Tests or Temptations?

Life is full of sticky situations. Peer pressure, influence, decision-making and so on.

When we are met with challenges, we should consider – is this a temptation or a test?

A temptation is to get you to fail. A test is to get you to pass. A test is to prove your faithfulness.

Teachers give tests in school so students can prove that they know the material. Bad influences tempt us so that we will also do bad things.

Satan tempts. (Matthew 4:1-2) God tests. (James 1:12)

Satan does not test. God does not tempt. (James 1:13)

If we think about life this way, we can recall past moments in life when have given into temptation and failed. And we can also recall moments when we have passed the test.

So, we should desire to not fail, and we should desire to pass the test. And yet, we should acknowledge when we have failed. In our failings, we should turn to the Lord (not away from the Lord) and ask Him for forgiveness. Through Jesus, God forgives.

One last thought – when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, on the second temptation (Matthew 4:5-7), while resisting the devil’s temptation Jesus said this “Again it is written, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”

The Bible teaches that life is full of tests and that God tests us. But we are never to test God. Why? Because again a test is to prove your faithfulness. God’s faithfulness is not in question. Never has been. Never will be. He is always faithful and true. By faith, may we live faithful to Him. By faith, may we never question or test His faithfulness.

Christmas Lyrics – December 19

All this month leading up to Christmas, I want to share some meaningful Christmas song lyrics. You can read the previous blog posts for the other Christmas Lyrics.

Christmas music this year has been such a blessing to me. I have been listening more intently.

Christmas Lyrics — December 19th

Lyric — “I have no gift to bring, thats fit to give our king”

Song (Click the song to hear it) — Little Drummer Boy

This very well may be my favorite Christmas Lyrics of this Christmas season.

Everyone knows the song because of the “Pa rum pum pum pum,’ but fewer people actually know the lyrics.

Notice what the song says:

Come, they told me, a newborn king to see, 
our finest gifts we bring, to lay before our king.
So to honor him, when we come.

Then it gets to the good part:

“Little baby, I am a poor boy too,
I have no gift to bring, thats fit to give our king.”

That is the Good News of Christmas. The Love of Jesus. We don’t have anything to give Him. We are to receive from Him. God gave Jesus for us.

This Christmas, let us rest in God’s great love. Jesus gave his life so that we can have life.

Christmas Lyrics – December 3rd

All this month leading up to Christmas, I want to share some meaningful Christmas song lyrics. You can read the previous blog posts for the other Christmas Lyrics.

Christmas Lyrics – December 3rd

Lyric – “the son of God, here born to bleed”

Song (Click the song to hear it) – Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)

One of the deepest most meaningful parts of Christmas is the truth of why Jesus came. Jesus came to save sinners. Jesus saves sinners by dying on the cross for their sins. Jesus’s blood washes away our sins when we turn to God for forgiveness and trust Him with all of our hearts.

At Christmas time, we remember what this song declares that Jesus was born to bleed.

Christmas Lyrics – December 2nd

All this month leading up to Christmas, I want to share some meaningful Christmas song lyrics. You can read the previous blog posts for the others.

Christmas Lyrics – December 2nd

Lyric – “Let earth receive her King”

Song (Click the song to hear it) – Joy to the World

When Jesus was born to the virgin Mary that first Christmas morning, there was a lot going on. Mary and Joseph welcomed their first child. A farm stable had a newborn in it. Old Testament prophecies were being fulfilled.

And the King of all Creation had come to us.

God is King! King over everything. In the incarnation, God took on flesh. God became a human. God came to us. Jesus, the King of Kings, came to earth to save us from our sins.

The song says it well, “Let earth receive her King.”

Christmas Lyrics – December 1st

December is here, and Christmas is now nearly 3 weeks away. Most mornings, I have been asking Alexa to “play Christmas music” for us as we begin our days.

As the same familiar songs from year after year play in the background of our lives, I have noticed that my children have already learned most of them. Its pretty cool how that works. Generally, most people know most Christmas songs.

So this December, I want to share a lyric each day. Some may be more spiritual than others. All of them will be reflective on life during this holiday season.

Christmas Lyrics – December 1st

Lyric – “Faithful friends who are dear to us, gather near to us, once more”

Song (Click the song to hear it) – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas  

Christmas is a time of gathering. There are more get-togethers than other times of the year. We are around people more often.

