Tag Archives: temptation

Open Spaces

  
Years ago, when I lived in Cairo, I would often go to a man’s home in the desert to ride horses. One of his horses was a beautiful Arabian, and I loved to take her out in the open desert and run her as fast as she could go. Every once in a while, I would come up over a hill and she would see the pyramid of Saqqara. Immediately she would go into a trance like state and start walking towards it. She wouldn’t respond to the bridle pulls I gave her. I usually had to dismount her, pull her, and sometimes whip her with the training stick to pull her out of that trance so we could keep riding.

Since she was little, her owner would take her to the pyramid for tourists to ride her and take photos with her. She was conditioned to go to the pyramids. She was a lot like us. We are born into sin and are often put into a trance like state when we see certain things that call out to that nature in us. The Holy Spirit in us calls to us to tell us it’s wrong. He tries to pull us away, blind us, and does whatever is necessary to get our attention to pull us away from the temptation.

The Lord wants to teach us a better way. He wants to show us how to live and where to go so we can enjoy the freedom of open spaces. He doesn’t want us to live in that hypnotic state controlled by our sinful nature. He wants to set us free to allow us to live the way He intended from the beginning. To do that, we have to listen to what He says and follow Him without having to be pulled away from temptation at whatever cost.

In Psalm 32:8 the LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you” (NLT). He wants to listen to His voice so He can simply teach us where to go in life and how to live. He doesn’t want to have to treat us like that horse. Verse 9 says, “Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.” If we are willing to listen, God is giving us freedom to run. If we aren’t, He will use what’s necessary to get us where He wants us to go. 

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Readjusting Your Course

Every time I fly, I think about a friend of mine who is a pilot. I’ve asked him many questions about the process of flying and what it’s like to be in the cabin. I’ve even questioned him about autopilot. He told me that before a flight, he plots the course based off of information he gets from others who are flying that route. Once the plane is in the air and cruising, he turns on autopilot. I wondered if it was really that easy. He then explained that at the cruising altitude, the winds can blow us off course and he has to readjust to get the plane back on course. If he doesn’t, we could arrive miles from our destination.

Our walk with God is a lot like that. We love to set our lives to autopilot and think that will get us directly to Heaven, but the Christian life is more than autopilot. In order to be successful at living this life, we need to have people in our lives who are ahead of us and gave walked the path we are on. We need to listen to the information they’re giving us because they’ve seen first hand where turbulence lies. It’s important to have people in your life who can give you guidance and the information you need to make the right decisions. Proverbs 13:20 tells us that if we want to be wise, we need to be around wise people.

The next thing we have to do is be aware of how the winds of life shift us from our course. Things happen. Problems are going to arise. We need to be in a constant state of questioning if we are still on course for where God has us headed. Reevaluation is an important part of your Christian life. Asking if we are where God wants us when God wants us to be there. Are we still on the path that God put us on? That path is hard to see sometimes. We need to have God’s Word in our hearts. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”

Applying God’s word to your life and taking advice from others will help you to live the most impactful Christian life. When we know what God says in His Word, we are able to defeat temptation that would take us off course. If we do get knocked off course, it’s not the end of the world. God offers forgiveness and course corrections. He makes a way to get back to where He had us heading. Don’t quit because you’ve been blown off course. Take the advice of someone who has been blown off course and been given a path back. God will not abandon you or the plans He has for you no matter how far off course you get. There’s always a way back. 

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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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Victory

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I saw a poster recently with a picture of Michael Jordan on it. It caught my attention because it’s been over ten years since he played. Underneath his photo, in big letters, it said “Victory”. Then it wrote out the definition of victory. As I thought about it, he became synonymous with winning and victory, but that’s not his full story. Before he became a star, he couldn’t make his high school team. After he became a star, he failed at gambling, marriage and baseball. He failed in more areas than he succeeded in, but he did not let those failures define him.

You and I are the same. Our failures outnumber our successes. I get caught up sometimes just thinking about my failures. I wonder why I still try. I beat myself down because my failures seem so stupid. I think I should be able to beat them, but each time I fail, I get down on myself. I saw a friend on Facebook ask the other day, “Is it a true portrait of a man to see him when he is tempted?” I thought a lot about that. My first inclination was to say yes. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I thought that because I allow my failures to define me.

