“Private Temptations” January 20

 

Private Temptations - Like Joseph and Judah, all of us are tested and tried, sometimes through private temptations. How would you respond? Like Joseph or like Judah? Have you been tempted with discouragement or anger because you are experiencing some test or trial? Is it possible God is using that situation to prepare you for something great?Like Joseph and Judah, all of us are tested and tried, sometimes through private temptations. How would you respond? Like Joseph or like Judah?

Have you been tempted with discouragement or anger because you are experiencing some test or trial? Is it possible God is using that situation to prepare you for something great?

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 39 & 40
Psalm 10.1-11
Proverbs 4.1-6
Matthew 13.31-58

 

Private Temptations

 

Genesis 39 & Genesis 40:

Two Responses to Temptation

 

In yesterday’s reading (Gen. 38) we saw Judah’s private immorality, followed by his initial public self-righteousness when he condemned his daughter-in-law to death.

Here in 39 we see Joseph’s righteous behavior even when tempted in private.

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”

But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

10 So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.

How easy it would have been for him to say, “What’s the use? What has doing good gotten me so far?”

And talk about temptation! Here’s this woman throwing herself at him, but he shows honor to his master even in his speech (a proper attitude toward authority). Most importantly, he says, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (v. 9).

Joseph realized that sin is first and foremost against God. While our sins can create major problems in other relationships with people, the biggest problem they create is in our relationship with God (Gal. 6.7-8; Heb. 12.7-11). As Joseph said, how then can I do this …?

Sexual immorality, lying, stealing, drunkenness, outbursts of anger, and other sins of commission (what we do) are not the only ways we sin. We can also commit sins of omission, things we should do, but don’t—like forgiving someone who has wronged us or taking full responsibility for our own failings.

James 4.17 says, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

But, after repeated attempts to seduce Joseph, Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses him of trying to rape her. When she tells her husband, he has Joseph thrown into prison.

 

Tested & Tried

 

Why would God allow all this to happen to Joseph? Had God left him? Was He punishing him?

We know that isn’t the case, because the text repeatedly says that the Lord was with him:

The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate (Gen. 39.2-6).

20 Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. 23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper (Gen. 39.20-23).

All of God’s servants are tested and tried. Sometimes He uses other people, even sinful people like Joseph’s brothers and Potiphar’s wife, to do it. Abraham was tested as he waited for the promised child and then by the command to sacrifice that child. The “mama’s boy” Jacob was tested as he was forced to flee the home life he loved and as he was betrayed by his father-in-law. Later we’ll see Moses being tested and refined as he spends forty years herding sheep … and David by running from Saul for years.

The Apostle Paul said of himself:

“From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness …” (2 Cor. 11.24-27).

We, too, are tested and like the men and women in the Bible. Sometimes He uses sinful people (a difficult spouse, child or other family member). Sometimes He uses our circumstances (financial hardship, sickness, loss, mistreatment, betrayal or some other difficulty). Continue reading

“Did God really say …?” January 2

 

Did God really say ...? - It started in the garden. The serpent tempted Eve first with a thought, "Did God really say ...?" The first step in his deception was to get her to doubt God and he's still whispering the same question today.It started in the garden. The serpent tempted Eve first with a thought, “Did God really say …?” The first step in his deception was to get her to doubt God and he’s still whispering the same question today.

Also read about the danger of thinking we’re smarter than God, the importance of honoring parents and some examples of fulfilled prophecy.

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 3 & 4
Psalm 2.1-6
Proverbs 1.8-9
Matthew 2.1-23

 

Did God really say …?

 

Genesis 3 & 4:

Another Voice

 

God had created the man and the woman and placed them in the garden to tend and keep it (2.15). He left them with just one commandment:

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2.16-17).

But sadly, they would listen to another voice:

“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden”?’” (v. 3.1)

The New Living Translation says, “’Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?’”

