say, you are an easy target for distortion.

Jesus was well-versed in the Book He inspired and knew how to confront error and distortion with Truth. He didn't even rely on His own wit or verbal genius to combat Evil Incarnate. He relied on the truth of God's Word and came back a third time:

"It is written..."

Do you know what God says and what He doesn't say? If the very Son of God had to rely on spoken Scripture to defeat temptation, then how much more do we need to do the same?

Don't wait until you're in the moment. Dig in now. Find out what God really says and what He doesn't say.

When Evil comes at you, will you be ready?


Second Temptation

Her husband's cancer was back and the bills were mounting. The mortgage company had sent its last notice before foreclosure and now the pink slip lay on her desk. An innocent piece of paper that was surely the last straw.

Why didn't someone shoot her now?

Then her eyes fell on the ledger. Ben, in accounting, had asked her to initial it. Sign off on his deceit. Her percentage of the take would be enough to keep the house. Just a simple matter of a couple of misplaced zeros. A company this size would hardly notice. They certainly hadn't noticed her these past ten years as she slaved away to make them richer.

She fingered the leather book, carefully buried under piles of innocuous documents. It would be so easy. Ben was good. They may never be discovered. Maybe it was the way out. Maybe God had provided the answer through Ben. What choice did she have?

You may never face a choice of that magnitude, but you will certainly face decisions that require the same degree of compromise. When your back is against the wall, you see no escape, and someone offers an easy out, do you have the moral strength to say no?

Jesus was faced with such a temptation when Satan came at him the second time in Luke 4. After Jesus' 40-day fast in the wilderness, He had already resisted Satan's suggestion to turn rocks into bread. Now the beast was at it again. He took Jesus to the highest peak and swept an arm across the valley. In an instant, they could see all the kingdoms of the world.

"This could all be yours," Satan hissed.

The Evil One knew God's plan. The world was about to be purchased out of his grip by the blood of the One he was taunting. If he could entice Jesus to do it his way, the plan would fail and he would be god after all. He must have cackled in anticipation as he watched the struggle on Jesus' face.

Imagine how Jesus felt. He knew the torture and murder he was about to endure. The dread had already begun. He had pleaded with His Father, "Please, if there is some other way..."

Was this another way?

When we read about the temptations of Jesus, we have to remember: these were real temptations. A temptation is an idea that lights a spark deep in our soul suggesting we veer off the course we know is right.

A spark was lit in Jesus.
What if he could have everything the Father sent Him to purchase without the agony? What if he could bring His Father all the kingdoms of the world a different way than the way they had planned? He hadn't been human then when they'd planned this thing. It hadn't seemed so horrible when He'd been enthroned in Heaven, praised by angels, and grieving over fallen man. Maybe...

Have you been there? You're wrestling with pain when a compromise appears. Your pain could be alleviated with this little action. A little step this way, a slightly dishonest word, a dalliance on the side and your problems will be solved. Or so you think.

Jesus has been there, too. And He gave us a model to follow.

He knew the path He had chosen in the light and refused to veer from it in the darkness.
"It is written..."

With a look neither to the right nor the left, He gave his answer. He didn't stop to dwell on the magnificence of those kingdoms, the plausibility of Satan's suggestion, or what obedience to His Father would entail.

We get into so much trouble when we pause to think about it.
If compromise is knocking on your door today, do what Jesus did: slam the door.

First Temptation

It was a long time coming, but you did it!

Now you're famished, depleted in both body and soul.
  • You've waved goodbye to the FedX man who holds your project.
  • You clicked SEND on that 12-page paper.
  • The test is over and you did well.

We've all experienced those "Ah-h" moments when we lean back, shut our eyes, and exhale. As tension drains from our bodies, our senses come alive.

"Feed me!"
"Rest me!"

"Entertain me!"

Our flesh wastes no time shouting its demands when it needs something. And we usually waste no time in meeting those demands. However, when those demands are at their peak, Satan usually arrives with enticing options.

