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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Temptation Challenges God's Wisdom

For several posts, we're looking at temptation. Here's our next topic: temptation challenges God's wisdom. And we're looking at how Satan tempted Eve, because he continues to do the very kind of things as then. 

When Eve explains that eating or touching the fruit will bring death in verse 3, Satan blatantly lies in verses 4 and 5. "The serpent said to the woman, 'You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'"

Satan challenges God's wisdom and knowledge by telling Eve a lie: "you won’t die." He also indicates God is actually withholding something good from them—knowing good and evil. 

Satan challenges God’s wisdom by implying God doesn’t really want good for His creatures. Tweet that! As a result, Eve concentrates on satisfying her own needs, rather than depending upon God to provide what is truly best for them. 

When you and I think God doesn’t want the best for us, we know we’re being tempted. For me, thoughts like, “Being angry feels good because now I can blame someone else” diverts my attention from my own responsibility. 


For some people, these tempting thoughts might be, “it can’t hurt to just fantasize about that woman,” or “just this once won’t hurt anything…or anyone.”

As we mentioned in the first post, the way to resist temptation is to STAND (based on “stand your ground” --Ephesians 6:13):

S: See Satan’s schemes
T: Tell yourself the truth
A: Analyze your thinking
N: Name the advantages of resisting
D: Determine the godly response

In this third part of the temptation, we need to apply the “A” of STAND: Analyze your thinking. Second Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Any thought is a potential flaming missile of Satan. We must analyze whether our thought is in alignment with Scripture. Tweet that! If it is, accept it. If it's not, reject it.

In our fourth installment we'll see how temptation conceives sin because of focusing on deceptive "positives." 

(graphic by Stuart Miles at www.digitalphotos.net)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Temptation Changes God's Message

For several posts, we're looking at temptation. Here's our next topic: temptation changes God’s message. And we're looking at how Satan tempted Eve, because he continues to do the very kind of things as then. 

In verses 2 and 3, we're told that Eve responded to Satan, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" (italics added).

Eve cooperates with Satan by adding to God’s command, (Tweet that!) and adding to the strength of the temptation. She said they were not to touch the forbidden fruit. Did God say not to touch it? No. As a result, when Eve overstated God’s directions, His comments seemed silly and extreme and thus easier to disobey. 

In our first post, I talked about my temptation to become angry and bitter. So, when I'm tempted, I try to change God's message. My thoughts about my temptation to become angry and bitter become, “Oh, but everyone gets angry! That’s unrealistic for God to think I'll never become angry or that it’ll never become bitterness.” 


We mentioned also in the first post, that the way to resist temptation is to STAND (based on “stand your ground” --Ephesians 6:13):


S: See Satan’s schemes
T: Tell yourself the truth
A: Analyze your thinking
N: Name the advantages of resisting
D: Determine the godly response

In this second part of the temptation, we need to apply the “T” of STAND: “Tell yourself the truth.” God’s commands are never ridiculous or unrealistic. I need to tell myself the truth: Ephesians 4:26 doesn’t say to never become angry because even God becomes angry. But it says to deal with anger quickly so that it doesn't become bitterness.

In our third installment we'll see how temptation questions God’s command.

(graphic by Stuart Miles at www.digitalphotos.net)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Temptation Questions God's Command

I'd like to spend several posts talking about how to resist temptation. Here's the first one. Did you know temptation questions God's command?

My husband, Larry, looked through his binoculars and spoke
into his police radio, “Rick, see the man with the three bags exiting the store? Store security just called to say he’s a shoplifter. Close in now.” My husband was a sergeant of an undercover police task force watching for shoplifters, car thieves and carjackers, and once a year, I was allowed to ride along with him.

As I watched, I couldn’t help but think of 1 Peter 5:8: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (NIV). Although Larry watches for criminals to bring them to justice, Satan watches you and me for opportunities to tempt us and lead us into sin.(Tweet that!)  

Unless you and I are alert, we will be destroyed by his schemes. 