Nothing much has changed. The devil is still whispering the same questions today, trying to get us to doubt God’s Word, to believe He’s withholding something good from us, and get us to think we can decide what is right and wrong.

“Did God really say … that homosexuality is wrong?”

“Did God really say … that you should submit to your husband in everything? What if Continue reading

“Tinkering with a Broken System” November 20

 

Tinkering with a Broken System - Most people would agree things in our nation are broken, but there's little agreement about what change is needed. Can we tinker with a broken system and expect to fix it?Most people would agree things in our nation are broken, but there’s little agreement about what change is needed. Can we tinker with a broken system and expect to fix it?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 31 & 32
Psalm 130.1-4
Proverbs 28.28
James 1.1-27

 

Tinkering with a Broken System

 

Ezekiel 31 & 32:

Morality, Tolerance & Equality

 

In chapters 31 and 32 God continues to speak to Egypt, perhaps more as a warning to His people that they could no longer turn to worldly powers like Egypt for help and protection. In chapter 31 He compared Egypt to a great tree under which many had taken refuge, but which was about to be broken and destroyed.

Egypt is also a picture of the world and the world’s system. As a nation, we have attempted to live under that system. We have tried to legislate morality, tolerance, and equality. We have expected the government to provide for every need or imagined need, but our system, too, is broken.

The problem is the world’s version of morality, tolerance and equality is not one based on God’s Word and His standard. We are expected to “tolerate” things that are contrary to biblical morality. Equality is no longer about equal opportunity to work hard and make your way in the world, it’s about taking from one and giving to another. And morality is a morality that turns biblical morality on its ear.

No matter how much we “tinker” with our broken system, as long as it’s based on a faulty foundation, it will never have the ability to fix what is wrong in our nation. As believers we must look to God in our own lives and pray for genuine heart change in the lives of others.  Continue reading

“Flattery will get you!” July 27

 

Flattery will get you! - Could you be drawn away from God's plans in your life by flattery or some other temptation? What can we learn from Nehemiah about protecting our testimonies, our jobs, and our ministries?

Flattery will get you! – Could you be drawn away from God’s best in your life by flattery or some other temptation? What can we learn from Nehemiah about protecting our testimonies, our jobs, and our ministries?

 

Today’s Readings:
Nehemiah 6 & 7
Psalm 89.5-10
Proverbs 21.28
Acts 27.1-26

 

Flattery will get you!

 

Nehemiah 6& 7:

Flattery & Enticing Distractions

 

Chapter 6 reminds me so much of what goes on in politics and the media today.

¹ Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm.

So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (6.1-3).

As soon as someone starts to do something significant for God, influential people want to meet with him or her and, often, interview them for TV or some other media. Sadly, many have learned the hard way that most people in the media don’t really want to rejoice with them because they’re doing something worthwhile. In fact, most have learned that what they say and do gets twisted and misreported. And all it does is serve as a distraction from what’s really important.

When flattery or the enticement of national coverage or rubbing elbows with dignitaries doesn’t work, the enemy will often attack from within—sometimes using people close to that person. How many times have we read the phrase “unnamed sources say …”

Another way the enemy attempts to bring down servants of God is by taking advantage of our own sinful desires, often through an immoral sexual encounter.

Those encounters don’t always start with something obviously sexual or immoral. Often they happen between two co-workers or even people who work together in ministry.

It may seem innocent, at first, things like texting and compliments, but will often turn to flirting and spending more and more time together.

I thought it was interesting that one of the people mentioned in verse 14 was a woman, the prophetess Noahdiah! Even though nothing sexual is mentioned, what if Nehemiah had listened to her and began to develop a relationship with her? How many times has someone said, “We’re just friends” only to fall into temptation as the “friendship” develops? We need to be so careful of both the perception of something inappropriate and the temptations that we all face. Continue reading

“Recognizing the Process of Sin”

LIVING BETWEEN THE ALREADY & THE NOT YET – Part 3

 

process of sin

 

Several weeks ago I started this series, “Living Between the Already and the Not Yet.” “The already” is who we are in Christ and have been since the day that He saved us. The “not yet” is who we will be when we stand before Him faultless, in other words, when we are like Him.