"Go ahead and overeat. You earned it."

"Go ahead and call in sick. You deserve the rest."

"Go ahead and click on that porn site, visit the bar, pick up an easy mark. No one will know and you'll feel so much better."

Satan is clever, powerful, and persistent. But he's not very original. He's been using the same lines since the Garden of Eden, and we fall for them over and over again.

We can spot some of his best lines by studying the way he tempted Jesus. I picture him as a greasy used-car salesman.

Jesus had spent 40 days fasting and praying, seeking His Father's will and strength for the battle ahead.

But Satan has no manners. He doesn't respect our intent or needs. He strikes wherever he can--wherever we appear weak.

"Hey, Jesus," he sneered. "IF indeed you are the Son of God..."

I can hear him clear his throat. He may been munching on a hunk of warm bread when he sidled up to Jesus and lowered his voice.

You know, I'm still not clear on that whole Son of God thing. Here's a good chance for you to prove it to me, once and for all. I know you're hungry. Why don't you do a miracle for me? If you really can, then why don't you turn those rocks into bread? Wow, I'd be impressed!"

Imagine yourself in Jesus' sandals. You're famished. You're not thinking straight. Your body is screaming for food and someone has just suggested a harmless solution. What could it hurt? You can do anything you want and maybe it's time someone set this jerk straight.

Have you ever wondered why He didn't do it?

It wasn't a sin. He did miracles like that all the time. So what was wrong with Satan's suggestion? Why was that considered a temptation?

The evil began with the first word:
if. Satan was tempting Jesus to doubt His own identity and to verify it by responding to that doubt. If Satan could get Jesus to meet his own physical needs rather than allow His Father to do it, then the rest of us have no hope at all.

He hits us where we are weakest, when our fleshly need is screaming, and he knows it is all we can hear.

IF you really are a Christian, you can do this little thing to satisfy yourself and God won't love you any less. You can handle it. You deserve it. God will understand."

And by the thousands, we fall for it. We decide that God doesn't know what we need, so we have to provide it for ourselves. Any way we can. No harm done, right?

The only solution is to do what Jesus did.It didn't matter that he was hungry, thirsty, and tired. His physical reality did nothing to diminish spiritual truth. He responded with, "It is written..."

He didn't give himself time to consider the suggestion, argue, or discuss options. He showed no concern whatsoever with Satan's slam at his identity. He knew who He was.

And you need to know who you are.

If you've made the Lord Jesus Christ master of your life, then you belong to God and nothing can change that.

God has promised to meet your needs according to His will for you. Anything short of that is compromise with the devil.

When that greasy voice echoes in your ear, remember Jesus. He gave you a model of resistance to remind you that if He can do it, so can you.

Even Socrates Needs Jesus

He slouched across from me, a study in practiced nonchalance. He had no problems. Needed nothing. Knew it all, thank you very much. 

He smugly informed me of his high IQ and his skepticism toward all things spiritual. His philosophy degree had destroyed any innate ability to think clearly and his mishmash of pseudo-facts about the Bible and Christianity in general made it difficult to resist the urge to be sarcastic. He was only here because his second wife was divorcing him and if his presence in counseling could help straighten HER out, he was willing to stoop to such nonsense.

As he sauntered away from our first session, I washed my hands of this client. He wouldn't be back. I wasn't sorry.

But the Lord said, "No. I want him."

Over the next several months, he was on my heart continually. I prayed, interceded on his behalf, and kept his name before the Lord. And he kept coming back. At first I wasn't sure why, but the raw hunger in his eyes behind the arrogant mask cried out for something real. 

We debated, parried, and sorted through the conglomeration of half-facts and misconceptions that made up his spiritual knowledge. Every session was a two-hour apologetics challenge that left me drained and wondering if this was going anywhere. 

His wife divorced him, but he kept coming back.

