When Temptation Comes

Matthew 4

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More than we would like to admit, we struggle with temptation.  No matter how great our will or sense of purpose in our life, it always seems to find a way to slither into our lives and rear its ugly head.  Ironically, we are caught most off guard and unaware, not when we are in the midst of a struggle with sin or a desperate time, but when things are at their best.  One minute we are walking close to God, doing his will, connected to His Spirit, loving His word, sharing his Gospel, and the next we are faced with an idea (James 1:13-14).  An awful idea. A wonderfully awful idea that will feed our selfishness, our human condition.

In Matthew 4, today’s reading, Jesus is led by the Spirit to the desert.  God, being the great storyteller he is, takes Jesus to the ultimate contrast of Eden, where the groans of nature longing for restoration can be most heard (Rom 8:22).  A setting that is far away from paradise, an allegory of the state of mankind, filled with the different, yet same challenge – temptation. Now, there are theological hairs you can split as you read this message today. Don’t do that. Fix your eyes on Jesus.

Jesus’s  triumph begs the question, “How did He overcome temptation?”  Well, He was the Son of God, right? This is true, but an error in our thinking if we think this is the sole reason that Jesus wins the days.  He is the Son of God, but he faced temptation, “just as we are”, and did not sin (Heb 4:15). You might say, “He obviously had a special ability to resist.”  You are right. It is the same special ability we have access to: The Holy Spirit. God may take us to the desert to see what our faith is made of, but He will not give us something we can’t handle, and will actually empower us if we seek Him in that moment (1 Cor 10:13).

But careful. Careful we must be because when we are in the desert it is easy to see what is coming.   We might feel as though we have plunged a dagger into the heart of temptation, but we have not put it to rest.  We must remember, we are human. No matter how willing our spirit is to continue on day after day in the will of God, our flesh is weak (Matt 26:40-43).  We crave food. We seek power. We want to be known. Our eyes, the lamp into our soul (Matt 6:22-24), see a way we can instantly fulfill the desires that will be made complete by God and chases after them in selfish, fleeting moments.  Unfortunately, this often comes on the day we leave our armor at home, catching us off guard, not ready to do spiritual battle.

Deut 8 3Looking to Jesus, how can we be ready to do battle with temptation?  First, he knew the word of God. It is how He responds not only to the temptation, but even when the word of God is seemingly being used against Him.  How can you know the will of God? It is as ironically simple as losing weight: diet and exercise. Consume the right thing, His word, and practice it daily, so you will be spiritual healthy.  Next, do God’s business. Know that temptation can come at any moment, but comes easier when we are idle (Prov 16:27-29). Keep your eyes on God and your hands and feet busy to his work. Like the old adage, “if you’re going through hell, just keep going,”  Jesus faced the temptation, but immediately moves onto His ministry. Temptation IS NOT sin. No guilt required; pick up and move on. Finally, be on guard. Relapse can setback or even kill your spiritual life. Removing unnecessary temptation from our lives is a must.  Even if we are in the word every day, engaging in spiritual disciplines, or deeply involved in a ministry, at the very height of our endeavors, it only takes a moment to go back to sin and fall harder and faster than we ever did (the very nature of relapse). If you can’t hang out with your friends without getting drunk, then don’t hang out with them.  If you can’t be on the internet without looking at inappropriate sites, then don’t get on it. If you can’t use social media without bridling your tongue and speaking in love, then stop. Jesus uses hyperbole to illustrate the practical advice when he states, “it is better to cut your hand off” or “pluck your eye out” (Matt 5:29, 30) than to be lost to sin, and ultimately the kingdom of God.

It is imperative you know there is a way to overcome temptation, no matter how great.  We have access to the Father, power through His Holy Spirit, and our eyes on Jesus Christ not only as our example, but our mediator when we fall short. He speaks to the Father because Jesus knows what it is like, and encourages us to not give in or give up.  Study. Do. Guard. Repeat. Temptation may come, but sin will no longer find a foothold in you.

-Aaron Winner
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Apprentice – Pass it On!

2 Tim 2 2 (1)

When Paul writes II Timothy he is in Rome.  In Prison.  Piecing together his life from Acts and his letters, it is believed that during his first trip to Rome he was under house arrest – and then released and able to take his final missionary journey.  But, back to Rome he goes, and this time he ends up in prison.  Real prison.  In chains.  And, he is now writing about having “fought the good fight and finished the race.”  (4:7).   The end is in sight.  And Paul has no regrets.  In fact, he still has hope for the future – “a crown of righteousness” (4:8).

