Month: February, 2016

“Repent or Perish”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…
Please pray with me…
None of us are immune from tragedy. We hear about it every day. Just this week we found out about tornados along the Gulf Coast and the East Coast of the United States causing extensive damage, Syrian refugees fleeing their homes because of war, only to find that they have no place to go. The killing of innocent victims in Michigan and Islamist terrorists killing soldiers in Kenya. On and on it goes. Unfortunately, we all have times that tragedy touches us. Not only do we read about it, all too often we experience it.
In our Gospel lesson, Jesus speaks of tragedy. In this case, he uses two examples of untimely death, the slaying of the Galileans and the accident of Siloam. In this time, many thought tragedy to be closely associated with sin. If you sin much, you face tragedy as a consequence. The common belief was that suffering was a punishment for sin. Not just a consequence of sin but God’s punishment for personal sin. I have to admit, I’ve been in this group thinking, “God’s going to get me for that.”
Yet Jesus doesn’t give them the answer they expect. Instead, he focuses on something greater, the need for repentance. He doesn’t give them some veiled excuse or eloquent speech on the consequences of sin, He tells them how to escape it. “I tell you; unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
R. C. Sproul in his book, “The Holiness of God,” says of this incident, “In effect what Jesus is saying was this: “You people are asking the wrong question. You should be asking me, ‘Why didn’t the tower fall on my head?” Jesus rebuked the people for putting their amazement in the wrong place. In two decades of teaching theology I have had countless students ask me why God doesn’t save everybody. Only once did a student come to me and say, “There is something I can’t figure out. Why did God redeem me.” Jesus is teaching in this section of Scripture a very important lesson. We all fall short of the glory of God. We all deserve death for the sins we have committed. But God DOES offer salvation from sin for every person and that comes through repentance. So, today we will focus on the great gift of repentance given to all who put their trust in Christ.
Martin Luther says of repentance, “To repent means to feel the wrath of God in earnest because of one’s sin, so that the sinner experiences anguish of heart and is filled with the painful longing for the salvation and the mercy of God.” He said, “All of a Christian’s life is one of repentance.” It goes further than a simple request of forgiveness. It is an honest expression of regret that leads to a changed life.
The words repent and repentance occur 56 times in the New Testament. It is similar in meaning to the word translated “convert” or “turn.”
So just how important is repentance? Jesus declared that the very purpose of His coming and ministry was to call sinners to repentance. The main theme of John the Baptist’s preaching and baptizing as he prepared the way for the coming of Jesus was one of repentance. In Matthew 3:2 John says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” The first recorded public words of the public ministry of Jesus were also Him saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach, we read that, “They went out and preached that people should repent.” After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus declared that “Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations.” He declared in our Gospel lesson in Luke that unless people repented they would perish, and in order to enforce the message, He repeated it.
It is obvious from Scripture that, if Jesus and those who learned from Him knew what they were talking about (and they did), then none of us will find a meaningful relationship with God unless we do what the Bible calls us to do, we must “Repent!”
So what, exactly is repentance and why is it so vital to our salvation? Well, to start, repentance is more than being sorry.
Sorrow may lead to repentance or it may not, but they are not the same. The word implies a lot more than this. The Bible gives us a good example of remorse with repentance, we find it in Matthew 27:3-4 from someone you might not suspect, “When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elder’s. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.” Note that Judas admitted his guilt, felt sorrow over it, and was even prepared to make restitution but he stopped short of repenting to God, though the Greek translation for seized with remorse is sometimes repentance, if anything, he repented to the priests and elder’s instead of God. It’s really the difference between Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
And repentance is never a private thing. It’s always in relation to another. God created us to live in relationship with Him and with each other. That’s why religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism and New Age don’t have the gift of repentance to God, because their relationship with their god is not a personal one like it is with Christians.
Essentially repentance is the process by which a person who finds themselves separated from God through sin, recognizes that situation and goes back to God. It’s basically a spiritual u-turn.
Instead of going away from God, or instead of ignoring Him, you turn around, go to Him and choose to give Him His rightful place in your life. Repentance, therefore has more to do with your will then it has to do with your feelings.
The Greek word for repent in the New Testament has the basic meaning of changing your mind but in Godly terms, it means a change of your attitude. It is telling God, “I have sinned against you and I truly want to change that part of what I have become without you.” It’s a change in attitude towards God’s truth and towards God Himself.
We all need to repent because we all have times where we find ourselves separated from God, in fact, it’s a daily occurrence in need of daily repentance. Whether we like to believe it or not we are all poor miserable sinners in need of a Savior. To all of us has been given the beautiful gift of repentance and to all who take advantage of this first gift are given another, the awesome gift of forgiveness. Complete and without exception from a loving and forgiving God to His less than perfect children. 2 Peter 3:9 says, The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
God’s desire is that we all would reach repentance. He’s not slow. He does not delay. He knows exactly what He’s doing and His character reveals just how much He loves us. He is patient towards all of us and shows His great patience and mercy as we continue to fall short every day.
Mark Driscoll, in his book, “A Call To Resurgence,” writes, “God hasn’t held off lighting the match for eternal fire because He finds our sins tolerable but rather because He is patient in giving sinners an opportunity for repentance before the burning begins.”
And our calling towards repentance is not just for us but it is also a calling towards the attitude we have towards each other. The message in Scripture is clear, we are all in need of repentance. Yet there are millions who don’t know of and have not been told of this great opportunity to be at one with a loving God. Our call is one of preaching the message not just applying it. But we must practice ourselves what we preach.
If we truly believe that what Christ did on the cross was enough to wipe away all our sins and that the love He showed on the cross never fails, how could we not repent from our sins? If we lived such a life that never involved turning from our sin’s, it would be the same as if we were to say that His sacrifice wasn’t enough. We have to believe that He paid it all at Calvary and that that love extends to all people.
And when we practice repentance on a regular basis then we are ready to call others towards repentance. When we don’t repent, it offends God because it says, in effect, I don’t need you. Repentance is a command and it is given for everyone’s own good. It’s wrong to think that any sin is ok, no matter the size. It’s wrong to think that some sin needs repentance and other’s God will just ignore. It’s a deception to think we can simply go on sinning because Jesus already paid the price.
When we don’t repent we are affectively worshipping ourselves. Repentance toward God is the highest form of worship because it acknowledges His rightful place in our life and the things we have done to rip Him away. As we proclaim Christ but live in such a way that we desire to maintain our sinful lives, not only are we lying to ourselves but we extend that lie to God and believe me, God knows better. With this kind of attitude we’re leading others down a dangerous path as we place stumbling blocks along their way towards salvation.
But when we repent in all honesty, we worship god as our Lord and Creator. As we proclaim what Christ has done for us on the cross, we show that we believe in His Words and in His commands and that sin is not worth it. We grow in our walk with the Lord and the continued removal of sin from our lives.
In these moments, we are truly living as new creations and the old version of ourselves has passed away. We are trusting God that what He says is true and that His way should be the only way we follow.
We don’t like to talk about repentance. Some conjure up fire and brimstone pictures in their mind, others don’t want to be reminded of how much they need it. But it doesn’t have to be seen that way and it shouldn’t. Repentance is a loving gift from a loving God who has given it to us so that we might be with Him for all eternity. He asks us to come to terms with the person we have become through repentance and to make a change for the better, putting God and others before ourselves.
In Chapel this week we talked about peace and that’s really what’s being offered here isn’t it. Repentance brings redemption which brings peace. At peace no longer a slave to the sins which haunt us. At peace in the assurance of our salvation won for us through Christ. At peace in the understanding that repentance brings God’s forgiveness. No more do we need to be prisoners and victims to sin. God has given us a way to free ourselves. He has given us the gift of repentance. The real tragedy is when people reject the gift. Make repentance a constant thing in your lives and accept the gift that has been given. Amen.