I sent him home with every book from Strobel to Lewis and finally he agreed to take a Bible, New Living Translation because he had "issues" with the King James.

The mask began to slip. The Holy Spirit, whose existence was in question, began to work in his heart. He started attending church. "That preacher was talking right to me," he complained one week. "It was like someone had told him about me. That's never happened before."

And then last week, the questions and doubts turned to faith and "Socrates" entered the kingdom of God. The new air of humility was my first clue that something had changed. His humble apologies to his ex-wife was the second. He'll be baptized this week.

There is no one too lost, no one too angry, proud, or skeptical to withstand the power of the Holy Spirit. When God calls your name, you can't help but hear it. You can resist it, fight it, turn away. But if your heart is hungry for something real, no amount of philosophical reasoning can satisfy it. Only a relationship with the living God can do that.

And now young "Socrates" will spend forever in the presence of God. And with me. We can continue our discussions--from the same perspective this time. I'm looking forward to that.

Welcome to the family, little brother.


The Ghost Town of Atheism

The town was dying, trapped beneath the weight of poverty and hopelessness. The people were turning on each other, desperate to grab enough money to buy that day's food and maybe a little extra for a blanket. The last big factory had closed, stores were leaving, and the people were desperate.

Then Josh ran into town, waving a wrinkled paper.

"I can hardly believe it!" he exclaimed. "I found a big pot of gold up on the mountain. It's more than enough for everybody. See these new clothes I'm wearing? I'm on my way to pay off my bills and buy enough food for the whole month! You should come with me when I go back up there. Get some for yourself."

The people scratched their heads and looked at each other.

Then Professor Proveit stepped forward. "Young man, there is no gold on that mountain. Explorers have gone over every inch of that place for centuries. You're lying to us. You stole those things."

He turned to the crowd. "This is preposterous. He has not proven to anyone that there is indeed gold up there. It's a good 3 days' hike and I'm no fool. Until I see a geologists report indicating gold, a sample for testing, and irrefutable scientific evidence that this is even possible, I refuse to listen to this nonsense. And you should too."

Dr. Bootstraps cleared his throat. "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a nice little story and if Josh wants to play with his fool's gold, that's his business. What I resent is his implication that the rest of us need help from some anonymous gold pot. We're doing fine just like we are. We may be poor, but we're proud and we intend to stay that way. I find it degrading for this kid to imply that we are not sufficient just as we are."

Many in the crowd nodded and frowned at Josh. "Yeah, what are you trying to imply? What do you know? The doctor and the professor would certainly know if there was that much gold anywhere around here."

A burly wrestler shouldered his way to the front of the group and folded massive arms. "Yeah, this is a trick. You want us to go running after your fictional gold while you and your gang plunder our homes! Why, we ought to have you arrested!"

Josh took a step back and his face paled. "No. Really. I-I just found a wonderful thing and wanted to share it with you."

He held out the wrinkled paper. "Look, I have a map. It shows you right where to find the gold. It's beautiful! More than I've ever seen in my life! You're all poor like I was. You need this just as much as I do and I want to show you where it is. Won't anyone come with me? I'm going back tomorrow. Come see for yourself."

The wrestler spit on the ground. "That's a lie, jerk. That ain't no map. Anybody could've wrote that up. How stupid do you think we are to fall for something like that. I was just up there on that mountain last summer and there weren't no gold! I'm tellin' ya, you're up to something!"

The crowd murmured and moved toward him."Yeah, what are you up to?"

"What right do you have to tell us something like that! Get our hopes up for nothing..."

A man in a turban held up a hand and the crowd grew still. "Listen everyone. I think I can settle this. I'm Mohammad Ishmael from the town across the river. I too found the map he is holding and followed it. 
"There is a pot there, but it is full of rust and rocks. An understandable mistake. I too thought it contained gold, but I later realized my mistake. No one would leave that much gold lying about for anyone to take. There's a catch somewhere. Here, however, I have the real map to treasure. There are clearcut steps to follow, a few dues to pay, but it's worth it. The path is much easier and guarantees success. Now, if you'll follow me..."