I was blessed by the opportunity to go to Rome with Jason several years ago while he was on a business trip.  While he worked, I walked.  It was incredible to walk through the ruins and roads where Paul very well may have walked before his chains.  Courthouses, palaces, the temples of foreign gods, and in their midst, the Mamertine prison which according to tradition housed the apostle Paul, as well as Peter, before they each died for their faith.   Perhaps it was a different prison, hard to be certain.  But I do know that there was a real prison with real chains.  Real places.  Real people.  And a very real God who was at work then (and long before) and is still at work now – and for all eternity.

A God worthy of serving with our life and if necessary our death.  A God who does not give a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7) – and I sure need that!  A God who breathed out the Scriptures for us so we would have his wisdom and words – so useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.  (2 Timothy 3:16)  Without them we can not be thoroughly equipped for the work he has for us to do.  (2 Timothy 3:17).

A few years ago our theme at Family Camp was Apprentice.  How to pass along a craft – an art – from one master artisan to the next generation.   Paul said, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  (2 Timothy 2:2)  How are you contributing to the cycle?

Paul has many powerful words to Timothy about his duties as a young preacher, and what he is to pass on to others.  And they become even more powerful when you pause to remember that they are being written by Paul, the mighty apostle and missionary, now chained and in prison, near the end of his life.  According to tradition, soon to be beheaded for his faith.  He writes, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  (2 Timothy 2:15)  Are you doing your best?  What can you do to improve how you present yourself to God?  Is it evident you are a workman for God?  Any areas of shame that need to be addressed?  How are you handling the word of truth?

I think it would be fascinating to see documented how the Word of God was passed down from Jesus to Paul, and on to Timothy and then to Timothy’s church, etc …. Through the ages … across the oceans … from generation to generation . . . to you.  Your spiritual genealogy.  What will you do with it?  How will you pass it on?  “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved.”

In Christ,
Marcia

Be An Overcomer

Revelation 1 3

The Old Testament has 17 books of prophecy (5 Major Prophets and 12 Minor Prophets).  It is here that God’s messengers gave many warnings of what troubles and destruction would come to those who didn’t repent and live a life pleasing to God.  Many (though not all) of the prophecies recorded in these books have already taken place: destruction of ancient Israel and Judah, restoration for a remnant and the coming of the Messiah.

Similarly, the New Testament ends with one book of New Testament prophecy –  the book of Revelation.  And in it we read many warnings to those who don’t repent, accept Jesus and live a life pleasing to God.  Most of the prophecies recorded in this book have yet to come: destruction of the ungodly, the 2nd Coming of the Messiah, and restoration for the godly in the Coming Kingdom.

God sends this series of revelations to John (by way of Jesus and an angel).  He writes of what must soon take place and says, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (1:3).

In chapters 2 & 3 the seven churches in Asia are individually commended for what they were doing right (hard work, perseverance, not tolerating wicked men, etc…).  And, they were then challenged to work on other issues which required repentance and renewed commitment to truth and purity (not allowing false teachers and immorality, etc…).  These words are very applicable to us today.  We would be wise to consider what we as a church are doing well, as well as what we need to repent of and change.  Each church is challenged to listen well to what the Spirit has to say to the church, and promised that overcomers would be rewarded.

Then the vision turns to the throne room of God where a lamb, looking “as it had been slain” (5:6) breaks 7 seals from a scroll unleashing war, famine, and other disasters on the earth.  A dragon and two beasts, allied against God, arise to demand the worship of earth’s people who have not been killed in the earlier catastrophes.  Seven bowls of the wrath of God (reminiscent of the plagues on Egypt) bring disasters such as darkness, the most severe earthquake ever and huge hailstones.  The upheaval destroys Babylon the Great.  Next, the heavens open and the Savior, Messiah, King Jesus, also called the Word of God, appears on a white horse ready to lead heaven’s armies in destroying evil.  For 1000 years Christ reigns on earth while Satan, “that old serpent” (20:2) is bound and kept from deceiving more.  At the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released briefly to instigate a worldwide war, but never fear – it says as they surround the camp of God’s people fire from heaven will devour the enemy and Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire.  God unveils a new heaven and a new earth.  The new Jerusalem comes down from heaven, and God will dwell with men.  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (21:4).  There are so many more beautiful descriptions of the coming Kingdom on earth found in the last 2 chapters of Revelation.  It is truly something you don’t want to miss.  But, we know that many will, because of the decisions they are making today.

