Let’s Talk About Temptation

1 Corinthians 10-13

verse-of-the-day (1)

Tuesday, June 20

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

 

Let’s talk about temptation. Everyone is tempted, and everyone has succumbed to temptation at some point in their life, and probably numerous times. I will be the first to admit that fact in my own life. The first thing Paul does is acknowledge the universality of temptation—temptation is ubiquitous. Temptation is a common experience for all humankind. Some people might think that they are experiencing a unique type or degree of temptation, but Paul overwrites that attitude by confirming that no one is alone in experiencing any form of temptation, for every possible sort of temptation has been shared by other individuals.

 

We all struggle with temptation, that is the common thread that unites the human race. But unlike individuals who do not trust in God, the experience of temptation for believers can be different. Those who believe in God are not in a position of helplessness.

 

Some people have told me about their experience facing temptation, “I couldn’t help it. It was too appealing. I got tired of resisting. I just couldn’t stop myself.” The idea that there was nothing that could have been done to prevent sin is calling God a LIAR.

 

Paul says, “God is faithful!” What is God faithful for? He is faithful to: 1) limit the power of the temptation in your life, and 2) provide strength to endure or a possibility to remove the temptation. These are two promises of God when it comes to facing temptation. Either they are true or God is a liar. The problem many people face is that they doubt God is able to actually help them overcome temptation. They feel like it is all a matter of the will to resist temptation, and when their will weakens (as everyone’s does at some point), they feel like they just couldn’t continue to stand against the temptation and decide to just give in.

 

Satan is constantly battling for our mind and to entice our flesh. Elsewhere, Paul describes this battle in terms of “the schemes of the devil” and the “flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6:11, 16). To combat these threats, Paul encourages believers to equip themselves with the “armor of God” (Eph. 6:11-17) in order to stand firm against the devil and his tactics and influence. While Paul describes a set of defensive armaments to be prepared to engage in spiritual warfare with the devil in Ephesians 6, his point in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is that of trust and reliance upon God to keep one’s foot from slipping and falling into sin.

 

It takes a resolved heart and mind to build the confidence that God will come through and be there in your time of need. Furthermore, there are two practices that can be of great help in overcoming temptation: 1) knowing Scripture (like verse 13) can turn the tables in the struggle against temptation, and 2) prayer.

 

If you are able to bring to mind what God has revealed about a particular temptation, it has the power to release the grip of the temptation to the point that you can endure it or eliminate the cause of the temptation altogether. That is the reason Paul calls Scripture the “sword of the spirit” (Eph. 6:17). It has the ability to defeat thoughts, attitudes, and desire that contend against the knowledge and will of God and to free a person from feeling like there is no other way out.

 

Secondly, prayer is always helpful and necessary when facing temptation. Temptations can come from our own desires or as a spiritual attack from the devil. Whichever it is, we can go to God in prayer asking for strength and wisdom to allow his will to prevail and to help us bring our body into subjection to what is godly and be led by the spirit away from the temptation. James writes in his letter, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (Jas. 1:5).

 

If you struggle with a certain temptation, ask God for wisdom, and he will give it to you. And remember that we all have temptations, and nothing is new that we might encounter. God has seen it all before, and he has helped people through it all before. He promises to help you too, if you will but trust him and look to him for deliverance from it.

 

God is faithful, but do we have the courage to let him prove it?

 

-Jerry Wierwille

 

(Photo Credit: https://biblia.com/bible/niv/1%20Corinthians%2010.13)

The Wisdom of This Age?

1 Corinthians 1-4

1 Corinthians 2-5 Faith In The Powe Of God blue

Sunday, June 18

 

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.  (I Corinthians 2:6)

 

Paul has been describing how the message of the cross is God’s wisdom and power (1:18, 24), but it is a wisdom that this world cannot offer. And while Paul asserts that his message is not with “lofty speech” or “wisdom” (2:1), the cross is, in fact, wisdom—wisdom from God. It is a “hidden wisdom” (2:7) that contains an ancient message with the power to save those who believe.

 

Every period of history, there has been a conflict between the popular wisdom of the day and the wisdom of the cross. Paul refers to the popular wisdom of the day as the “wisdom of this age.” It is the wisdom that is espoused by the culture and times where one lives. But the wisdom of the age is contrary to the wisdom of the cross. Everything that the world claims to be wisdom is in fact foolishness compared to the cross, and everything God has revealed through the cross is deemed to be foolishness according to the world.