Bible Study Luke 13:1-9

Bible Study Luke 13:1-9

Twice, in verses 2 and 4, Jesus asks the same question, “Do you think they were worse sinners?” Why do you think He keeps asking this question? Acts 17:30-31, 2 Peter 3:9

Does a calamitous death indicate that the victim was a greater sinner than others? John 9:1-3

Why were they told to repent after Jesus heard about the indignity?

What is Jesus’ main point in these first five verses?

It’s interesting that Luke uses the Greek word for sinners in verse 2 (amartoloi) but the Greek word for debtors in verse 4 (ofeilatai). Why do you think he did that? Also note two different words for “in the same way” in verse 3 (omoios) and 5 (osowtos).

What is the message of this story? Isaiah 5:1-7

What does the tree represent? The owner? The farmer?

What is the urgency? Matthew 21:18-19, John 15:1-2
Read Leviticus 19:23–25 – This was actually the 7th year of looking if they were following the law.
Now let’s put the two stories together. The first story gives us a clue about one kind of fruit Jesus wanted. What was it He was looking for?

Why do so many people avoid repentance in our culture?

If these fruit In Galatians 5:22-23, (the word “fruit” is in the singular, not plural) are not manifested in your lives, should you be cut down? Why?

In verse 8 it literally says, “I’ll dig around it and put dung around it.” It is important to note that this is the only time that the word for dung (korpia) is used in the Bible. What could the dung represent?

If you were given “one more year” to start producing fruit, where would you start?

What fruit do you hope to see in your life a year from now?

As we wrap up, what is a lesson, a promise, a command, or a warning that you needed to hear from this story?

“O Jerusalem”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

About 2300 years ago history was changed in a very significant way when a young man named Alexander led his army over 11,000 miles from his home in Greece all the way to exotic India. As a comparison, if we left the church parking lot, drove to Miami, then came back home and then went back again, we’ve still have to go 1000 more miles to equal the trip. Now imagine doing this on foot or on horseback while waging war after war along the way. The only reason he didn’t go farther was because his troops became homesick and wanted to go back home to see their families.