You and I are more than who we are when we are tempted and when we fail. We are also the person who knows where to seek forgiveness after a failure. We are the person who stands on mountain tops with our arms outstretched looking up to Heaven when we’ve succeeded. We are the person who pushes through when we don’t feel like it and no one seems to care. We are complex and should never allow ourselves to be defined or think that an accurate portrait of ourselves is who we are when we fail.

In Romans 8, Paul listed all kinds of things that could define us. At the end of that list, he said, “Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ.” It’s time we started to see ourselves as God sees us. We are not all the mistakes, failures or temptations that we face. You and I are victors. We are the very definition of victory if we are willing to get back up, seek forgiveness and to try again. We may not be considered synonymous with victory in the world’s eyes, but we are in God’s. When He looks at you, He doesn’t see a failure. He sees someone made in His image with the power to win.

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Strong Enough To Overcome

I’ve been reading in the book of Joshua about the land allotment given to each tribe of Israel. You know the part where, like the genealogy sections, we typically skip over. I saw something interesting in Joshua 17:12-13. It says, “The people of Manasseh never were able to take over these towns – the Canaanites wouldn’t budge. But later, when the Israelites got stronger, they put the Canaanites to forced labor. But they never did get rid of them.” They couldn’t get rid of a few people in a few towns even after all the great conquests in the Promised Land.

As I read this, I began to think of the sins that I have in my life. You know the type. They’re the ones that no matter what I do, I can’t seem to beat. No matter how hard I try, I still succumb to their temptation every time. I’ve done fasting and prayer to get strong enough to beat them out of my life, but they still keep showing up. I’ll see something in the day that starts the process. My thoughts begin to dwell on the things that will eventually lead to the sin and sooner or later I fall. Sound familiar?

Near the last part of that verse, it says that they forced the Canaanites into forced labor when they became strong enough. When I read that, I thought of II Corinthians 10:5 that says, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” It’s our thoughts that keep the temptation alive in our heads that walk us down the road to sin. I’m not strong enough to drive out those thoughts and so I end up sinning. But here, Paul says we have divine power to demolish the strongholds in our lives.

There is a power beyond ourselves, in Christ, that can give us the power to take those thoughts captive and as the book of Joshua says, “put them into forced labor.” When we try to combat these thoughts in our own strength, there isn’t enough power. Those thoughts seem to be fortified against whatever we throw at it. They’re like the Canaanites in Joshua 17:16. The people of Joseph complained that they didn’t have enough land because the Canaanites had iron chariots and couldn’t be moved.

Joshua didn’t care about the iron chariots. He wasn’t looking at this as a physical struggle, but a spiritual one. He spoke into the tribe what they were that they couldn’t see. He saw what God sees when He looks at us. In verses 17-18 he told them, “you are very powerful” and even tough the Canaanites had iron chariots and were strong too, “you can drive them out.” He spoke into their lives and called out in them what God had put in them. He reminded them of their past victories and current realities.

You may see yourself like these two tribes. You’ve forgotten all that God has forgiven and delivered you from. You have strongholds in your life that you’ve allowed to remain because you haven’t seen yourself as strong enough to beat them. You’ve allowed them to shame you and to accept them in your mind. I’m telling you today that you are strong enough to overcome. You are powerful through the Holy Spirit that God has placed in you. If He has forgiven you and given you deliverance from other sins, He can give you the strength to beat the ones you’re struggling with today. Though they seem fortified with iron, God’s Word is more powerful and it is alive in you today. Bring those thoughts into captivity and drive them out of your mind’s landscape. You are very strong.

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Avoiding the Slow Fade

The question was asked last night at church, “How can staying humble keep you from sinning?” We began to discuss how when you think you’re above sinning that’s when you’re at the most risk. Each one of us has sinned and will sin. None of us are perfect or are capable of living a life without sinning. There are things we can do to help ourselves from making sin a habit in our lives though.

One of the ways you can help to keep yourself from sin is by reading and understanding God’s Word. I Peter 5:9 tells us to withstand the devil. The Amplified version says, “Be firm in faith against his onset – rooted, established, strong, immovable and determined.” When we have our roots in God’s Word, we recognize the truth from lies. When temptation arises, we recognize it and combat it with the Word of God. That’s how Jesus fought temptation, and that’s how we should too.

That same chapter reminds us that the devil is searching for someone to devour. He’s not waiting idly by for us to slip up and fall. He’s stalking us, staying hidden until the right time. He wants to pounce on us when we least expect it in order to cause us to sin and to bring guilt to us. Peter described him as a lion and that’s a great metaphor of how he hunts us down as his prey. He’s not content with you sinning. He wants to devour you, your life, your testimony a d your hope.