The first post was “5 Ways God Finishes His Work in Us” based on Philippians 1.6. In it I said that God is progressively changing and growing us as we learn to:

  1. Count it all joy when we encounter tests & trials.
  2. Accept His discipline.
  3. Keep the two great commandments.
  4. Overcome evil with good.
  5. Trust in His sovereignty.

In the second post, I talked about “Responding to Difficult People.” We all have one or more of them in our lives, whether it’s a child, a family member, a spouse, a co-worker or someone else.

I used a simple counseling diagram we call the “Y-chart,” to demonstrate how responding God’s way results in peace and blessings and how our load in life gets easier. But when we respond our own way, it results in tribulation and distress (anxiety, fear, worry, stress, depression) and life gets harder.

 

RECOGNIZING THE PROCESS OF SIN

In this post I’m going to talk about the process of sin: how it works, why we fall into its snares, and how we can avoid it.  Continue reading

November 23 “Dry bones & the devil’s bait”

Skeleton dry bonesOnly God can bring life where there were once dry bones. He not only restores our sinful lives when we repent and turn to Him, but when we belong to Him, He helps us recognize the enemy’s plan to lure us back into sin. Satan is neither omnipotent nor omniscient, but he has had a few thousand years to figure out what kind of bait we will bite! God’s Word helps us see it for what it is!

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 37 & 38
Psalm 132.1-9
Proverbs 29.4
James 4.1-17

 

Ezekiel 37 & 38:

Dry bones & God’s sovereign care

In chapter 37 Ezekiel sees a vision of a valley filled with dry bones. God tells him He is going to bring the dry bones back together, cover them with flesh, and breathe His Spirit into them.

The dry bones represent the Israelites who had been dispersed among other nations and whom He promised to restore to their land and give His Holy Spirit.

I can’t read this passage without humming the old song “Dry Bones” that many of us sang as children. As I was looking for a YouTube version, I came across this powerful video illustration of Ezekiel’s prophesy.

 

God also brings resurrection life to our sinful, dry lives. He redeems our pasts, restores where death and devastation has occurred, and breathes life into marriages and relationships that have fallen into disillusion or disinterest.

In chapter 38, God begins to speak to Gog and Magog, a powerful nation and its ruler, who would come against the Jews with great numbers of people after they had been restored to their land. According to Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible this probably took place sometime shortly after their return from captivity.

Even though God was assuring His people that they would be restored, He didn’t want them to believe they could expect complete rest from trials and tribulations in this life. Jesus told His disciples much the same thing:

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Matt. 16.33).

While Ezekiel 38 had a near future fulfillment, it also speaks of a time that is still to come. Revelation 20:

7 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. 9 They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.

After the millennial reign of Christ, Satan will be loosed briefly once more, so that those people who were born during that time will have a chance to either accept or reject Christ. Afterwards when he attempts to come against God’s people, he and his followers will be destroyed and cast into the lake of fire.

We should take great comfort in this portion of Scripture in Ezekiel 38 about God’s sovereign care. Although, God may use our enemies to test and strengthen us, we can be sure He will give us the grace we need, either to deliver us from the danger or see us through it.

 

prayerPsalm 132.1-9:

Pray for our pastors

Verse 9 begins, “Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness.”

What a great prayer to pray for our pastors and Christian leaders, that God would protect them and give them His righteousness. Continue reading

July 27 “Flattery will get you … !”

imagesCAG414LT

Could you be drawn away from God’s plans in your life by flattery or some other temptation?