That march still affects us today. It even affected Jesus and His disciples because their primary language was Greek. It’s the language that most of the New Testament was written in. Even here in the United States, we feel the influence of this campaign 2300 years ago. Many of our words come from the Greek like biology, philosophy, Baptism, Philidelphia, telephone and on and on. His far reaching influence shaped much of the culture throughout the world. Our art, or architecture and our form of government have all been influenced by Alexander and his many victories. In fact, if Alexander had not conquered the world, the Persians probably would have and our culture would have a touch of Persian influence. What’s remarkable is that Alexander did all this by the time he was 33.

About 330 years later, another remarkable 33 year old embarked on his final journey to overcome the world and, like Alexander, his march was unstoppable. Now, this man and his followers only covered about 75 miles but His influence on the world has been much greater, even then the great man Alexander. He never wielded a weapon, He had no place to really call home, He spent his time with the lowest of the low and spoke only of love and obedience. He was spit on and mocked and finally hung on a cursed tree to die beside common criminals.

His conquest was unappreciated by most and even today some mock Him. But His journey to Jerusalem would change the world. His influence would be greater than all the generals that ever lived combined. Today we’re going to look back at that final journey and, hopefully, along the way we’ll come to a understand greater of how that journey continues even today.

The start of Jesus’ final journey begins in Galilee and it took Him south towards Jerusalem. Along the way, some Pharisee’s bring a warning that Herod is looking to kill him. You heard it right, Pharisee’s. How come their so worried about Jesus all of a sudden?

Yes, there were some Pharisee’s that had come to believe in Jesus, but I’m thinking these aren’t those.

Herod, you might remember, was excited to see Jesus when Pilate sent Him to him. He wanted Jesus to do His tricks but when He found that Jesus was not being cooperative, Herod sent Him back to Pilate. There were no threats, he just got bored with Him.

Yet these Pharisee’s travel all this way to stop Jesus from going to Jerusalem with this warning. It doesn’t make sense until you remember that the Pharisee’s wanted nothing to do with Jesus, especially in Jerusalem. They are not concerned about Jesus’ well-being. They’re only interested on their own well-being. If anything, Herod was scared because he thought Jesus was John the Baptist, who he had killed, and had come back to life.

Jesus knew better and told those Pharisee’s to tell that fox, Herod, I’ll continue to do what I came to earth to do today, tomorrow and on to the third day. His course had been set and the journey to His ultimate death had begun. No prophet should die outside Jerusalem so to Jerusalem we must go.

There was no fear. As it says in Scripture, Jesus had His eyes set like flint towards Jerusalem. He was born for this mission. Herod might want Him to stay away but He had a greater King urging Him on.

He wasn’t about to change His plans because all that was prophesied about Him must be completed. The salvation of all mankind was at stake.

As for the Pharisee’s? Well, they weren’t done with Him yet and the closer He would get to Jerusalem, the more they would turn against Him. Until then, however, He was going to cast out demons and heal the sick, just as He’d always done. His course would not be altered because of threats, even threats coming from Herod himself.

Actually, this journey started from that wilderness experience with the devil’s temptations. Satan was trying, just as the Pharisee’s were, to stop Jesus from fulfilling His destiny. Then, the temptations were for possible gain, food, status and rescue. Now the temptations offer him a chance to save His life. Here again though, Christ overcame the temptations and continued the journey towards fulfilling His calling. Nothing, not even Satan in the form of Pharisee’s, could stop Him.

Even from the very first days of His ministry, His goal was Jerusalem. In Matthew 16:21 Jesus told His disciples after Peter had confessed Jesus as the Christ, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and the chief Priests and Scribes, and be killed, and on the third day raise.” Then, they didn’t understand. Even on His final journey into Jerusalem, the disciples had no idea that it would end in such a way.

All they knew was that Jerusalem was the home of God’s temple and the place where the sacrifices were made. Little did they know that the final sacrifice would be their Messiah on a cross.

Ironically, Jerusalem means, “City of Peace.” But Jerusalem in Jesus’ time and ever since that time has been anything but a city of peace. Rather, a part of its reputation was of a place where prophets came to die. In our Old Testament lesson in Jeremiah 26, we read of how Jeremiah was persecuted there for preaching the truth. Tradition tells us that Isaiah was killed in Jerusalem by being sawed in two. And now Jerusalem would put the very Son of God on a cross and in doing so, we can say that finally, Jerusalem’s meaning was realized. Because of the death of Christ in her midst, peace did come to all believer’s. A kind of peace that goes beyond human understanding.

Although Jesus’ march to Jerusalem would find peace, this march was not appreciated for that at the time. As far as the Pharisee’s were concerned, nothing peaceful would be found if Jesus were to find Himself there. Jesus knew this and because of this He mourned. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” A cry of love for a city which had lost its way.

Like a hen who worries for her chicks, wanting to keep them from harm, Jesus had tried to gather under His protection, the people of Jerusalem, but even the Pharisee’s refused. Instead they wanted to keep Jesus from His rightful place, even if they had to kill Him to do it.

People haven’t changed much from that time have they. We still have those who want Jesus to stay out. They want to keep Him out of our schools, our government buildings and even from television and the radio. Right has become wrong and Jesus has become to many a symbol of division not acceptance. “If we’re not supported for living our life the way we want to live it,” they say, “then Jesus is just not allowed here. He can keep His rules and His Word away from us and if He don’t, we’ll do all we can to destroy Him.”