 

Have you ever wondered why the message of the cross receives such resistance by the world? Paul declares that the wisdom of the cross is radically different than the wisdom of the world because the wisdom of the age is diametrically opposed to the wisdom that is offered through the cross. And not only is the wisdom of the cross contrary to the wisdom of the world, the message and power of the cross cannot be understood by the world. In the eyes of the “natural man,” the wisdom of God is foolishness (2:14). It takes the spirit of God to discern the spiritual truth resident in the message of the cross. By all natural means, the despicable death of a false prophet from Nazareth upon a dishonorable and humiliating cross must surely be devoid of any real wisdom, for there can be nothing of value by following the teachings of some obscure, washed-up rabbi, who was thought to be born illegitimately and who did not follow the customs and traditions of the ancestors as was expected of a Jewish teacher of the Law.

 

This is exactly the appeal that the “wisdom of the age” proposes. It will contradict and distort the meaning of the cross or just out right deny its truth and power. Concerning the denial of the wisdom of the cross and the very existence of a God who sent his son to die upon it, I am reminded of a scene in the autobiographical allegory of C. S. Lewis, Pilgrim’s Regress, when John (Lewis’ main character) is portrayed as being imprisoned by despair that is imposed by a worldview that rejects any notion of a Creator (i.e., Naturalism). As Lewis personifies the antagonism of this worldview, he shows the perversions and absurd deductions of a worldview that tries to make sense of life apart from God and the wisdom he offers.

 

“Then I [John] dreamed that one day there was nothing but milk for them [the prisoners] and the jailer said as he put down the pipkin: ‘Our relations with the cow are not delicate—as you can easily see if you imagine eating any of her other secretions….’

 

John said, ‘Thank heavens! Now at last I know that you are talking nonsense. You are trying to pretend that unlike things are like. You are trying to make us think that milk is the same sort of thing as sweat or dung.’

 

[Jailor]: ‘And pray, what difference is there except by custom?’

 

[John]: ‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?”

 

Don’t let the wisdom of the age undermine the wisdom of God and the power of the cross. Life will not make sense without the wisdom that is found in the truth revealed by it.

 

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

 

Devotion by Jerry Wierwille

 

 

