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Fighting Temptation

At work, part of what I do is role play with people. I take a real life scenario, give it to them and then have them walk me through how they handle it. I will often do something unexpected in it to see what their response is. As we go through it, I offer input and shape their responses. Most people don’t like to role play so they give the excuses of it’s weird, it’s uncomfortable, or it’s not real. What role plays are intended to do are to show me what you do now, but they’re also used to condition your mind to behave a certain way in a given circumstance. I once heard someone say, “If you don’t know ahead of time how you’ll handle different temptations, you’ll probably fail.”

Since hearing that phrase, I’ve tried to think of different temptations that could come up and think through what my response should be. I’m not saying I haven’t failed at any of the ones I’ve rehearsed for, but I can say that my success rate is higher on those than others. Each one of us face different temptations. Each one of us will fail from time to time because none of us are perfect. Does that mean that we should give in to the temptation and not worry? No! We are to be on our guard against temptation and ready to beat it any time.

In John 12:27-28, Jesus knew He was going to face the temptation to back out of the crucifixion. He said, “Right now I am storm-tossed (deeply troubled). And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.‘ (MSG)” Jesus was already thinking about how He would face the temptation to quit when faced with dying. He had two choices. He could say, “You know what, Father? These people have treated me badly. I change my mind. Get me out of here.” Or He could say, “I told you I would do this and I’m going to. I love each one of them as much as you do. Here I am. Do what you want.”

In Luke 22, we read what happened in the moment Jesus was preparing for. In verse 42 He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine. (NLT)”  A couple of verses later, it says that Jesus was in such agony of spirit over what he was facing, that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. He was facing the greatest temptation of His life. He had a choice in the matter just as you and I do in our temptations. He had prepared ahead of time and was able to choose the right path.

You and I have the same ability to resist temptation. I Corinthians 10:13 says, “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll always be there to help you come through it. (MSG)”  Paul used the words “always” and “never”. That means that each and every temptation you face, you can count on God to help you. You may not be able to beat temptation every time, but you can count on God to be there to help you every time. He is your ever ever present help in time of need.

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Holy Week: Day 5

John 13 – 18 tells us what all happened on Thursday during Jesus’ final week before the crucifixion. It starts at the Last Supper. I think we forget sometimes that this was the Passover Meal. Many Christians don’t understand what all this meal entails because we don’t celebrate it like a Jew would. It is a meal that is eaten in order telling a story taking you from slavery to freedom. I find that interesting since that is what Jesus was doing for us during that particular Passover. He was taking us, who were slaves to sin, to a life of freedom in Him. Because of what He was about to endure, you and I could be set free spiritually.

Jesus also washed His disciple’s feet that evening. If you’ve ever been to a foot washing service, you know how humbling this is. Peter wouldn’t let a Him do it. He pushed back, but Jesus said, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Peter then popped back, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!” We act like Peter a lot when Jesus tries to do something truly great for us. We resist Him. We resist the work He’s trying to do in our life. We resist when He tries to cleanse us of a sin. We resist when He tries to put us in position to do ministry. Jesus is patient with us though our resistance.

Jesus then instituted the Lord’s Supper, communion or the sacraments depending on how you refer to it. Matthew 26:26-28 tells us that He took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to His disciples. He said, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body which is given for you.” Then He took a cup of wine and gave thanks for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and His people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.” Each time you and I partake in this, we are to remember what He did for us on the cross. The price He paid for our freedom was His life. You are worth more than you can imagine.

They then went to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives to pray and reflect on the evening. Jesus went to pray by Himself. He asked God if it there was another way to do this. He said, “If it’s possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet, I want your will to be done not mine.” Jesus struggled with the thought of being beaten, being whipped, being hung on a cross, bearing the sins of the world and being separated from the Father. His human nature was trying to walk away from the cross, but He submitted to the Father’s will. He understood that to follow God’s will means we’ll have to give up our will. Through prayer, we can overcome the doubt and thoughts that try to stop us from fulfilling our calling.

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Holy Week: Day 4

The Bible doesn’t record any activity for Wednesday during Jesus’ final week. It is silent. We can assume a lot of things, but the truth is that we don’t know what went on. I think it was the calm before the storm. It was that moment of silence before it all broke loose. We assume Jesus was in Bethany where He finished up Tuesday. He could have spent the day preparing for the Passover since it was going to begin shortly. He knew what was coming even though the others didn’t.

I recently watched an interview with Jesse Martin who was the youngest person to sail around the world solo and unassisted. He was 17 years old when he set sail. During the interview, they showed some footage from the documentary “Lionheart” that was made from his trip. In one of those clips, he looks at the camera and says, “Something’s wrong. It’s too quiet. I’ve been watching the barometer and it just keeps falling. It’s eerily quiet out here. I’m going to prepare the boat for the worst and get ready for anything.” He started tying up all loose ends, putting things where they went, securing anything that might be lost as it was tossed about. His instincts were right and his preparations weren’t in vain.

A bad storm came that night and flipped his tiny ship on its side several times. Winds reached 80 miles per hour, the boat was damaged, he lost a couple of things too, but he survived. When asked about how that affected him, he said, “The day after the storm was over was one of my happiest days. I knew that I had survived and was going to make it.” He felt a sense of accomplishment because his losses were minimal and because he recognized that something was wrong and did something about it.

Jesus knew that this was His final week. The barometer was falling and there was a sense that something was wrong. This week was all about Jesus preparing for the storm that was coming. Even though He knew it was coming, His flesh was still very much alive and active. He spent all day tuesday battening down the hatches in the temple. He gave many parables and answered lots of questions to get everyone else prepared for what was coming. On Wednesday, I believe He was finished getting ready for the storm and just spent time with His disciples savoring every moment. He was all about relationships and He knew what Thursday evening would bring.