We are no better than they. While Jesus is spit on and mocked, we meekly stand on the sidelines too afraid of confrontation to do anything. While whole church denominations become more and more OF the world, those of us who hold to the truth are vilified as dispassionate and intolerant. Little Jerusalem’s are everywhere and just like then, they want Jesus to stay away. When we hear that Jesus wants to gather us under His wings, too many of us have the first impulse to run away. We don’t want to appear too “religious.” We don’t want to get into an argument over faith because it might make us look silly.

We shy away from defending Jesus even when we hear other people mock Him because we wonder if, just maybe, they might have a point. We don’t talk about churchy stuff because we’re worried it might offend someone and we don’t ask people to come to church with us because we worry they’ll think we’re one of those Jesus freaks. So even as His wings remain open, they are all too empty.

Christ’s wings remain open, it’s because he wants to protect us not restrain us. Maybe it’s best explained in a story. After a forest fire destroyed much of Yellowstone in 1986, a park ranger was walking through afterwards, assessing the damage. As he walked, he came upon the charred remains of a bird. He thought it was quite an odd thing and wondered why the bird had not simply flown away to safety. As He nudged the carcass aside with His boot, three little chicks scurried from under the body. Now it all made sense. The hen had not flown away because that would have meant certain death for the chicks. Therefore, in an act of love she huddled under the intense heat to shield them from the fire, protecting them under her wings even though it meant a horrible death for her.

That’s what it means when Christ gathers us underneath His wings. He wanted that for Jerusalem and he offers it to you and me. So that we might be protected, he shields us under His wings even though it meant he had to die a horrible death so that we might have life.

It’s time we here at Redeemer stop putting our relationship with Jesus Christ under a bush. It’s time we stop trying God’s patience by only doing the least we can to still call ourselves Christian. There are too many Jerusalem’s and their still killing the prophet’s. Jesus offers us refuge and strength in the midst of a fallen world.

Because the Jews rejected Jesus in Jerusalem, Jesus pronounced judgement on them. In 70 AD their beloved Jerusalem was destroyed. Some died in faith and some died in defiance. Those who died without faith will see Christ again, but only as their judge. What are we prepared to do in our Jerusalem?

75 miles doesn’t seem like that great a distance, especially now when cars can get there in an hour. It certainly wasn’t as impressive as the journey Alexander undertook with His warriors, but don’t dismiss its importance to history. Jesus march was actually much greater and covered more ground. The truth is, God used Alexander’s march to prepare the road for Jesus’ march. Through Alexander, God put a common language and good roads in place so that the news of Jesus’s death and resurrection could spread quickly throughout the world. What Alexander did has affected people for centuries, but what Jesus did will affect all believers for all eternity. Jesus’ final march is unmatched because he didn’t just go to Jerusalem; he literally marched to hell and back. And He didn’t do it for gold or acclaim. He did it out of a pure love that He has for all people, even those who continue to reject Him.

Unlike Alexander, he didn’t march to make a name for Himself, he did it so that we might carry His name with us as children of the Most High. So what’s the next step that you’re willing to take on your journey. Will it be modeled after Christ or after Alexander? Only you can decide. May you listen to the Holy Spirit’s direction. AmeniHim

 

 

Bible Study Luke 13:31-35

Bible Study Luke 13:31-35

Ponder the fact that Jesus is unfazed by the message that Herod Antipas is out to kill him

Why do you think the Pharisees came to Jesus with this warning? Did they really wish to save Jesus from Herod’s grasp? Were they trying to frighten Him?

Jesus went so far as to call Herod a “fox”. What did he mean by such an expression?
What was the goal that Jesus said he must reach?
What does Jesus have that allows him to move ahead with such clarity and sense of purpose, unconcerned about gathering threats? John 18:36, Luke 4:43, Luke 9:21

Where else do we see this in Scripture? Acts 21: 7-14

Do you believe you have this same gift in yourself?

What was the meaning of the words of Jesus when He said, “Surely, no prophet can die outside Jerusalem? Luke 2:36-38, John 8:59, John 10:39
What kind of heart and emotions does Jesus express through his lament in verse 34? Why?
Look through Matthew 23. Does this give us a better picture of the heart and emotions of Jesus at the time?
What is the house that Jesus is talking about in verse 35? Jeremiah 12:17, Luke 19:38
How can you draw on this sense of Presence, calm and strength more often, instead of being anxious and worried about the storms of life around you?

What are some of the threatening King Herod’s in our lives?
What goal does God have for us as a follower of Jesus?
Who are the “prophets” sent to us today?
Do we resist Jesus’ longing to gather me under his wings? What are our reasons for resistance?

“Temptation”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father….

Please pray with me…

Man, those cookies sure look good. Too bad they’re for the church auction. You know if I only took a couple no one would know…

Here, drink this, I’ve been saving it for a special occasion? Go ahead, take a sip…

Who says you can’t go down this hill on a toboggan? It don’t look that steep to me. Try it…

Welcome to my childhood and high school days, full of temptations and the wrong decisions they led to. The missing cookies were noticed, the “drink I’ve been saving for a special occasion” was anything but special and the slide down the mountain proved to be a really bad idea. Let’s just say I didn’t have the discipline of Christ.

