Perfection and Deception

God placed Adam and Eve in a luxurious garden He planted in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. The Garden of Eden was self-supporting; fruit-bearing trees were abundant, four rivers ran through it, and nourishing plants yielded plentiful food. Rain never fell; irrigation occurred by gentle mists rising out of the ground. No pests invaded green growth; everything was pristine and pure. Such exquisite beauty and flourishing abundance would overwhelm us with its magnificence, but to the first inhabitants, it was simply home, the only residence they had ever known.

The people who walked in the exquisite environment of the garden, who bathed in the clear, cool rivers, and who communicated constantly with their Creator, enjoyed freedom and protection in the fertile, life-sustaining garden. There were no flaws in their lives or surroundings. They were created in an untarnished, sin-free world.

Now, the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). Satan questioned Eve about God’s authenticity and the accuracy of His specific directions regarding the one tree from which they were instructed they should not eat. Satan was baiting Eve. She informed him of what he already knew: God told them they must not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden or they would die (Genesis 3:2-3).

Satan temped Eve to gaze at the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The fruit may have suddenly acquired a tantalizing appeal to Eve. Neither person had been previously exposed to the tree, for it was forbidden to them. If any of us devote time where we do not belong, view or read that which is harmful, we too, begin to see beauty or advantage in the detrimental. We often defend our thoughts and actions by the world’s standard: the end justifies the means. God’s principles are defended by Jesus’ criteria: “Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).

Though temptation constantly swirls about, God commands us to watch and pray, to show discernment with our choices, and to use Jesus as our standard. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1). For a moment Adam and Eve were overcome with opportunity and greed. Greed is not need; rather, it expresses selfish longing.

During Jesus’ forty-day temptation in the wilderness, the devil offered Him the opportunity to circumvent His original purpose for coming to earth in exchange for food, material riches, and power (Matthew 4:1-11). Satan’s ultimate goal was to convince Jesus to bow down to worship him instead of His heavenly Father, offering Jesus immediate gratification with physical, psychological, and spiritual rewards, tempting Him to by-pass death for mankind on the cross. Jesus is sinless, with characteristics of purity and holiness, so He couldn’t yield to Satan’s wily ways. Jesus refused all of Satan’s clever tricks, quoting Old Testament Scripture as a retort to each of Satan’s enticements.

It was imperative for Christ to experience temptation as a man to know how we feel, the amount of courage needed to resist, and the necessity of claiming God’s power to send Satan away in utter defeat. Jesus was tested during His weakest physical state of hunger and sleeplessness to prove that we serve a sinless Savior on whom we can depend when we are seduced by Satan and his cohorts. Jesus’ trials covered the entire spectrum of human temptations as He experienced personally the devastating damage Satan’s demonic powers wield over humanity. Now Jesus’ victory is the ideal example for all believers to follow. Human effort is inadequate, but God’s power is invincible.

Because Christ was successful in rejecting the temptation of the devil by immersing Himself in prayer, His example instructs us to become so familiar and intimate with our Lord that when we are enticed by demons, our reaction is to Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8, NASB). God then acts as our barrier for the destructive influence of Satan. Jesus is the pure, holy Son of God who teaches us by example that men live “on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3b).

We are privileged that God desires to communicate and fellowship with us! The Word of God and prayer are powerful deterrents for evil. Ask “God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way (Colossians 1:9-10a). Praying throughout each day prepares us with strength to resist temptation, answers to repeal Satan’s charm, and wisdom to claim God’s strength as our own. With such protection, we possess the ability to recognize and resist the demons who aim to separate us from God.

The professional tempter is intimately familiar with the tools of his deceptive trade. Demons major in confusion and chaos. As Christians, our emphasis is shining Christ’s light into darkness to reveal the tempter at his schemes. “For he {God} has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). As we saturate our lives with prayer, we give glory to the Light of the World.