He turned to go and several in the crowd followed him.

"Wait!" cried Josh. "That's not true! There is gold. I took some and bought myself these things. I'm telling you, it's real! You've got to see for yourself. Don't take this guy's word for it, you don't even know him!"

The wrestler grabbed Josh by the arm and shoved him against the wall. "Lay off, idiot! Nobody's buying your gold story and we resent you getting us all stirred up! We've been fooled before, but not again. You knock it off or we're gonna run you out of town."

The crowd turned away, waving their hands at him in disgust. Some followed Ishmael, but most trudged back to their dark homes to endure another day without hope.

Josh glanced down at his wrinkled map, then at the new clothes he had bought with the gold. He shook his head. "I don't understand. All I wanted to do was share the good news. Why are they so angry? It feels wrong to keep it all to myself, but if they won't listen, there's nothing more I can do. As sad as it is, my job here is done."

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:17-19

For some practical articles on the Bible vs. evolutionary theory, visit this link.


If Rome Fell in a Day...

America is crumbling.

The world is crumbling.

Aside from the rampant growth of paganism, false religions, and atheism, the very fabric of our humanity is being destroyed one soul at a time.
Moral rot and ever-changing standards have left people confused and without hope. The "anything goes" mentality" was right. When anything goes, everything does.

The Church was founded by Jesus to shine as a light in the dark world. But rather than influence the world, the world has invaded the Church. Our reluctance to offend has left us with no strength to combat the well-fed evil that is devouring individuals, families, and churches by the scores.

Sexual sin is a ravenous monster that is unapologetically destroying humanity.

Like any spawn of the Devil, this sin is never satisfied with a little extra-marital dallying. Sensuality always lusts for more: more crudity, more baseness, more vile affections. More stealing of innocence. In the land that proclaims "In God We Trust" we have become our own god.

On any given day, thousands of children are sexually violated. Perversions that cannot even be named here are increasing boldly, spreading like a plague through chat rooms, websites, and middle schools. Demanding parades, "rights," and social acceptance, sexual perversion is fast becoming the new norm.

And like any virus, it has spread to the churches. It is no longer uncommon to watch a pastor who once decried homosexuality now engage in it. Molested children are as likely to be the deacon's kids as the drunkard's. Statistics tell us that
on any given Sunday at least 40% of any congregation has a full-blown sexual addiction.

The costless Gospel we have spread over the last century is now costing us dearly. The idea that we can have "all this and God too" has proven to be traitorous. That was never the Gospel Jesus spread. Or Paul. Or Peter.

Three of the 4 Gospels record Jesus words:
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."

Self denial is not a popular message. The abundant life is proclaimed enthusiastically from most pulpits. God's riches, provision, and watch-care are peddled like trinkets from a street vendor.

But we don't hear much about self-denial. Sacrifice. Suffering for Jesus' sake. Crucifying the flesh. Odd, since those topics comprise a major portion of the New Testament.

Those are the diamonds embedded in the real message of Christianity. The idea of losing my will in God's won't fill the pews most Sundays, so it is shelved in favor of something more appealing to the unsaved masses who crowd most churches every week.

But that is where the strength lies and one reason the Church has lost its power. We are good at following tradition, playing church, building buildings. But we're not very good at denying ourselves.

Maybe it's time we learned. Maybe it's too late.

On One Condition

"Hey, Dad. I'm going out for the football team this fall," Jak announced one evening.

"Sounds great, son. When are tryouts?"

"In a couple of weeks."

"What are you doing to get ready?"

Jak laughed. "Oh, I plan to jog around the block a few times. Lift a couple of weights. But hey, I'm a natural athlete. When the coach sees what I can do, he'll beg me to be on his team!"