We think of temptation and our minds naturally think of sin, after all, it’s temptation that leads to sin. If this is so, then why was it necessary for Christ to be tempted? How could one who would win the battle over sin and death be tempted by it? Temptation by its very nature seems wrong. When it is introduced, our consciences immediately sense danger. But is temptation really a sin? Did Jesus sin by allowing temptation to happen to Him?

 

Hebrews 4:15 answers the question saying, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every aspect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” 

To me at least, the answer is clear. Temptation in itself is not the sin. The sin occurs when we allow it to take hold of us. Sin occurs when we mishandle temptation. The sin is not in the tempting but, rather, in the following. We all face temptation, the choice for us comes in how we handle it

Martin Luther said, “No one may avoid temptation. But we can certainly defend ourselves and relieve all temptations by praying for and imploring the help of God.” He goes on to say in another passage, “As long as we live in the flesh and have the devil around us, no one can escape temptations and incitements to sin. It cannot be otherwise. We are bound to suffer temptations, in fact, to be deeply involved in them. But our prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” is that we do not fall into them and be entirely overwhelmed by them. There is then, a great difference between feeling temptation and yielding to it, saying yes to it….Therefore we Christians must be armed against temptation and must daily expect to be incessantly attacked. We must at all times expect the devil’s blows. Only by the grace of God may we expect to be delivered from it.

There are really two sources from which we are tempted: satan and our own flesh. In this Lenten season as we make our way to the cross with Christ, we see an example of the devil’s work in Luke 22  where it says, “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve (The twelve being the disciples) He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray (Jesus) to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray (Jesus) to them in the absence of a crowd. 

2nd Corinthians 4:4 calls satan, “the god of this world” and John 8:44 calls him “the father of all lies” in which all evil originates. Knowing this as Christians you would think we would do all we could to separate ourselves from his influence, yet, in our sinful nature we find ourselves his ally way too often. Just the littlest whisper from him springs us into action. We need very little prompting from him to entertain our own sinful ideas.

James 1:13-14 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” Even when we desire to do good at all times, we are all tempted to betray this desire on a regular basis.

No one is above it, even the apostle Paul. He shared his struggle with his readers in Romans 7:22-23 saying, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Temptation in and of itself is not a sin. It becomes sin when we surrender to it by turning it into action, even in our minds. Lust, for example, is sin even if we don’t physically act on it. Jesus says in Matthew 5:27, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Covetousness, pride, greed and every envy are all sins of the heart, even though they might not be obvious to others. When we give into these temptations to entertain these thoughts, they take root in us and make their home with us changing us so much that they become part of who we are. They defile us to make us more like the devil then we are like Christ. When we yield to temptation, we replace the fruit of the Spirit with the worthless fruit of the flesh. Galatians 5:19-21 describes them, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” 

We listen to the temptation, we entertain the thought and we take action becoming just another pawn in the devil’s game, another victory over goodness, another victim of darkness.

The best defense from temptation is to avoid it. At the first suggestion of it we must flee from it. One of my favorite examples of this is with Joseph. A captive in Egypt he was made to be a slave in the house of the powerful man named Potipher. Although tempted to sin sexually by the prompting of Potipher’s wife, he didn’t give into her lustful enticements. Instead he fled. He used the legs God gave him to run from it. Rather than stay in a potentially dangerous situation and try to talk or reason his way out of the situation, Joseph took off. The temptation was not the sin because he dealt with it in the proper way but it could have easily become sin if Joseph had stayed around longer, having to use his own powers of self-control against the powers of the flesh.

We can also defend ourselves from temptation by devouring God’s Word. Just as giving into evil temptations can change us into something more resembling the devil than Christ, so can God’s Word transform us into something closer to Christ in our daily lives. In the desert, that’s how Jesus fought against temptation, He used God’s Word. Imagine, He had been without food for 40 days. Imagine how hungry he was. Then comes the devil’s whispers, “You’re the Son of God, show your power by making these stones become loaves of bread. Satisfy your hunger as only you can. Show me how special you are Son of God.”

There was nothing untrue about the claims of Satan. Jesus could have done just what he said. Yet there was deceitfulness behind the devil’s request. He wanted Jesus to worship and obey him rather than God the Father, the same way Adam and Eve were tricked into doing. It was much the same scene all over again, but instead of satisfying His hunger like Adam and Eve, He relied on God’s Word, something they failed to do in the garden. Jesus didn’t fall for His tricks, rather he used God’s Word as His defense.

In the same way, when faced with the prospect of having the world to Himself or challenging the angels with His safety, He did what He was called to do. He faced the devil’s temptations yet put His trust in His heavenly Father’s Word. We see this again as He faced the cross. Imagine how tempting it was to have the angel’s save Him, yet He did what must be done to save us from our sins and win for us our salvation by trusting in His Father to be good for His promises.