While Jesus prayed alone in Gethsemane prior to His crucifixion, He commanded His sleepy disciples to remain on guard with Him against evil forces. “ ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak’ ” (Matthew 26:41). Because Jesus was tempted as we are and resisted, He is now our advocate in heaven, pleading continually to the Father for our benefit.

Christians are engaged in spiritual battles against Satan and his demons, but God has not left us defenseless. Our most dangerous enemies in this world are invisible, not to be fought with brute force, but with the unique spiritual equipment which God supplies: truth, faith, peace, and righteousness (Ephesians 6:4-16). Jesus, who crushed Satan on the cross, has provided us with prayer, our greatest military arsenal for life’s battles.

Though our trials are often intense, we are endowed with the spiritual weapons God designed. Be prepared with a life of determined conflict through prayer and knowledge of Scripture, equipped to deflect Satan’s fiery arrows, just as Jesus did.

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When Hope Seems to Run Out

Sharing from SetApart.net.

When Hope Seems to Run Out

By Sarah Walton

God is still a God of miracles. Though it may look different than when Jesus walked the earth, we still hear of God’s divine intervention all around us – tumors that miraculously disappear, a hardened criminal surrenders their life to Christ and has a powerful ministry to the unsaved, an unborn child who’s been declared “unfit for life” is born perfectly healthy, and hard to reach cultures are coming to Christ through divine intervention.

Yes, God still reveals His power and supremacy through these miraculous acts. However, it’s likely that many of us haven’t experienced a life-altering miracle in our own lives (other than the miraculous regeneration of our hearts). Although there are times that we can clearly see evidence of God at work in our lives, there are also seasons when it seems as though prayers are being answered in everyone’s lives but ours.

Read the rest here.

Pain’s Absence vs Pain’s Potency

PainsAbsence-PainsPotency

Scripture reminds us that God’s presence does not equal
pain’s absence.
However, because of God’s presence,
pain’s potency
is limited.
Difficult times may certainly lead to dark days,
but dark days need not mean defeat.
Ask God to give you strength to call on Him,
even in the darkest moments of life.

Begin this day crying out to the Lord.
Wait expectantly for His answer and trust His presence.

—Paul Purvis, First Baptist Church Temple Terrace
Temple Terrace, FL

Magnificence from Insignificance

Magnificence from Insignificance

By Patricia Knight

In the early history of mankind, for decades God’s people followed a predictable pattern of disobedience, prompting God to allow their enemies to conquer and enslave them as punishment for their sin. When the people could tolerate servitude no longer, they cried out to God in repentance. God was merciful and raised up judges to deliver them from exile and to lead them back into fellowship with Him. Peace was enjoyed for a time until the people once again adopted the pagan methods of worship. Then the cycle revived and revolved as before.

The judges God selected from among the Israelites had no specific knowledge or talent, but God was aware of their potential.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.
Man looks at the outward appearances,
but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

The Lord focuses on a person’s character and desire to submit to His will and instructions.

God called the lowly rather than the mighty to do His work. God used Ehud, the second judge, to deliver peace to Israel. Left-handed and courageous, Ehud was qualified for the gruesome task of killing Eglon, the enemy Moabite king. Because most people of his day were right hand dominant, only Ehud’s right side was searched for a weapon before he entered the king’s quarters. “Ehud made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing” (Judges 3:16). From there he wielded it to kill the king, ensuring peace in Israel for the next eighty years.

Israel had no iron weapons, but for Shamgar, the third judge, an ox goad was the tool of his trade. A crude instrument used for prodding draft animals, it was a long wooden rod, sometimes fashioned with a metal tip. The ox goad doubled as a weapon of war that Shamgar used to kill 600 Philistines who had been terrorizing their main route of travel (Judges 3:31). Shamgar learned that whatever you have, no matter how humble, God will use it for His glory.

Judge Gideon was commissioned to save Israel from the Midianites. As leader of a group of quiet, persistent marchers, Gideon signaled them to blow trumpets and break pitchers at the precise time appointed by God, demolishing the walls of the city of Jericho. The enemy was pursued and subdued by the Israelis, securing peace for forty years.