Just as Moses laid out for the people blessings and curses depending on what the people did, so too, John’s Revelation includes good news and bad news.  What will you do today to prepare for a Coming Kingdom?

Be an Overcomer

Marcia Railton

 

 

In His Word – with the Poets

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This week we are looking into the importance of God’s Word as well as some of the goodies we are rewarded with when we open the book.  First, we had an overview of the 5 books of Law.  Yesterday we considered the 12 books of History, so today we are up to the 5 books of Poetry.

When I was a school kid eating up my history classes, I was yawning during my poetry course.  And, I still haven’t matured enough to really enjoy a ‘good book of poetry’ whatever that means.  However, I truly love opening up my Bible to these inspired books of poetry.  So many times when I reach for my Bible – it is to the books of Poetry that I go, and I am not disappointed.

Often when reading the books of law and history you get the facts of the events.  And from there you can piece together the likely thoughts or emotions of the characters and what their relationship with God was like at the time.  But, in many of the books of poetry you get the poet’s raw emotion: disappointment, anger, depression, elation, thankfulness, etc… And, through it all – God is there.  Along with the poet’s emotion, you get to read of his personal testimony of God’s faithfulness.  Psalm 13 is one short example – it starts out with quite a bit of pain and anguish and questions for God – but it ends with a beautiful statement of God’s unfailing love and goodness.

I really appreciated Andrew Cheatwood’s devotions two weeks ago when he wrote candidly about his struggle with spiritual depression and the help he found in the Psalms.  I applaud his wisdom in looking to God’s Word.

Here’s a brief overview of the 5 books of Poetry

JOB – Suffering, But Still Trusting

Satan attacks Job.  He loses everything except his trust in God – and that is enough.  He prospers again, even more than before.

PSALMS – Jewish Songbook

Songs, prayers and praises to God in poetry.  The longest book of the Bible, mostly written by David.  Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible – all about the greatness of the Word of God

PROVERBS – Wisdom!

Wise King Solomon shares his wisdom on many matters: work, money, temptation, discipline, etc…These 31 chapters can be read one chapter a day every month and you will find yourself a wiser person.

ECCLESIASTES – Search for the Meaning of Life

Solomon found pleasures, riches, and fame don’t satisfy.  Instead, revere God, follow Him and let God be God

SONG OF SOLOMON – Love Songs

Poems by Solomon celebrating the beauty of married love, also called Song of Songs

 

Which is your favorite book of Poetry?  Go ahead – read some God-inspired poetry today!

Marcia Railton

What You Have in Common with Lois

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For some of you, dropping everything and going on an adventure like Abram is not possible. You may already be settled in your life, married, with kids. Maybe you’ve got a steady job that you can’t leave. Many of you may feel stuck trapped by your responsibilities. It’s when we get stuck in this rut that we start to believe the lie that we’re useless to God.

Today, we are looking at two important women of the New Testament: Lois and Eunice. We don’t know much about their everyday lives, but what we do know is that they were responsible for introducing Timothy to the word of God. Timothy, the author of 1 and 2 Timothy, is Paul’s young apprentice. From the time Paul met Timothy, he took a special interest in cultivating the church leadership skills within the young man. Paul eventually came to think of Timothy as a son. But, there would be no Timothy if there was no Eunice, and there would be no Eunice if there was no Lois.

Lois first taught the scriptures to her daughter, Eunice. Eunice in turn taught the scriptures to her son, Timothy. Timothy, with Paul’s mentoring, brought many people to Christ and eventually wrote two books of the Bible. Those two books of the Bible have encouraged generations of people in their faith. It’s a domino effect, but it would not have started were it not for Lois and Eunice.

Maybe you can’t move to Africa to be a missionary. Maybe you aren’t called to lead a church. Lois and Eunice may have also been missionaries or great leaders, but that is not why they are remembered. What was important in their story was that they took the time to share their faith with the children in their lives. That is something that you can do today.

Listen, you are not stuck. Wherever you are in life, God wants to use you. Let him.

P.S. Go listen to the song “Dream Small” by Josh Wilson while you get ready for the rest of your day today!

-Emilee Ross

Do Not Be Deceived

2nd Thessalonians 2

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This chapter talks about the coming of the Lord Jesus. It tells us not to be alarmed by others saying that the day of the Lord has already come. We are not to be deceived. This chapter mentions several things that need to happen before Jesus returns.

  • Rebellion occurs
  • The man of lawlessness will be revealed; he will set himself up in God’s temple and proclaim he is God.