That’s why in verse 8 he told us to be alert, “vigilant and cautious at all times.” We shouldn’t let our guard down. We should always be on the lookout for temptations that would come in and seek to destroy us. We shouldn’t think we’re above being tempted in certain things. That’s where the humility comes in to play. When we’re humble, we don’t think of ourselves higher than we should. We recognize our weaknesses and move about cautiously.

Casting Crowns has a song out called “Slow Fade”. It warns us that our enemy doesn’t just come in and get us to jump into a life of sin. It’s a slow fade from where God wants us to that life away from Him. The enemy comes in and chips away little by little to draw us away. Before we know it, we have left a life of complete surrender to God and have walked into a life that is a slave to sins. That happens when we aren’t being alert and vigilant. That happens when we aren’t humble like God called us to be.

I’ve experienced the slow fade in my life. I’ve drifted far from God because I let myself believe one little lie after the other. I walked a long way from where God had intended for me to be. I had let my guard down, thought I was above certain things and found out I wasn’t. Because I did know God, I knew the way home. I sought God’s forgiveness and repented from the life I had begun to live. I walked away from it. I’m still tempted every day. I still mess up and sin, but I’m more vigilant now. I catch the lies a lot faster and move back to where I belong.

You can too. It’s not too late. You’re not too far away. Forgiveness is waiting. Don’t believe the lies any longer. Get in God’s Word. Learn the truth so you can recognize the lies. God’s Word will help you to stay grounded, firm, rooted, established, strong, determined and immovable like Peter said. Don’t become a victim of that lion who is seeking you. Be aware of who is and where he is. When you do, you take away the element of surprise that he counts on and he leaves you.

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Fire Drills and Escape Routes

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Have you ever been in a fire drill? I’ve been through plenty in my day. The worst one was when I was 32 floors up in a skyscraper. Walking down 32 flights was not easy for me. Why do offices, schools and other building conduct those? As much of an annoyance as they are, they’re to teach us what to do in case of an emergency. The Fire Marshall knows that in a panic situation, you may not make the right decision unless you’ve rehearsed in your mind and with your body what you are going to do.

It’s really a great concept when you look at the reason for it. It’s got me thinking, “Why don’t we have spiritual fire drills? Why don’t we rehearse what we’re going to do when we are tempted?” We need to think through our evacuation route from temptation. We need to have them posted on the walls of our heart, look at them often and rehearse in our mind and with our body what we will do when temptation comes.

Temptation shows up anywhere and it’s typically unexpected. We are rarely prepared for it which is why we give in to it so easily and so often. Each of us are tempted. Each of us sin. Some temptations we are good at resisting and others catch us every time. If you think about the ones you are good at overcoming, they’re the ones that you’ve prepared an escape route from. It’s the ones that catch us every time that we haven’t prepared for.

I Corinthians 10:13 says, “But with the temptation He (God) will always also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.” God has provided an escape route from every temptation there is. How does He know the route? Hebrews 4:15 says we have a God who was tempted in every respect we are, yet without sinning. He’s been in our place and rehearsed the escape route for the sin that easily ensnares you. He’s calling out, “This is the way out.” Because we haven’t prepared, our focus is moved from the escape route into the sin.

How do we prepare then? Jesus demonstrated one way out of temptation and that was to quote God’s Word when we are tempted. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Knowing God’s Word is the primary escape route. Placing it deep in our heart and not just in our mind is the important part here. When we fill our hearts with His Word, we are able to win the battle of the mind.

The alternate escape route is to run. Yes, physically run. If you find yourself in an area that breeds temptation, run. Get out of there! Don’t stick around and see how close you can get to the fire without getting burned. That’s just stupid. In Proverbs 7, Solomon is looking out his window and sees a naive (void of good sense) man walking down the street where he knew a prostitute was. He crossed over to walk on her side. He didn’t turn around and run. In verse 22 it says, “He followed her like an ox to the slaughter.”

Temptations are around us every day. It’s part of life. How you prepare beforehand determines how you will react when they come. If you wait until the time of temptation to react, you will more than likely fail. If you prepare by putting God’s Word in your heart and knowing how to react when temptation shows up, you will escape. What escapee routes do you need to plan for in your life? What are you doing now to prepare for the ones that get you every time?

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