When God first called Gideon, he was weak, frightened, and timid. Before Gideon could serve, God had to strengthen his wobbly knees and his cowardly heart. It proved to be a long, arduous process. God was patient, always supplying the man He chose with His Spirit of power. Weak vessels are the only kind He will use, not wanting man to boast of his own accomplishments, only those that glorify God.

After judges ruled Israel, the people begged God for a king like those who ruled their neighboring countries. Saul, their first king, had a humble beginning as a donkey wrangler. The people chose Saul based  entirely on his physical attributes. Saul was not God’s choice, but because the people were insistent, God allowed them to learn a difficult lesson. “God changed Saul’s heart; the Spirit of God came upon him in power” (1 Samuel 10:9, 10b). God was patient and instructive with Saul, giving him every opportunity to succeed, but Saul didn’t give himself wholeheartedly to God or to the people’s interests. His monarchy was punctuated with pride, selfishness, personal ambition, disobedience, and jealousy. David eventually replaced Saul as king. Contrast Saul’s performance with that of David, God’s choice for king. David’s heart openly communicated and worshipped his heavenly Father. He was fervent about serving God and his people, whereas King Saul was self-serving.

God typically chose little men in character; mediocre, and feckless, to do His work—to lead and to achieve. They had no obvious talents and often possessed glaring faults, sometimes the very reason God chose them: Moses escaped after murdering an Egyptian; Jesus’ disciple, Matthew, was a despised tax collector; the Apostle Paul sincerely believed he should annihilate all Christians; and Peter, Christ’s disciple, denied knowing his Master on three consecutive occasions. God uses common people to do uncommon jobs; ordinary folk to perform extraordinary feats. He converts His weak children to towers of strength to promote His important tasks, all of them through the Spirit’s power and direction. The weakest and the most unprepared were believers God could mold and make from a previously inadequate person into a useable instrument for His glory. “Does the Potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay something for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Romans 9:21).

Is God using you to your full potential to accomplish His work? If your heart is open to His love and responsive to His leadership, there is no end to the magnificence He will create in your life. You may never be recognized as a person of importance, but God knows that your heart is responsive and prioritizes obedience to Him. “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the Potter. We are all the work of your hands” (Isaiah 64:8). No one who yields to the molding of God remains commonplace. Our Lord only deals in the extravagant and the splendid, lavishing believers with unique abilities to accomplish His sovereign work. “But each man has his own gift from God” (1 Corinthians 7:7).The more we submit to His will, the greater power with which He equips us.

Believers, exercising their own efforts, are unable to achieve anything for Christ. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit within us, who provides the strength and grace to please God and makes our lives count for Him. “The Lord… has filled you with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills” (Exodus 35:30-32).

As a believer, would you be eager and available to respond when God has a job to be done? To be hand-picked for a unique task, as the judges and kings were in ages past, identifies us as outstanding in our faithfulness toward God today. God delights in His servants and endows each one with spiritual gifts. God peers into your heart, looking for your willingness to serve, obey, and submit to his will. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

Let us offer ourselves unreservedly as instruments for God’s work. Mortals cannot submit to the immortal without a major transformation occurring. Insignificance will give way to magnificence under God’s direction!

My Shelter

Ps73-SovereignLord-Pier--AMP

My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
He is mine forever.
But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter,
and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do. 
—Psalm 73:22-26, 28

Holding on to Sustaining #Hope

This is an excellent post about HOPE from the True Woman blog at Revive Our Hearts, and not just because Ava Pennington and I both chose HOPE for our 2017 theme. I’ve been going through a time of multiple physical trials, so I truly appreciate what she wrote. I think it is an encouragement for all of us, no matter what we’re going through.

Holding on to Sustaining Hope

By Ava Pennington

The new year is nearly half over. And the first five months of 2017 were not at all what I expected.

But God knew. And He gave me a clue back in December.