I Once Was Blind, But Now I See

John 8-9

Sunday, May 28

Jesus is an awesome teacher. I have read Dallas Willard’s amazing work, The Divine Conspiracy, where he discusses the Sermon on the Mount. One of the points that Willard makes is that Jesus is not just a smart guy, but the smartest guy. He is not just a wise person, but the wisest person. Jesus confirms this when he says that one “greater than Solomon is here”. (Matt. 12:42, Luke 11:31) So if anyone asks you who the wisest person in the Bible was the answer isn’t Solomon; it’s JESUS!
Jesus shows his masterful hand at teaching here in John. In these first 12 chapters of the Gospel, Jesus is performing miracles, which the author calls signs. We have already read about the sign where Jesus changed water into wine (2:1-12). There have been a couple healings, one of the royal official’s son (4:46-54) and one of a paralytic on the Sabbath (5:1-15). Then he did two where he overcame the normal laws of nature by feeding the five thousand with only a little food (6:1-15) and by walking on water (6:16-21). All these signs are connected in John, because all these signs point to an important truth: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing in him, we can have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
In John 8 and 9, Jesus connects both his teaching and a sign to point to his Messiahship. In chapter 9, Jesus and his disciples see a blind man. Instead of tying the blindness to anyone’s sin, Jesus says that God’s glory, and the glory of the One and Only Son, would be displayed in the man’s life. Jesus taught previously, in chapter 8, that he is the light of the world. He declared that if we follow him we will not live in darkness but walk in the bright light of life. He then makes his point vivid by giving this blind man sight!
The once-blind man is taken in, questioned, harassed and abused by the religious leaders of his community. Instead of listening to this man tell his testimony about the truth of Jesus, they were intent on shutting down Jesus and claiming that he was a fraud. The man’s testimony is only the truth: “I was blind, but now I see.” Jesus comes to the once-blind man and basically tells him, “You can see that I am the Messiah.” Even Jesus loves puns! Jesus teaches that the blind will see and those who think that they can see are truly blind.
This story is a wonderful picture and full of rich imagery on its own. But I also come away with three thoughts for how we live today.
First, the once-blind man was “giving a testimony” about Jesus. He wasn’t even close to a “believer” as we might define it. He trusted enough to go and wash and he came back with sight; nothing more than trust that the washing would work was asked of him. That is pretty amazing. He says nothing of faith before the miracle takes place. And when people ask him about his life, all he does is tell his story. That’s all God and Christ call you to do when they say to share the good news of the gospel. It does not mean you have to have a suave and sophisticated philosophical demonstration of the proofs of God. You simply tell people how Jesus found you, and why you are better now. Were you blind and now you see? Were you addicted to something and no longer? Are you more loving to your family and friends? THAT is your evangelism, that is the good news God calls you to share.
Second, do you feel like the once-blind man? There are times when we experience God doing something in our lives that doesn’t make sense. We CAN’T explain why something is happening. This guy just says “All I know is that I was blind, and now I see!” Sometimes, we feel God moving in ways that may make our families, our churches or ourselves uncomfortable. The people who should have celebrated this man’s miracle the most, his family and his religious leaders, turned their backs on him and cast him out. When God is moving, trust in what He is doing, keep looking for Him, and no matter who let’s go of you, God will find you. 
Third, take care that you are walking in the light of Christ so that you can see and live. Just like the people of Jesus’ day, this sign is pointing us to Jesus so that we can believe and have life in his name. Take care that you don’t lose sight of that purpose. The purpose is not for us to say “I wish I could see a miracle.” The miracle has been done. Will you believe because of it? Will you trust that Jesus is who he claimed to be? Remember, if you don’t want to believe, that is still an option. But there is a cost: rejection leads to a life of darkness, and the ultimate darkness of death. Christ offers us so much more with life in this life that leads to eternal life. He is the light of the world and he offers us himself. Praise be to God through Jesus Christ, the Light of the World!
-Jake Ballard
Jake Ballard is Pastor at Pine Grove Bible Church in Brooklyn Park, MN. He is a husband to Amber, father to Melody Grace, and proud “daddy” to a black kitty named River (for my Dr. Who and Firefly fans). Jake is a graduate student at Bethel Seminary, where he is kept busy. When he does have free time, he likes to read (Tolkien and Riordan at the moment), watch Netflix (Star Wars: Deep Space Nine), and play video and board games. (Always open for suggestions, as I am less busy in the summer). He hopes that his devotions will help you, dear reader, fall in love with the Gospel of John, because if he had to pick a favorite book, it would be this one! God bless! 
(Photo Credit: http://www.boldcupofcoffee.com/blog/i-am-the-light-of-the-world)

The Fruit of Deception

Hosea 10-14

hosea 10

Tuesday, April 11

But you have planted wickedness,
    you have reaped evil,
    you have eaten the fruit of deception.
Because you have depended on your own strength
    and on your many warriors.     (Hosea 10:13)

 

I don’t have a lot of upper body strength.  Never have.  The rope climbing unit in gym class was the worst.  I had one teacher who thought it might help me to start higher up the rope, so he lifted me onto his shoulders and had me grab on.  There I hung.  (And not for very long.)  Same weak arms, just higher up.  So depending on my own strength isn’t going to happen.

I also do not have any soldiers at my disposal, warriors to send out to do my bidding.  Would be cool, but I imagine none of you do, either.  So I guess we can overlook this verse, yes?

Unless….

Unless there are other things that we might be tempted to depend on.  Things we might rely on above God and His word.

A professor, maybe?

Scientists?

A boyfriend or girlfriend?

Your feelings?

Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
    Who is discerning? Let them understand.
The ways of the Lord are right;
    the righteous walk in them,
    but the rebellious stumble in them.  (Hosea 14:9)

Are you stumbling on the Word of God?  Do you have trouble reconciling it with what you are being told or what you “know”?

Maybe you have “eaten the fruit of deception”?

I pray regularly that if my understanding is wrong, that God would correct me.  I ask Him to show me where I’m wrong.  Sadly, though my arms are weak, my ego is strong, and it’s been hard to admit that at times I’ve been mistaken.

Make that your prayer today.  Ask God to show you if you’ve been deceived.  And be willing to act on what He shows you.

-Susan Landry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Key to the Treasure!

Isaiah 32-34

isaiah-33

Tuesday, February 14

Today we are pirates. Isaiah gave us a treasure map! What’s the treasure you ask? Well, look no further than Isaiah 33:5-6. Locked up somewhere is a sure foundation for our times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge. Huh? No cash? If none other than the creator of the heavens and the earth holds the key to this treasure, then I think it’s safe to assume that these things are better than anything that you could find in a pirates treasure chest. The most valuable things you can ever obtain in this life are listed right here: a sure foundation, wisdom, knowledge and salvation. Thankfully we know exactly how to get the key to those treasures. Fear the Lord. After all the things we’ve read in Isaiah, it’s easy to see the power that God holds. But don’t just fear God with your mouth, fear him in your heart. Then, you will get the key to these treasures.