When we’re alert, we’ll be able to “stand your ground ” (Ephesians 6:13) with this strategy:

S: See Satan’s schemes
T: Tell yourself the truth
A: Analyze your thinking
N: Name the advantages of resisting
D: Determine the godly response

Merrill Unger defines temptation as, “enticement of a person to commit sin by offering some seeming advantage” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, Chicago, IL, 1957, pg. 1082). Satan’s enticement of a “seeming advantage” is very apparent in his dealings with Eve. His schemes operate the same way today as they did ages ago, so we have much to learn from reviewing what happened then and applying our STAND principle.

Temptation Questions God’s Command

Satan asked Eve, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1 NIV). Satan was questioning what God said.

I can hear those “questionings” every time I’m tempted to allow anger to turn into bitterness. They sound like, “Ephesians 4:26 says I shouldn’t let the sun go down on my anger but Lord, you must not have been thinking about this situation. My friend makes me so angry. If only she didn’t act like that, I wouldn’t be acting like this.” 


But when I apply the “S: See Satan’s schemes” of the STAND principle, I’m more alert to recognize that this isn’t just about my need to justify myself, it’s about a spiritual battle. Whatever temptation you’re facing isn’t just some benign desire but your Adversary’s scheme to “devour” you. (Tweet that!)

In my next post, we'll see how temptation changes God's message.

(photo by imagery majestic at www.freedigitalphotos.net)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

No! God Doesn't Trust You!

Here's what I recently heard someone say: "God knows what you can handle and He gave you that challenge because He trusts you to handle it." 

I was surprised. I assumed she was basing her statement on 1 Corinthians 10:13, but I wondered if it was an accurate application. The verse says:


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, so that you will be able to endure it. (NASB)

I've also heard many people say something like, "I wish God didn't think so highly of me because He's giving me more than I can handle."

Or, "I think God trusts me too much because I can't handle what is happening."

Personally, I think all these statements show an aberration of the truths of 1 Corinthians 10:13. 

I can see how that verse might seem to give the impression affirming those statements. It does say, "...will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able." The thinking may be that this verse seems to indicate that God knows what you can handle and therefore, He doesn't allow something you can't handle. But I think the verse says more than that. And I don't think God ever "trusts" us about anything.

What do I base that on?

God provides the "escape." The ability to handle the temptation is not from someone's personal strength but God providing the "escape."

God is the one who is faithful, not the person. Again, the verse talks about God, not our own ability.

God knows our frame. Psalm 103:14 says: "For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust." There is nothing good in us. We are but His creation.

Jesus knows people's hearts. John 2:24: "But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men." Jesus doesn't entrust Himself to anyone, therefore, I don't think He finds us reliable at all or trusts us.

Our only "handling ability" comes from complete dependence upon Him. Philippians 4:13 tells us: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." It doesn't say anything like, "I can handle it because Jesus trusts me with what He allows in my life."

It also doesn't say anything like, "I can do things in my own power and then when it gets too hard, I call upon Jesus's power."

No! Everything has to be done in His power because in ourselves we aren't trustworthy or have any power. Even Jesus said that He did everything in the Father's power. He relied upon His Father for:

His very identity: "I have come in My Father's Name" (John 5:43).

His works: "the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me" (John 10:25). 

His fruit: "My Father, who has given them [believers] to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand" (John 10:29).

His words: "and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent me" (John 14:24).

His commandments: "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love; just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10).

Why am I making a big deal out of this? Because when someone talks about God trusting us or says something like, "I wish God didn't think so highly of me," it seems to suggest that we don't need God's power. That we can do it on our own. That we are faithful and trustworthy.

I don't think that's true and I actually don't want it to be true because I'm desperately in need of God's power and I am not faithful and trustworthy. 

But let me ask you: what do you think? Maybe I've misinterpreted those statements. I'd love to hear what you believe.

Friday, June 5, 2015

You Most Likely Have Never Done This

You most likely have never done this. You receive a prayer request as an email about a friend's very difficult situation. She is asking for prayer for deliverance from pain or the solution of a problem or restoration of a troubled relationship. And this is what you most likely didn't reply: "I hope that you will enjoy this challenge. I have complete confidence that you will benefit from it. So don't try to get a solution too quickly but take full advantage of the pain instead."

What???? I told you you most likely haven't done that!

Why wouldn't we reply like that?