Today’s Readings:
Nehemiah 6 & 7
Psalm 89.5-10
Proverbs 21.28
Acts 27.1-26

Nehemiah 6 & 7:

Enticing distractions

Chapter 6 reminds me of so much of what goes on in politics and the media today. As soon as someone starts to do something significant for God, influential people want to meet with him or her and, often, interview them for TV or some other media. Sadly, many have learned the hard way that the media doesn’t really want to rejoice with them because they’re doing something worthwhile. In fact, most have learned that what they say and do gets twisted and misreported. And all it does is serve as a distraction from what’s really important.

When flattery or the enticement of national coverage or rubbing elbows with dignitaries doesn’t work, the enemy will often attack from within—sometimes using people close to that person. How many times have we read the phrase “unnamed sources say …”

coworkers, temptation, just friends

Another way the enemy attempts to bring down servants of God is by taking advantage of our own sinful desires, often through an immoral sexual encounter. Sexual encounters don’t always start with something obviously sexual or immoral. Often they happen between two co-workers or even people who work together in ministry.

I thought it was interesting that one of the people mentioned in verse 14 was a woman, the prophetess Noahdiah! Even though nothing sexual is mentioned, what if Nehemiah had listened to her and begun to develop a relationship with her? How many times has someone said, “We’re just friends” only to fall into temptation as the “friendship” develops? We need to be so careful of both the perception of something inappropriate and the temptations that we all face. Continue reading

March 28 “God & government”

Has God ordained a certain form of government? In a republic like ours where we choose our leaders, what part should our faith play in our voting decisions?

God & government

Today’s Readings:
Deuteronomy 17 & 18
Psalm 37.37-40
Proverbs 12.20-22
Luke 4.1-30

Deuteronomy 17 & 18:

God & government

Chapter 17.14-20:

14 “When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ 17 Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.

18 “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.

God’s Word does not ordain a certain kind of government, but God’s people are to pray, seek His wisdom, and obey His commands in whatever circumstances and under whatever form of government they find themselves.

Leaders should be those “whom the LORD your God chooses.” In a nation like ours where we choose our leaders, they should not be chosen on the basis of political expediency or personal gain. Instead, we should pray, seek godly counsel, and search God’s Word for the characteristics of godly men. Continue reading

February 2 “Grumbling and complaining”

I hope I’m not the only one who falls so easily into the trap of grumbling and complaining. After all, it seems like such a little thing! Yet, in reality, we’re not really complaining about our circumstances or other people, but against our Sovereign God.

Today’s Readings:
Exodus 15 & 16
Psalm 18:20-27
Proverbs 6:12-15
Matthew 21:23-46

Exodus 15 & 16:

The temptation to grumble & complain

The children of Israel had just watched God deliver them in a powerful way. He had parted the Red Sea and allowed them to cross over on dry land and then completely destroyed their enemies. What a celebration that must have been! God had gloriously and miraculously delivered the Israelites from the powerful armies of Egypt, a world power at that time. There was singing and dancing. The whole congregation glorifying God!

But then … three days later … three days! Continue reading

January 20 “Private temptations, sin & accountability”

high contrast love

Like Joseph and Judah, all of us are tested and tried, sometimes through private temptations, sometimes by the sins of others, and other times by having to wait on God. And, like the psalmist, we sometimes feel like God is far off at those times.

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 39 & 40
Psalm 10.1-11
Proverbs 4.1-6
Matthew 13.31-58

Genesis 39 & 40:

Private temptations

What a contrast between Genesis 38 and Genesis 39! In 38 we saw Judah’s private immorality, followed by his initial public self-righteousness as he condemned his daughter-in-law to death.

In 39 we see Joseph’s righteous behavior even when tempted in private. How easy it would have been for him to say, “What’s the use? Look what doing good has gotten me so far!” And talk about temptation! Here’s this woman throwing herself at him, but he shows honor to his master even in his speech (a proper attitude about authority, ladies!). And, most important, he says, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

Our sins can create major problems in our lives (Gal. 6.7-8; Heb. 12.7-11), Continue reading