-Nathaniel Johnson

(photo credit: http://wiirocku.tumblr.com/post/139549150857/isaiah-335-6-niv-the-lord-is-exalted-for-he)

Nothing New Under the Sun

Chapters 1-4 of Ecclesiastes (eh/kle/see/as/tees; which might rhyme with “meh – see the nasties”)

ecclesiastes31

Tuesday, January 31

Many Bible books were named from a key word near the start of the book, which often means they are named after the author. That is sort-of the case with Ecclesiastes, but the author’s name isn’t used in the book so it picks up a title the author took. In Hebrew that title could mean “lecturer”: it comes from the word for “gatherer” and the idea is that he gathered information and then passed it along. When the book got translated into Greek this lecture-teaching was described as preaching, so its title now is a word for “preacher.” You might wish that the name of the book was translated to English when the book was. (By the way, “ecclesia” is the Greek word that normally is translated as “church” in the New Testament). We read the book of Proverbs, a collection of wise statements that often gives advice. We read the book of Psalms, a collection of poems which often call on God. You could get the impression that our current book is a collection of downer thoughts about life. That is how a lot of people have read this book, and it is understandable if some of what we read in Ecclesiastes seems sad to us, but there is more going on here than that.

In over 20 places the book says a thing is “meaningless”, but that doesn’t mean “don’t do it”, it is more about looking at things from a long perspective and saying that the “meaningless” event or action doesn’t really change things. Certainly that is true if we look at things from the perspective of generations (1:3). The verses keep returning to the idea of our work, our labors. In the short term they can bring us satisfaction, and we are meant to accept that, it is a gift from God (3:13). But we also should be careful how we view things, never totally forgetting the big picture.

If you haven’t heard the song that Pete Seeger made out of the lines in 3:1-8, check it out (“To Everything There is a Season”). Part of the point of the verses is that we can never emphasize one thing as “the point” for our actions, what is pushed in one direction will also be pushed in another. Nothing we change stays that way forever.

An obvious example for this is eating. You can feel really hungry, say right before a church potluck that has been delayed, and then a few minutes after you eat you have no interest in food at all. But a few hours later you will be hungry again. You can’t eat enough to end the cycle, and we can ask how much importance there is in any one meal we ever eat – but we certainly cannot skip all of them.

So, that cupcake you ate the other week may have tasted good, but does it still please you? That binge-session on Netflix of sit-com episodes? Almost certainly meaningless. The test you are studying for may make a big difference to your grades – but for how many years will it matter what grades you received? It is possible to poke holes in every form of human labor and success, but “wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness” (2:13). The wise person may recognize, like the Preacher, that success is temporary in this world, but it is still better to be wise.

The Preacher / Teacher is described as a king of Jerusalem, and many people tag him as Solomon late in life. It may require being a powerful king to test all the things the Preacher tested, to see what would make him happy. He could do what he wanted, and none of it was enough. But some of the simplest things, the inexpensive things, can bring happiness to us – we just know that none of it lasts. “Happily ever after” doesn’t have much sense behind it, because people are not immortal, and the struggles of this world don’t just get skipped over for the people who want to serve God.

In a way this book is an extended piece of wise-talk, like Proverbs has, but directed to just one issue – what the point of this life is. If this world were the one God was aiming for in the first place we could expect the Preacher to give us a more positive answer, but this world is what resulted from sin. God is in the process of fixing things.

This is the book about “meaningless” (temporary) things where there is “nothing new under the sun” (in this world) and both wise and foolish people “chase after the wind” but can’t catch it, and get nothing from the chase. But along with all the comments about our work not changing things, or being undone or forgotten, we get comments about the endless importance of what God does (3:14). Maybe that is a hint at the future. What God does lasts forever, and God sent Jesus to die for us and God raised Jesus from death as the first-fruits of many who will come to immortality and live with him forever.