Days passed and Dad saw no sign of Jak working out, training, or doing anything differently than he'd always done.

"Son, don't you think you need to put some effort into this thing?" Dad asked one day. "I thought you really wanted this."

"I do! I'm crazy for football. Can't wait." Jak flipped off the TV and rolled to his feet with a sigh. "Okay, if it'll make you happy, I'll jog around my room a few times. That should do it. Guy of my talent shows up, that coach'll probably make me the quarterback the first day."

Do you think Jak has a dose of reality coming? Why?

We can easily see how ridiculous Jak's reasoning is when it comes to physical effort, 
but what about spiritual effort?

In the book of Jeremiah, God tells us: "You will seek me and you will find me...when you seek me with all your heart."

We often approach God with the same attitude with which Jak approached football. "When God sees me coming, He's gonna be so excited He can't stand it! A prayer here and there, extra money in the offering sometimes, God's lucky to have me on His team."

We forget God's little condition: We have to seek Him with all our hearts or we'll never find Him. Neither the coach nor God has any use for those who approach with the attitude that they are doing a favor by showing up.

It is God who initiates the desire to seek Him. It is God who has provided the way by which we can come to Him, but He is not interested in being Santa Claus or your personal genie.

He wants us to love Him, to want a loving relationship with Him, to seek Him for Himself, and not just what we think He can do for us.

Think about your last attempt at communication with God. 
Did you sound a little like Jak?


Do You Remember Rhonda?

Muslims claim that they and Christians worship the same God.  After all, there is only one true God, Creator of the world. We merely have different names for him. Right?

Is that true?

Consider this illustration.

Imagine that you meet an old friend from high school whom you haven't seen in 30 years. You strike up a conversation and then he says, "Hey, remember Rhonda? I heard she lives in Europe now."

You smile and nod. "Yes, Rhonda was great. Sat in front of me in Biology."

You share a few mutual memories and then he says, "I heard she was divorced. Four times. Her last husband hated her long brown hair."

"Brown? I remember Rhonda with blonde hair. Curly and short."

"No, no...She was short, but her hair was really long. And straight."

You scratch your head. "Are you sure? The Rhonda I remember was tall and quiet. Conservative. It's hard for me to picture her being divorced 4 times."

Your friend claps you on the shoulder. "C'mon now, Rhonda was a party girl! The party didn't start 'til she showed up."

Now you're really confused. Suddenly you brighten. "Hey, I've got an old yearbook in my trunk. Hang on a minute. Let me get it." You jog to the car and return with a dusty yearbook. Quickly you flip to the right page and point to the outdated photo.

"There! There she is! There's Rhonda."

Now your friend looks confused. He slowly shakes his head. "No-o...No, that's not her. That's not the Rhonda I remember. Guess we're talking about two different people."

He walks away and you continue to stare at the photo. You were right.This is Rhonda. Photos don't lie.
When we hear confusing babble about Allah = Jehovah =Yahweh = Jesus = Mohammed...even the most devout believer can feel his foundation cracking. 

Are we talking about the same God?

Thankfully, God has provided us a yearbook--His Word. We can quickly flip it open and find a picture of Jesus. "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father," he says. (John 14:9)

When we show that to a Muslim, he recoils. "No, Allah has no Son!" he cries. "That's not God!"

And we can can close the yearbook with the answer we needed. 

Problem solved. 
Apparently we're not talking about the same God, after all.


Stop that! I mean it!