While this may be burdensome and stressful for some people, it is also one of the more special aspects of the holiday season.

Were it not for faithful relationships that God has given us, we would not be where we are nor who we are. Having dear people in our lives is one of God’s great gifts.

For many, Christmas season is one of the few times, if not the only time, we get to see dear loved ones all year.

I have friends from high school, old teammates; I have cousins, and aunts and uncles, and nieces and nephews, and past neighbors, and so on that I have not seen in so long. I miss them. I remember how meaningful they were, and are, to my life. I can even think of some people that I have not seen in years. Christmas is the only chance I will have to see many of them.

May this Christmas season we take advantage of the rare opportunity to re-connect with those who are dear to us.

For this reason, I am thankful for the song lyric “Faithful friends who are dear to us, gather near to us, once more.”

It takes Courage!

The older I get there is one thing that I am more and more certain of – Life is hard!

I experience hardship in my own life, and I observe it in people’s lives every day.

Facing hardship takes courage. Courage is defined as – the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty or hardship.

Life is hard. Life takes courage.

Where does Courage come from? Courage comes in many ways. To keep it simple, Courage comes from Encouragement. Encourage means – to inspire courage.

It seems that we have minimized encouragement to mean something that makes me feel good. Encouragement is much deeper than that. Encouragement creates, produces and gives Courage to the one receiving it.

The life that honors God and follows the Lord Jesus will certainly have to deal with adversity and hardship. May the faithful have courage! May there be lots of encouragement that inspires courage in believers! It takes courage!

Acts 23:11 “Take Courage”

Our Fathers Have Told Us

I never got to watch Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and the Cincinnati Reds lead the Big Red Machine as they dominated the MLB in the 1970s.

I never got to watch David Thompson and Julius Erving as they brought high-flying dunks to basketball.

I don’t have any memories of watching or following any of those legendary sports figures. But I do know all about them. My dad has told me about them many times.

My dad can go on and on about those Reds teams. They were tough and competitive. They loved to play the game. They played to win. I like how excited he gets just telling me about them. Johnny Bench is the best catcher ever! “Charlie Hustle” is such a fitting nickname for the ultimate competitor, Pete Rose. I learned all that from my dad.

He doesn’t want to argue about it, but he swears to me that David Thompson and Dr. J were impressive dunkers before Jordan and LeBron. My dad told told me about them.

The more and more I read the Bible, the more I am noticing how often the Bible speaks to the fathers telling the next generations. It is all over the Bible. Take for example Psalm 44:1,

O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days

It motivates me to not just teach my kids about old-time sports heroes. I also want them to know God. I want to tell them all that I can about God. I want them to know all that He has done. I want them to know all that He has done for me.

Life is about God. In all that I am teaching them, may I make certain that they know that truth.

We have so much fun looking at Youtube videos of Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders. May we also grow up loving Jesus because of all that we have heard and learned about Him.

I am thankful for all that my father has taught me. May our children and grandchildren be able to say the same!

stop making these 5 excuses

When God called Moses to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go, Moses didn’t initially obey. He made excuses. We know that excuses are not good. Perhaps this reminder to stop making excuses will motivate you to do what you need to be doing.

Here are 5 excuses that Moses made (Exodus 3-4):