  • She might think I don't love her.
  • She might feel discouraged.
  • She might feel alone.
  • She might feel like I don't have empathy for her pain.


Right?

The problem is that that unlikely reply is exactly what Jesus' brother, James, wrote in his letter to fellow Christians (James 1:2-4). Hard to believe? I can see your point, but it's true. Here are God's words through James:
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (NASB)

Yes, you've heard those verses before but when you think of how the ideas could come across if you used them in a reply to someone hurting and asking for prayer, the meaning takes on new impact. 

And to think James did indeed use the word "joy." In effect, he was saying to be joyful about your trial, tribulation, and challenge. It's not until you think of replying to someone's emailed prayer request that the amazing perspective that James shares comes into focus. 

Then The Message gives us another astounding perspective:
Consider it a sheer gift, friends when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (Italics added)
Amazing. Again, pause to take in the full meaning: think positively about pain, difficulty, and problems and be joy-filled because the challenge is going on and on. Don't we usually ask for prayer for a quick solution? A fast answer? A complete healing? The end of pain?

But James is basically saying, "Get the full effect of this pain and challenge. It's only through suffering that there's a spiritual change in your hearts."

This is not good news--it seems! When I was in bed for nine months because of excruciating pain, and I sent out a prayer request, I didn't want anyone to write me back and say, "I'm not going to pray for your pain to be gone right now because maybe God hasn't used it enough. And by the way, while you're waiting for the answer, be really glad it's happening!"

I think I might have taken her off my prayer request list.

But this is exactly what James is saying. And it is sobering and shocking. 

I can't say I have the courage to give such a message to any friend's next prayer request. I think it could be misunderstood and for someone who is not convinced of God's good intentions for them through pain, difficulty and problems, it might just be plain discouraging and even faith destroying. 

But of course then we would wonder about what that "faith" is based upon. A demand for their own definition of "good" or a trust in God that believes God knows best?

I do want to take to heart James's important message for myself. Because I can see great benefits from having such a perspective. What can you see as those benefits?

And could you share if you've ever replied with thoughts like James' ideas to your own hurting friend? What wording do you think would convey the care and love you have for them even as you communicate God's perspective?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

River of Forgiveness

I had vulnerably shared at the Friday evening session of a women’s retreat how God delivered me from being a child abuser. During the Saturday afternoon free time, I enjoyed visiting privately with many of the women. One woman, Carrie, came into my room looking sheepish. I asked what was on her heart and she hesitantly began. 

“When I heard you share about being a child abuser, I knew you were the one I could talk to. You see, I’ve done something as bad as that and I haven’t been able to tell anyone. But when I heard you, I figured you were the one.” She glanced up at me quickly and then again averted her eyes.

Taking a deep breath, she whispered, “I had an affair with my husband’s best friend...” After pausing, she rushed on, “My husband has forgiven me but I keep feeling like I need to do something to earn God's forgiveness. I tell him over and over again, ‘I’m sorry...’ but I never feel freedom from my sin's shame.”

I expressed my appreciation for Carrie’s vulnerable sharing and we talked for a few minutes about how receiving God's forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. Soon, it was as if a burden had been removed from her shoulders. She could look me straight in the eye and sat up taller. Confessing her sin to someone else seemed to relieve her of her burden. We prayed together and I took her through a process of asking God to forgive her and how she could believe He had. I sensed God was working an incredible healing in her heart.

After the evening session, she thrust a piece of paper into my hand. “Thanks!” she whispered.

Later in my room, I read what Carrie had written: “Kathy, after speaking with you, I went down to the river to pray. I told God that for the last time I was going to ask for His forgiveness, and then let it go. Then I did a sort of ceremony. I took the cup of tea I was drinking and said, ‘Jesus, this tea represents my sin and this river represents you.’ Then I threw the rest of my tea into the river. And you know what I noticed? The tea was immediately washed away! There wasn’t a trace of it anywhere! Isn’t Jesus wonderful?! Thank you for introducing me to Him--again.”