Romans 13:13-14 give us a guideline for avoiding situations that can lead to temptation. It says:

“Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Jesus was our example of how to avoid temptations and how to defend ourselves from them.

If we determine to “Make no provisions for the flesh,” we will keep ourselves from having to prove we can avoid temptations. God has promised us a worthy defense when we are tempted. 1st Corinthians 10:13, “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.” That’s a promise, we have only to trust that God is true to His Word.

But the best way is to avoid it altogether. 2 Timothy 2:22 urges us to “Flee the desires of youth.” We have, therefore, a great responsibility to pay attention to the direction of God and where He is leading us, avoiding temptation all along the way.

It says in verse 13 of our Gospel lesson in Luke that, after his attempts to tempt Jesus, the devil departed from Him until an opportune time. Jesus won the battle but the devil wasn’t done with Him yet. In our lives it is the same. With every victory or defeat, comes another challenge. Another whisper of temptation to draw our attentions from God and all His goodness.

In Jesus life the devil tried many times to win His soul. As we look to Easter, another attempt, a more opportune time, might have been on the night before Christ’s crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But He handled every temptation, instead choosing to follow the will of His Father. Instead of acting on the temptations of the devil, Christ wielded the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

Another opportune time may have been as He hung on the cross. Below Him he heard the rulers of the church, scoffing at Him saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” Beside them are the soldiers, mocking Him saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” To the side of Him are criminals in the same situation He finds Himself in. In their agony they cry out, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Could Jesus have done all that? Certainly. He could have jumped off that cross and said, “There, I told you.” But He didn’t, because He lived His life for this very purpose. To take on the sin of all mankind so that through His death we might find life. He didn’t bow to the devil’s temptations, He listened to the still, small voice of His Father.

How are you facing your temptations? Are you giving them a willing ear? Are you putting them into practice? If so, God has a better plan for your life.

In ourselves we are doomed. Satan is pressuring us to fall away from God, He is urging us to give in and give up. He wants to crush you under his thumb. But in Christ, with the Word of God filling us, there is no temptation God will allow you to face which cannot be defeated.

The more tempted you are, the more you should run from it. The more tempted you are, the more you should spend time in God’s Word. Not only will this help you resist temptation, but it will cause the tempter to flee. You see, the last thing Satan wants you to do is spend time in the Word. And if he sees that every time you are tempted you flee to God’s Word, he will flee until a more opportune time. If you are filled with the Word, you will not fall to the devil.

May God give you the power to resist the devil and his schemes and may we all learn from Jesus to follow the will of God by following the direction in His Word. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bible Study Luke 4: 1-13

Bible Study Luke 4: 1-13

 

How would you explain the word, temptation?

 

What part of this story is a bit confusing?

 

Why do you think Jesus was led into a desolate place for 40 days? Exodus 24:18; 34:28; 1 Kings 19:8

 

Do you think that Satan really had the power to do what he said he could do? John 8:44, Philippians 2:5-11, James 1:13

 

If our Lord taught the disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” (Matt. 6:13) why then did the Spirit lead our Lord into temptation? Ephesians 6:10-13

 

Was Jesus capable of the sin of giving into temptation? John 14:30

 

Is temptation only merely inevitable, or is it necessary to our growth as disciples?

 

Did Jesus have any special powers at his disposal to resist temptation that Christians today don’t have?

 

Jesus’ first temptation deals with “physical appetite” items. What is going on in this temptation? Deuteronomy 8:3

 

Jesus’ second temptation deals with “mental pride” items. What is going on in this temptation? Matthew 6:24, Deuteronomy 6:13

 

Jesus’ third temptation deals with “spiritual worship” items. What is going on in this temptation? Deuteronomy 6:16, Psalm 91:11-12, James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6

 

What is unique about this third temptation that you do not see in the first two?

 

In each temptation Jesus gives us a very practical way to overcome it. What is the secret to overcoming it and what does this mean for us today? Ephesians 6:17

 

Why do you think this story ends with the words, “until a more opportune time”?

 

Which of these temptations do you think Satan uses most often in today’s world?

 

Notice how Jesus was tempted when He took a spiritual step towards God. In your life, when is Satan most likely to try to take you down?

 

Let’s sum it up. 1 John 2:15-17

“Does God Even Care?”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

On Thursday before this writing I took time to read the news. This is something I try to avoid in the mornings because it doesn’t usually start the day off well. On Thursday the news included details on a stabbing of a girl by Virginia Tech students, explosives found on a passenger jet, homeless camp killings, a school bus crash, and a woman in Arizona killed by Islamic State militants. More bad news than good. It makes some people wonder sometimes if God even cares anymore.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had those times when it seemed the Lord was a million miles away. We’ve all had our doubts as to how much attention God was paying on little ‘ol me. Surely there are much greater fires in the world to put out. Maybe today is a day that He’s not giving me a lot of interest. Maybe He’s just given up on me.

In a recent article in the Huffington Post, a staff writer wrote an article called, “God Doesn’t Care About You.” At first I thought it was a typo but this author actually feels this. His premise was that God doesn’t have time to care about the little things in our lives. He doesn’t care if your sad about a broken relationship. He doesn’t care if your house is destroyed in a tornado or that your dog died. He doesn’t care that you feel worthless or if you’ve lost your only friend.