For the past several years, I’ve enjoyed the practice of selecting “one word” for the new year. A word to apply to every area of my life. A word to help me focus on how I believed God wants me to grow and respond to my circumstances.

Joy became my word for 2016. Also a surprise word, but once again, I could see God at work. While joy might not seem to be related to release, I quickly learned ways it complemented and built on the lessons of the previous year. I learned to take joy in present moments even as I released the illusion of control.

I became aware of my one word for 2017 in early December. Like the others, it was not included on my original list of considerations. Still, hope kept coming to mind. And it confused me.

I could see reasons for the words release and joy. But would I really need to focus on hope as a daily activity? Hmmm, since I teach and write, perhaps this was an indication that the Lord would use me to encourage hope in others. To be a vehicle of hope for those struggling against despair.

Read the rest here.

My #Glory

My Glory

But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me;
my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.
—Psalm 3:3

That God is “glory”—or “excellence”—beyond our understanding, none can deny. But do our hearts look up to Him today in humble, earnest worship, and know the truth, and speak the truth—”Thou are MY GLORY“? Our safety lies in the fact that He possesses us. Our deepest, holiest joy comes only when we humbly say in the hour of secret worship: “Thou art mine.” Oh, Lord my Glory, be Thou my shield this day. Amen.

The Lifter Up of Mine Head

Oh, Thou who hast given
Thy glory to me,

Anoint my blind eyes

Till Thy glory I see.

Lift up my bowed head,

Be my shield and my light,
Till Thy radiant glory
Shall banish my night.

[Taken from Wonderful Names of Our Wonderful Lord, by Charles E. Hurlburt and T. C. Horton. Copyright © 2002 by Barbour Publishing, Inc.]

My thoughts

I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for You alone, O LORD,
make we dwell in safety.
—Psalm 4:8

According to Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Psalm 3 has been called a “morning psalm:” in other words, a good psalm with which to start the day.

He calls Psalm 4 “an evening prayer.”

I love the way Dr. McGee puts it: “In spite of all the problems and troubles that David had, he trusted in the Lord. He could sleep at night … He simply trusted in the Lord, pillowed his head on the promises of God, and went to sleep.”¹

Imagine! David “pillowed his head on the promises of God, and went to sleep”! I love the visual imagery this conjures up.

A good night’s sleep is something our bodies need in order to regenerate and get ready for the next day. But for many of us, sleep problems dominate our lives. When we don’t get the refreshing and restoring deep sleep we need, we suffer the physical, psychological and emotional effects throughout the next day, and often beyond.

I’ve always been a very light sleeper. I will fall asleep almost immediately, but then wake up at the least bit of sound. After years of sleepless nights, I’ve learned to wear ear plugs. These do a great job of muffling the harsh sounds that jar me awake.  Certain sounds slip through anyway every so often, like the barking of neighbors’ dogs or the annoying beeps of a smoke detector that needs new batteries.

As I begin to fall asleep, there is usually a hymn going through my mind, one of several that I’ve somehow remembered from listening to Scripture songs over the years. I drift off while praising the Lord in my mind and heart and this, plus the silence that surrounds me, usually puts me right to sleep. And I notice that when I wake up during the night to change positions, that same song is still running through my mind.

But then there are the nights when I can’t sleep, no matter what I do or think about. That’s when I need to remind myself—like David did—to pillow my head on the promises of God, letting thoughts of anything else work their way out of my mind. I need to relax and allow Him to comfort and soothe me through any negative or unsettling thoughts, which only work against my desire and need for sleep.

Beloved, no matter how much or how little sleep we get, one thing should be a constant source of comfort to us: that the Lord is always with us while we sleep, keeping us safe in His care. And no matter if our night is sleepless or not, we can still rejoice in each new day and take comfort from the knowledge that the Lord is:

  • OUR SHIELD
  • OUR GLORY
  • THE LIFTER OF OUR HEADS

Now that’s something worth counting on!


¹Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. Copyright © 1982 by Thru the Bible Radio.