If you find yourself getting dragged down by anything this book says, you could question if that is because it is telling you truth you didn’t want to know about something that you have considered to be more important than it should be. But don’t ever let yourself get brought to despair by this scripture or by anything at all – always remember that the story is not over

-Daniel Smead

Daniel grew up in Missouri, then attended Oregon Bible College, Atlanta Bible College, and Columbia Theological Seminary. He has pastored in Eden Valley, Minnesota, and now attends the Pine Grove Bible Church in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. He has worked for many years editing adult Sunday School lessons, and also writes some (slowly). He is trying to create a card game about the first few centuries of Church history (very slowly). He also recognizes in himself a tendency to focus on a thing(s) more than he should, and the need to put things in God’s hands and leave them there – so if that describes you, you are not alone. God bless you.  : )

(photo credit: http://keywordsuggest.org/gallery/386871.html)

Even though Proverbs is Coming to a Close – Keep up with the Wisdom!

Proverbs 29-31

proverbs-30-5

Monday, January 30

Today’s reading will wrap up the book of Proverbs.  This book is one of what we refer to as the five book section of poetry.  You’ve probably noticed that neither Proverbs, nor the rest of this section has a lot of rhyme and rhythm which is often associated with poetry.  Here’s a little poem I remember from my school days.  “Roses are red, Violets are blue.  God made me pretty, what happened to you?”  The rhyme and rhythm are obvious.  The Biblical books of poetry are classified as such, because of the rhyme and rhythm of thought and reason.  This is often called parallelism, putting similar or contrasting thoughts side by side.  These five books are also often called Wisdom Literature.  The reason is obvious.  They are full of wisdom, every one of them, but particularly the Proverbs.

 

I liken the book of Proverbs to the New Testament book of James.  Both are very practical, and contain much wisdom for day to day living.  The Proverbs can be seen not so much as hard and fast promises or guarantees, but rather as counsel, guidance, directives to follow, with consequential blessings.

 

Solomon wrote many of the proverbs contained in this book, though not all of them.  He actually did write many, many other proverbs not contained in this book.  His wisdom was a gift from God, and we would do well to follow his counsel.

 

Read Proverbs 29 slowly and observe the many and varied topics.  You might recall Biblical examples that fit right into some of the proverbs.  You may even think of real life experiences that relate to or prove some of the counsel shared.

 

Proverbs 30 begins, “The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh – an oracle.”  An oracle is either the counsel or message of a person of trust and authority, or the person him or herself.  Again, I would suggest you read slowly through Proverbs 30.  Ponder the various topics addressed.  Agur likes the organization of numbers, two things he asked of the LORD, four things that are never satisfied, four things that are amazing, four things under which the earth trembles, four things that are small, yet extremely wise, and more.

 

Proverbs 31 comes in two parts.  The first nine verses are an oracle (again), this time from the mother of King Lemuel.  I’ll just comment a bit on verses 4-7, where she addresses the use of alcohol.  The use of alcohol is very much accepted these days within the church as well as without.  Lemuel’s mother cautioned him about its use, because of the risk of it affecting the king’s ability to properly perform his responsibilities.  The contrast then is given in verses 6 and 7, “Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.”  Alcohol so easily impairs people to the point where it’s an effective escape from the realities of life.  I can’t tell you the Bible condemns the use of alcohol, but I would caution those who use it freely that it often impairs the user of both wisdom and judgment.  I’ve seen all too often how the abuse of alcohol has been behind the ruining of marriages, families, careers, relationships, integrity; people have been killed, etc.  Most of the examples and stories I could cite have been within the church, people who should have known better, people who never set out to destroy their marriage, family, career, etc.  They just got caught up.  It isn’t worth it to me, to use my freedom to use alcohol, when the abuse of it is so easy and so costly.  I have enough of a challenge to somewhat control my food intake, and am not willing to risk what could happen if I were to use, and go on to abuse alcohol.  I’m confident that those who never take their first drink will never be an alcoholic.  I’ve never heard of an alcoholic who set out to become one.

 

The rest of Proverbs 31 is a wonderful passage describing a beautiful wife and mother.  It’s actually an acrostic, with each verse beginning with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Of course we lose all that in the translation into the English language.  It’s still a beautiful description.  This is as modern day as one could ask.  Read through it slowly.  If you’re in search of a wife, look for someone such as this.  If you are a wife, or may be some day, be one such as this.  If your wife or mother is one such as this, rise up and do as suggested in verses 28-31.

 

John A. Railton

-John Railton is a pastor in Northern Indiana at Family Bible Church.  He also uses his ministry talents working at a funeral home.  He would love to have a conversation with you about the Bible – and maybe play a round of ping-pong, too.

(photo credit: https://dailyverses.net/proverbs/30/5)