He said that God doesn’t care about countries or peoples because all countries claim they worship God. He doesn’t get angry if you don’t act in the Christian way and He certainly doesn’t care if you make love to someone of the opposite sex or of the same sex. God is just too important and too busy to care about little things like that. He said He believed in God but that the universe was a petri dish where God swirls us around with happy juice (His words, not mine), pours us in a dish, puts us in an incubator and now He’s on the outside looking in, watching us like some sort of experiment. To Him God is all about love and only about love. He doesn’t exist except in the imaginations of those who are jealous of other people’s joy.

As it turns out, this writer had an agenda. It was a pro-gay article and, if he can deny that God would be angry with his choices then he can be comfortable in his decisions. If we think God is simply here to make us happy, then anything that makes us happy must come from God and anything that does not make us happy must not be from God and anything else outside the happiness quotient is beyond God’s attention.

This is certainly not the God we have learned about, but we look at the world and we can almost understand how someone’s views might be so far away from Scriptural truth. We live in a world where terrible things happen to good people.

Even Jesus had questions when in Mark 15 He said, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”  In His words of anguish as He hung on the cross, taking all of our sin upon Himself, He wondered where His Father was and if He cared that He was hurting so terribly. Isaiah describes Jesus as, “A man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.”

So, does God really care if we’re hurting? Does He care if we stray? Does He care if we are lonely, or sick, or forgotten?

Praise God we have known and have seen that God is not the aloof creator much of the world has created in their minds. He’s not a God that is too busy to care, more interested in us as case studies than individuals. He knows all and sees all. He hurts when we hurt and wishes us to put our trust, no matter our condition, on Him. He’s very close even when He feels far away.  In Christ’s great commission found in Matthew 28, He says in verse 20, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” These are words of assurance and of comfort, especially when it feels as if your all alone in your trials.

But why are there times of trial? Why are there times of pain? Well, you see, God has a problem. We have chosen to live in a world in which evil is a terrible reality. Because of the fall of man into sin, Satan is now locked in a great struggle against God and all of His goodness.

He wants the power that God has and He wants to be worshipped like God is and, because of our choices, it seems sometimes as if the devil is winning. His goal is to destroy our relationship with God, even knowing that God is stronger than he is. He knows that one day there will be no more pain and hurt and death, but in the meantime, he fights with these same weapons for our souls.

So, because of the free will that God has given us, the Father has to overcome Satan in such a way that you and I still have the freedom to choose. The freedom to choose is a fundamental freedom that God must preserve at all costs. If we don’t choose to surrender our lives to God, then satan wins. That’s why he tries to destroy all that is good, because it’s those good things that bring us closer to Christ.

It’s so natural to ask, “Why me, Lord?” We hear that question a lot, especially from people who have given their all. When pain, death and sin negatively affect us we cry out, “Why Me?” Life often seems unfair. Why are there bad people who seem to have good lives and good people who are forced to struggle? In an accident, one person will escape injury and another will die and we wonder why. Why does God work miracles for one person and not another?

Well, there is no one explanation that will satisfy every question. But we must remember that God’s ways are not our ways.

In the end, the power of miracles and the reasons for them, remain in His hands, and His alone. He alone can see the big picture while we are limited to snippets in time. He alone can make all things right, even when it seems all things are going wrong. Ecclesiastes 5:2 says, “God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”

That is why Scripture is so very important to us, because, within its pages, are all those things that God has determined we need to know. There is where we learn that He loves us always, even when we sin against Him. It’s there that we learn we have been saved because he loved us enough to send His Son. It’s there that we learn that He is in control even when the world seems out of control. Faced with uncertain circumstances, we are but to trust God that He knows the answers we don’t and won’t know until we see Him face to face in glory, maybe not even then.

As people of Christ who live under His promise, we are called to believe that when all the accounts of life on this earth are settled – when we look back at this earth from the glory of heaven – we’ll be satisfied that, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18) That is one reason God the Father sent His only Son. It was God’s response to Satan’s challenge. It was to display His love, His utter unselfishness, by sending His Son in the humility of our sinful body to live as one of us and to die like one of us.

Now we are given to choose. Are we to believe that our God is just some greater being who has stirred us around in happy juice only interested in us as an observer, or is He a personal God, interested in us completely? Is He a God who ignores sin or is He one who hates sin and will not stand for it because He knows it is sin that separates us from Him?

In order to counter Satan’s challenge on our lives, in order to counter his accusation that God forces us to follow Him by His superior power, God gives us the power of choice as a gift honestly and freely given. It’s a gift that’s important to God but also the source of His problems with us. He doesn’t want to be a puppet master. He wants us to make the choice, because only a by choosing can we find true love. If we freely choose, we are free to choose evil or unbelief. We can choose to do horrible things to each other through war or abortion. But we can also choose the right. We can also choose to surrender our lives in love to Christ who has won for us the victory over sin and death. We can choose to put our trust in the one who proves time and time again that He really does car for us. Each one of us. Individually. He proves to us He is a God of relationship, who created us because He is a God of relationship. Or we can choose not to. Only love gives you a choice.