  1. Who am I?
    (3:11) Moses doubted himself. Moses was focused more on himself than on the God who called Him. If God is leading you to do something, stop looking at your abilities. Start looking at the God who called you to do it.
  2. Who are you?
    (3:13) Moses knew that if he went and did it that the Egyptians would ask ‘who sent you?’ And so he asked God what his name was. Moses should have known that it was God. And Moses should have been able to tell them that it was God. If you don’t know God, then you certainly will struggle to know yourself. We will undoubtedly be asking ‘Who am I?’ if we are also asking ‘Who are you, God?’ Also, if you don’t know God, then you can’t possibly know what God wants for your life!
  3. It won’t work!
    (4:1) Moses starts telling God that His plan won’t work. This is an unfortunate turn in the story. Moses thinks he knows better than God. It reminds me of so many Christians today who “think they know” what works! God is the one who works. And how God chooses to work is totally up to him. I suggest we never tell God what will or won’t work. God knows best. If God is leading you to do something, then do it. Don’t say that it won’t work.
  4. I’m not good at it!
    (4:10) Moses is now running out of excuses, and so he starts to look at his weaknesses. He points out to God that he isn’t good at speaking. Let me remind you God knows that. God knows everything. In the very next verse, 4:11, God reminds Moses that it was God who made Moses’ mouth that way. If you are caught up in your inabilities, stop using them as an excuse. God can and does use weak people. There is a popular saying that goes “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” He doesn’t need us to be good at something. When we are willing, He will use us whether we are good at it or not. Stop making the excuse that you aren’t good at it!
  5. I don’t want to!
    (4:13) Moses is now officially out of excuses, and so he just finally states the reality = he doesn’t want to do it. This gets to the heart of the issue. Often times, excuses are just a way that we avoid admitting our lack of desire. Not desiring to do what God wants us to do is a bad spot to be in. We need to be warned of that. We need hearts that desire what God desires! Beyond that, Often times in life we have to do what we don’t want to do. May we stop making that excuse. May we want to do it!

As the Exodus story unfolds, Moses ends up doing what God had called him to do. And his excuses were nothing but excuses. God had called him to do it. God empowered him to do it. God used him through it. To God be the glory.

May we stop making excuses. And may God get the glory through our lives as well.

Day After Day

It’s easy to do a good deed once. One-Hit-Wonders are pretty common. It is much harder to be consistent and steady.

I recently re-read the book of Genesis in the Bible, and I was struck by the admirable character and consistency of Joseph.

Of course, the story of Joseph is well-known. I love to read it. It is full of drama and fascinating turns. The part about Joseph and Potiphar’s wife is must-see-tv. And that episode peaks with Joseph’s convicting statement in reply to her request for sex when he declares to her “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Gen.39:9)

What a scene! What a response! What a man! What conviction! What discipline! What Self-control!

However, for as awesome as that story is, it is just once. Again, anyone can do a good deed once. Anyone can resist temptation once.

What is much, much more impressive is the next verse, Genesis 39:10 “And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.”

Day after day! That is strong! That is impressive.

Doing something great once is nice. But being faithful consistently is much harder. Much more impressive. Steady and Consistent is so admirable and honorable.

Many people have resisted temptation once. May God’s grace lead us to consistently say No to temptation Day after day.

 

Questions Lead to Answers

Nearly 30 years ago, I remember very clearly sitting in Mrs. Wilson’s 4th grade class when a classmate raised his hand to ask a question. The question he asked was one that most of the other kids already knew the answer to so when he asked that question several students in the room laughed out loud at him and his question.

My admirable teacher, Mrs. Wilson, took that moment to stop and teach us all a valuable lesson. She said “Don’t laugh at a question. There is no such thing as a dumb question. For questions lead to answers. If you don’t know something, then ask. That is how you learn.” I have never forgotten that moment and lesson = questions lead to answers!

In John chapter 3 we learn about a man named Nicodemus who comes to Jesus, rather secretly, seeking some answers. In this story, Nicodemus has lots of questions.

  • In 3:4 he asks Jesus “How can a man be born when he is old?”
  • In 3:4 he asks another question “Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
  • In 3:9 he asks Jesus “How can these things be?”

In this fascinating passage, Nicodemus hits Jesus with 3 questions. Jesus is answering his questions but it seems Nicodemus is not understanding. Jesus continues answering and teaching, but the gospel transitions on and we do not hear much more about Nicodemus.

In 7:50 there is another mention of Nicodemus, and ironically, he is asking a question there too. Then we don’t hear anymore about Nicodemus until the end of John.

In John 19:39, the ending of John’s gospel,  we find Joseph of Arimathea taking the dead body of Jesus after the cross to give him a honorable burial. And with a striking surprise Nicodemus is the one who is there to assist Joseph take care of the body of Jesus in preparation for burial. Wow!

The Pharisee of John chapter 3 who comes to Jesus with lots of questions looks like a disciple in John chapter 19 who now has some answers.

His questions were about getting right with God and having eternal life. The answers to those questions are found in Jesus and his death on the cross.

If we are looking for answers, lets be sure to ask questions. Questions Lead to Answers!