God is not afraid of silence and neither should we. If you’re in that moment before a storm in your life, make preparations now. If you feel a storm brewing and it’s eerily calm, trust in God to get you through. The storm is on His radar and He’s given you insight so that you can prepare. If you aren’t sure how to prepare, spend time in prayer. Read the Bible and put God’s Word in you. It will act as an anchor to hold you through the storm. You may get knocked over, the winds may beat against you, and you might even sustain some damage. Storms don’t last forever though. You will emerge stronger and happier because you will know that through Him, you can survive anything.

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Holy Week: Day 2 & 3

On day 2 of Jesus’ final week before the crucifixion, Mark 11:12 tells us that Jesus was hungry. He looked up, saw a fig tree with leaves on it and went to it because fruit typically appears at the same time as leaves. There were no figs on it yet because the season hadn’t yet come. Jesus cursed the fig tree and moved on. Jesus expects us, as much as that fig tree, to produce fruit. He’s hungry for us as believers to tell His story and to show them the way to forgiveness that can only be found at the cross.

Jesus went to the temple for the second day in a row. He found that nothing had changed since He overturned the tables the day before. A holy anger came over Him and He began flipping the tables over again. He saw people using the temple as a shortcut and stopped them. They would walk through it instead of around it. I see in this that we need to be repeatedly cleansed by Jesus. We need Him to come into our temple daily and to cleanse it. We all have sin that seems to come back often. We need to be vigilant against it and keep turning over the tables on it. Church is not a shortcut to getting past the problem. Prayer is how we break the cycle.

The next day, Jesus came back to Jerusalem. As they passed the fig tree, Peter noticed it was withered to the root. Surprised about it, he shouted out for everyone to notice it. Jesus was matter of fact in verses 22-25. He said, “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it and nothing will be too much for you.” He then told them that if they would include everything in their prayers, they’d get everything. Too many times we don’t fully embrace the faith we profess. We embrace the parts of it that we want and try to do the rest on our own. We don’t get everything we ask for because we haven’t yet trusted God for everything.

He also says in this teaching that when we “assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive – only then will your Heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.” I spent a lot of my life making my prayer time nothing but requests. I’ve learned that the relationship God wants to have with us is not for us to use and abuse Him. He’s not a genie sitting there waiting to grant our wishes. He wants us to know Him personally. He wants us to become more like Him. He wants us to forgive others the way He forgives us. He wants us to let go of people’s past the way He let go of ours. When we get this, we’ll experience all He has for us.

Finally on day 3, Jesus went back to the temple. This time the priests were waiting on Him. I wonder if the money changers were sitting there and started packing up their stuff. The priests asked Jesus what authority did He have to come in and wreck the temple each day. Jesus responded with a question of His own, “Who gave John the Baptist his authority?” They were trapped and refused to answer. He then told several parables to them and they continued to try to trap Him with questions throughout the day. His message to them and to us is that He will not be tricked into doing what we want. He wants us to be in obedience to what His will is and then we will receive the blessings that follow obedience. Life is not about us, it’s about Him. To whom does your life point?

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Holy Week: Day 1

This week I’m going to follow the last week of Jesus before His crucifixion. I believe there are some important things that we can find when we trace His final steps. It started and ended on a Sunday and that’s what I’ll be covering. Yesterday was Palm Sunday. We also know it as the triumphal entry. Jesus was coming from Bethphage and He sent a couple of disciples over to a nearby village. He told them there would be a donkey and her colt, and then He asked them to bring them to Him. He said to tell anyone that asks, “The Master needs them.”

I think the donkeys represent you and I. We are stubborn at times. We don’t always want to do what God asks us to do when He asks us. We are tied up with things that prevent us from doing everything we could do for God. It takes one word from Jesus to set us free. Others may try to stop us and keep us from serving the Master, but He needs us. We’ve got to learn to be obedient when He asks and live our lives so that we won’t get entangled by the things of this world.

The next thing Jesus did was to ride the colt into Jerusalem. As He did, people began to take off their cloaks and lay them on the street in front of Him. Other climbed trees and cut down Palm leaves to lay in His path. As He rode through the city, they cried out, “Hosannah to the son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of The Lord.” As I think about the clothing being laid in the streets, I think of God’s provision. In Matthew 6, Jesus said, “If God clothes the grass of the field, will He not much more surely clothe you?” We have to learn to recognize that what we have has been given to us by God and we need to lay it at His feet to give back to Him.

Jesus then rode the colt all the way to the temple. When He went in, He became angry and drove out “all who bought and sold in the sacred place.” He said to them, “The Scripture says, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer.'” In the New Testament, our bodies are the temple. They are sacred and should be treated as such. We should think of the things we allow in them that would upset Jesus. What do we put in our minds, our hearts or our souls that keep us from being houses of prayer? What are the things that distract us from communing with God. We’ve got to chase those things out of our lives and return to prayer.

In Jesus’ final week before the crucifixion, He started setting the donkey free to use it. He then accepted the praise of His people as He rode through. From there, He cleansed the temple setting the stage for the week that was to come. For us, we can reflect on that to see how God wants to use us. We can look into our lives for the things that tie us up. We can look at all we have and offer it back to Him as a praise offering. Finally, we need to let Him cleanse our temples. Ask Him to show you things in your life that need to be cleansed. There is so much God wants to do for us and through us, but we’ve got to be free and ready when He comes.

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