It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that evil is prominent in the world and that people choose to do evil instead of good. As a result, we see not just what is right in the world but also all that is bad. All those things our wrong choices have brought us. We see the unfairness that our fall into sin has brought us when a young mother dies of cancer or when a child dies in an abortion. It’s not necessarily because of their own sin, it’s because of the sin that we have all inherited when Adam and Eve decided to put their trust with the wrong person. Death is wrong and it wasn’t in God’s plan, yet, it’s what we chose because we didn’t put our trust in Him and His Word. We abused that freedom of choice in the Garden of Eden and we continue to abuse it to this day.

But, because God is a God of love, God has made everything new through His Son. With Christ’s death and resurrection came the removal of the curse of sin upon our lives. His death was His sign of the gift of forgiveness. It’s because God loves each one of us that He has freely forgiven us just in the asking, even when we don’t deserve it. It’s because He cares that He sent His only Son to live under that curse by coming to us in human form, only to die a horrible death so that we might be saved. In our Old Testament reading it assures us that the Lord has not forsaken us or forgotten us. It reads in verse 15, “Can a woman forget a nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, Yet I will not forget you.”

God doesn’t deny that we live in a world deeply marred and broken. Instead he draws closer and enters into it with us. Our hurt can be the very place we feel the presence of God the greatest. Our trials can become the very places that we meet God and experience the intimacy of His love and comfort when we need it most.

We see that God cares in the kindness of others. We experience a sense of peace that we could never attain on our own when we hear His Word. Even in the midst of our troubles, we see God at work and glimpse a bit at the beauty of His creation.

In fact, His creation gives testimony that God cares every moment of our lives. Every creation reflects its creator and in God’s creation are all the things we need for life. In a little seed we find the power to feed a nation. In the changing seasons we see the glory of His timing. In the healing of our flesh, we see the power and intimacy of His care for us. In the birth of a baby, we see His will for us to live.

The Greatest reason we have to believe in that God cares for us is the incarnation. God, seeing all that was broken in the world, all the sin and all the sadness, personally intervened to bring about change. But He didn’t just send a message, he sent us His own Son.

Jesus became human and was specially commissioned by God to enter into His hurting creation.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” Jesus said, “because He has appointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn..” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

In other words, God saw our greatest, eternal dilemma (our separation from Him because of sin), felt love and compassion for us, and demonstrated that love: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In the person of Jesus, God got personally involved in all our lives. Like any good Father who loves His children, He says to those who face any kind of trial and look for Him to help, “You’re going to be ok.”

Jesus invites all of us to come to Him and to learn from Him how to find the way to salvation because He cares for each one of us. He describes Himself as humble and gentle in heart, who lays upon us an easy yoke if we but come to Him in faith and trust. He offers you rest from a hectic and sinful existence. He offers you a kind of freedom the world could never give. Under His yoke we’ll find rest, through service we’ll find freedom, when we love others, we find our true self and when we die to self, we begin to live

Let’s end by listening again to a portion of our New Testament lesson, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him because he cares for you.” Amen.

Does God Care Bible Study: 1 Peter 5:6-11

Does God Care Bible Study: 1 Peter 5:6-11

What injustices in your own life and in world news are on your mind?

Why does the world seem unfair at times? How do you cope?

Where in Scripture does it show us that God cares for us? Psalm 23, 68:19-20; 139:1-14; Matthew 10:29-31; 1 Peter 5:6-11

Where should our confidence lie? Psalm 56:3-4, 116:5-7

According to 1 Peter 5:6 we are to humble ourselves. How do we go about doing this?

Why do we find it hard to cast all our anxieties on God?

What does it mean to be sober-minded and watchful and why is this so important?

Why is it necessary for us to suffer?

Why do you think Peter wrote this section of Scripture?

Notice in 5:8 that Peter calls the devil our adversary, not God’s adversary. Why do you think he does this? What does this imply about God, the devil, and us?

 

What weapons does the believer have against the attacks of the devil?

Compare 1 Peter 5:10, Hebrews 12:1-2, and Philippians 1:6. What do these passages teach about the believer’s future? What is the journey about?

In what ways do you resist the devil? Ephesians 2:1-10, 5:25-27, 6:10-20; James 4:4-8

Can you tell the difference between the devil’s attacks against you and other attacks (or is there a difference)? Proverbs 13:12-13; Matthew 26:40-41; Hebrews 11:1-2

How does Peter comfort those who are suffering now (Vs.10)? When you are suffering, does this truth give you comfort? Why or why not?

How does God confirm, strengthen and establish someone (Vs.10)

Peter’s closing states, “Peace to you all who are in Christ” (5:14b). How are “peace” and “in Christ” connected?

Why is it that true peace is only in Christ?

Why is peace such a sought-after thing but so rarely attained?

What is the devil’s kryptonite? Luke 16:16-17; John 8:43-47; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, 4:1-6, 10:3-6

What has to happen so that you might believe in your heart that God cares for you?

What are you prepared to do to show your devotion and gratitude for that care?