I was thrilled to read about Carrie’s new-found freedom from guilt. And the message of Isaiah 43:25 became even clearer to me: “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.” (NASB)


If you are holding yourself captive because you can’t believe God really wants to forgive you, God wants you to know that you can drop your sin into the river of His forgiveness and grace. His love is sufficient and He guarantees that the stain will be washed away. He doesn't want you to carry any burden of guilt or shame. Jesus' death on the cross for any and all of your sins is enough. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Are You Hyper-Vigilant Like Me?

Can you relate when I say I'm good at being hyper-vigilant? Wikipedia defines hyper-vigilance as, “an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats.” 

The hyper-vigilant person most often thinks, “If I let down my guard, I will get hurt. Therefore I must do everything I can to evaluate what's going on around me. I must watch for cues and clues as to what other people are feeling and make sure I respond in a way that protects me from pain--or protects them from pain.”

Although many things contributed to my hyper-vigilance, the experience that seems the most obvious to me is when I was around eight years old. We had a lot of kids in our neighborhood and we played together. If there was some game where an individual lost, the consequence was often having to crawl on the ground through everyone's legs and get spanked.

When I lost a game one time, that punishment seemed like an innocent, fun thing. But as I crawled as quickly as I could, I felt someone's finger push against my clothing into my rectum. I was horrified and crawled even faster. At the end of the line, I jumped up and said I was going home. And simultaneously, I thought, "See what happens when you're not careful, Kathy? It's your fault. You should have prevented that." 

Of course, that was a lie but since I took responsibility for everything in my life, both bad and good, I took responsibility for that molestation. And another layer of hyper-vigilance was added. My vow was: "I must protect myself by being aware."

Any number of ideas or experiences can contribute to hyper-vigilance but hyper-vigilance adds stress to our lives. It also diminishes our trust in God because we have to be in charge.

Do you identify any of these thoughts as you are with other people?
  • Am I smiling too much? 
  • Does she/he like me?
  • What is she planning?
  • What is her/his intention?
  • What's going on that he/she is not revealing to me? 
  • He/she doesn't really like me.
  • Protect! Protect! 
  • Why is he/she acting like that? 
  • Am I safe to share my heart and my problems? 
  • What did he really mean by that?
Dan Allender writes that the hyper-vigilant person's life “...is centered on taking in as much evidence as possible. The goal is never to be surprised. If one knows the enemy and where he is at all times, a measure of control can be attained.” (The Wounded Heart, pg 134) 

Yet, how does this show a lack of trust in God? 
  • I'm in charge of my reputation.
  • I will perform to appear loveable.
  • I'm in charge of preventing danger.
  • I'm afraid of secrets.
  • I need to be self-absorbed to stay safe.
  • I'm in control of making the opportunities I want available.
Hyper-vigilance tries to take control over life with a grip that says, “I will not let you, God, be in charge. It's too scary to believe He wants the best for me.”

Those who are not hyper-vigilant find it hard to believe that someone can be so adept at reading the intentions of other people—or at least thinking they are reading them accurately. Since I, Kathy, can succumb to this Strategy, I can mention to Larry, “Did you notice our friend's subtle reaction to her husband when he talked about her being overweight? She was so unhappy.” Larry will reply, “Really? I didn't notice.” 

My hyper-vigilance can take the form of wanting to step in to help or be whatever another person needs without seeking God's guidance. I sense a person is depressed and I feel tense thinking I need to do something to draw them out of their misery. I feel responsible rather than making sure I'm the one God wants to respond. Over time, I've learned to seek God's leading before assuming I'm supposed to be another person's protector or provider. I remind myself: "an opportunity isn't necessarily God's open door." God may want them to seek only Him for their situation or maybe I'm just supposed to be praying for them. I'm sinning if I think I'm the answer to their prayers—and the only answer.


I'm also sinning if my motivation is, “But what will they think about me if I ignore their pain?” Because then it's not really about seeing God glorified, it's about protecting how I'm seen by others.

I'm tempted to say I'll form "Hyper-Vigilance Anonymous" but I don't think that's God's plan. But I do believe He wants us to trust Him that in His love for us, He can protect us. That doesn't mean we aren't aware, but it does mean we trust Him as we decide how to respond to life's seeming threats.

Do you have some wisdom to share about this topic? Please do so. I'd love to hear and so would my readers.

(This is excerpted from our book, Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today.)