When the lawless one is revealed, the Lord Jesus will overthrow him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him. Satan will display counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders to try to deceive us all. We need to be ready.  We need to anchor ourselves in the word of God, watching for these things. Stand strong in your faith and do not be deceived. I am going to end this devotional with verses 16-17:

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

 

Tomorrow we will talk about 2nd Thessalonians 3.

 

Many Blessing,

~The Ransom’s

Hold Firmly

Hebrews Chapter Four

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There is a belief in the Christian world that some hold to called “once saved, always saved.”  Basically this means that if you come to a saving relationship with God and Christ, then you can never lose your ticket to eternal salvation.  This can be a dangerous perspective because it enables Christians to become complacent with where they are at if they believe they can never lose their salvation.  Worse yet, it can lead people to a life of sin and destruction if they do not take seriously the consequences of sin.  Verse six of Hebrews chapter four discusses this doctrine of once saved, always saved a bit by stating, “Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience.”  The author is stating that some who receive the good news/gospel fail to enter rest because of their disobedience.  They initially accepted the promises of the gospel, but they failed to enter because of their disobedience.  In other words, they were once considered saved when they accepted and received the gospel, but they lost it when they disobeyed.  This verse suggests that maybe the doctrine of once saved, always saved is not founded in the Bible.

This should provide a wakeup call for us!  We need to take the sin in our lives very seriously.  We are to be sanctified and set apart from this world, so let’s act like it!  Let’s not become complacent and degrade the consequences of sin.  God hates sin.  The hardening of our hearts can lead us to sin, and again the author warns us of hardening our hearts in verse seven.  We should take this warning seriously since the author has repeated it three times in chapters three and four.

The concept of rest is repeated a lot in this chapter.  What exactly is the author referring to when he is talking about rest?  Let’s take a look at what this rest is described as in chapters three and four:

  1. Israelites unable to enter God’s rest because of their disobedience and unbelief (3:18-19)
  2. The promises of entering God’s rest still stand (4:1)
  3. We who believe enter the rest (4:3)
  4. God swore that some will not enter his rest (4:3,5)
  5. God rested on the seventh day (4:4)
  6. Remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God (4:9)
  7. Whoever enters God’s rest also rests from his works (4:10)
  8. Strive to enter the rest (4:11)

Here’s what I get from all of this.  God offered the Israelites during the exodus a chance to rest, but they were not able to enter God’s rest because they were disobedient.  The author then compares the rest that was offered to the Israelites to the coming Kingdom.  I come to this conclusion because the promises of entering God’s rest still stand.  There is still a chance to enter God’s rest.  However, not everyone will attain that rest, only the people of God.  In fact God swore that not everyone will enter his rest.  If we are disobedient and unbelieving, then we will not enter God’s rest.  However, if we are a people after God’s own heart, then we surely will enter God’s beloved rest in the coming Kingdom.  Hallelujah! Praise God! Amen!  Therefore, continue to strive toward the Kingdom and bring as many people with you as possible because one day you will enter God’s rest in the Kingdom.

Chapter four ends with talk of Jesus being the great high priest.  We truly do have a great high priest in Jesus.  One of the awesome things about Jesus being our high priest is that he is able to sympathize with us.  Jesus was tempted just like we are, but fortunately he did not sin.  He knows what we go through when we are faced with trials and temptations.  He is no stranger to struggle and suffering.  We can seek refuge in our high priest when we face these temptations because he is able to sympathize with us and plead our case to our Heavenly Father, YHWH.  Jesus being tempted is also more great proof against the trinity.  James 1:13 states, “God cannot be tempted with evil.”  If Jesus were God as well, then James and the author of Hebrews would be contradicting one another.  It cannot be possible for the word of God to contradict itself.  Jesus can’t be tempted, and never have been tempted at the same time.  It doesn’t work that way.  It logically does not make sense.  Jesus was indeed tempted like us, and being our high priest, he is able to sympathize and help us.

To close out today’s devotion, I want to point out Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  I hope you have gotten benefit from reading these posts.  However, if you don’t get anything else, I want you to know and fully understand that the word of God is living and active.  We are beyond blessed to have the Bible today.  If it weren’t for God’s supervision, there would be no stinking way that we should have it because of the numerous attempts to rid the world of the Bible.  The Bible has only flourished though.  It is truly a divine miracle that we all have access to a Bible, God’s word.  I want to encourage you to keep up the awesome work in delving into God’s word through these devotions.  You are truly doing a great deed.  Keep up the awesome work, and truly believe in your heart that these words are living and active.

-Kyle McClain