Of all the character traits lacking in American society today, self-control has to be the most obvious.
Just look around. People are out of control. Greed, lust, self-promotion, anger, substance abuse, spending, and arrogance are just a few of the ways human beings refuse to control themselves--or better yet, allow God to control them.
The idea of self-control sounds a little outdated in our culture of reality television and blatant pornography. Self-control has been replaced by externals control because we refuse to do it ourselves. We think we've found clever ways to ignore the boundaries God established long ago, but it's hard to ignore the consequences.
So we rename them.
Drunkenness and drug addiction have been cleaned up and elevated to the status of a "disease." Homosexual perversion is now a "lifestyle alternative," and pornographers cry loud and long for their right to "freedom of expression."
How clever we are! We have deluded ourselves into believing that what was once evil is now acceptable. And we assume that--if there is a God---He's going right along with it.
But Scripture warns, "Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, that will he reap."
On the flip side of self-control, are the positive traits we should be exhibiting and are not.
Notice that self-control is last on the list of nine spiritual fruits. I think that's intentional. Without self-control, it is impossible for God's Spirit to so fill us enough to live out the other eight. Without controlling our natural fleshly impulses, we'll easily slide right back into the very sin God delivered us from. Without practicing the daily disciplines of prayer, worship, and study of God's Word, the other Fruits of the Spirit won't be able to flourish.
Self-control is the ribbon that ties up the package. Without it,there isn't a package.

It's easy to judge the people who are clearly coloring outside the lines, but what about you? Are there areas of your life where you need self-control?
What about your fantasy life? Your choice of entertainment? Your shopping habits? Your eating habits? Or your temper?
Are there areas in which you feel defeated or that you'll never measure up? Do your senses of identity and significance need the control of God's Spirit to regulate them? Do you see yourself as God sees you, or are you still using the world's crooked meter-stick to decide your worth?
Self-control covers far more ground than we may think. It's the icing on the cake, but the most necessary if we want victory in all other areas.
It's only in fully committing yourself to Christ that you will be able to lay claim to these delicious fruits. You can't do it yourself. Jesus is ready to do it for you, but you've got to give him the key to the orchard gate.


Old Faithful

Everyone's heard of Old Faithful, Wyoming's geyser that erupts every hour and a half year round. People travel from all over the world to witness the phenomenon.
It's so reliable, no one worries they'll miss it or it will suddenly stop shooting its incredible arc into the sky.
We take for granted the things that never fail us. Faithfulness is truly appreciated only when it is gone.
Faithfulness is the seventh Fruit of the Spirit that God wants to supernaturally instill in each of his children.
A simple look around tells us why we need it. No one is faithful anymore. The person you took for better or worse got worse and you took off. The "lifetime" guarantee on your new appliance meant the "lifetime of the appliance" which turned out to be six months. We church-hop, friend-hop, job-hop, spouse-hop, and God-hop our way through life and wonder why we're not experiencing all that abundant life Jesus was talking about.
We're not faithful by nature. Our human nature tells us that if it gets unpleasant, bail out. After all, it's about me and my happiness, so if I'm not happy, something needs to change.
And that's true. But the something that needs to change is usually you.
All through Scripture, God constantly points to himself and says, "This is how to do it. Watch me. Be like me." He is faithful to us and wants us to mimic that in our earthly relationships and in our relationship with him.
But it's hard for us to stop our continual search for self-satisfaction. We're like the little boy who stomps on the silver dollar in the mud to get to the shiny penny on the sidewalk. We eagerly trade in the peace of God for a cheap thrill that lasts only until we get it unwrapped. Then we whine that God has deserted us.
He hasn't gone anywhere. His ways haven't changed. His character hasn't changed. He's the same God who rescued you last time, waiting until you get full of yourself and come back to him.
And the more we bask in the faithfulness of God, the more we  become that to the people in our lives. He doesn't leave us when the going gets rough. And if he can stick it out with us, why can't we hang in there for the people he's put in our lives?
Next time you hear or read about Old Faithful, let it be a reminder to take a quick inventory of your own faithfulness.
  • Are you being faithful to Christ?
  • Is he proud that you bear his name?
  • Are you hanging in there with the difficult people in your life?
  • Are you staying true to the calling God has placed on your life?
When you stand before him, will you hear the words: "Well done,  good and faithful servant?"
Faithfulness has a rich reward.