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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Complex Creativity

Pitcher Plant

Complex Creativity

By Patricia Knight

All our enemies have gloated over us;
panic and pitfall have come upon us…
—Lamentations 3:46-47

 Lest we fail to recognize that all of God’s creations are spectacular, consider the amazing complexity of the pitcher plant.  It is so named to reflect the modified leaves rolled to resemble a receptacle such as a pitcher. Indigenous to marshy forests of the American continent, the pitcher plant is carnivorous, possessing a mechanism called a pitfall trap. The trap is a deep pit filled with digestive fluid. Insects are attracted to the plant’s cavity by visual lures or by its sweet-smelling nectar. The rim of the pitcher plant is wet and slippery, causing prey to fall into the trap. The one-way insidious pit is aided by downward growing hairs, waxy scales, or guard cells on the interior of the plant to ensure prey have no means of escape. Liquid inside the pitcher plant drowns and dissolves the insects, converting them into nutrients and minerals.

How many pitcher plants have we encountered in our personal lives? Disappointment, disillusionment, and discouragement are all capable of entrapping us. If we aren’t diligent, those same lures are capable of engulfing us with negative attitudes that, over time, drown our hope and dissolve our faith, leaving us no escape from danger or strife.

Satan is a spiritual pitcher plant. Like the insects that are attracted by fragrance and color, Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), though in reality he is the prince of evil and darkness. Satan isn’t the red-horned monster wielding a pitchfork as frequently depicted in cartoons. However, he always appears as something pleasing and captivating, making temptation attractive and irresistible. If Satan were to visibly appear to us, he would be stunningly beautiful and charming.

It is Satan’s purpose to rob us of joy and fellowship with our heavenly Father. He exploits God’s gifts to us by misrepresenting them. Reflect on his cunning methods of manipulating Eve in the Garden of Eden, misquoting God’s words to suit his purposes.

Satan is the epitome of sin and darkness. He is evil to the core, not possessing one good intention. The only way we are able to protect ourselves from his evil intrusion into our lives is to surround ourselves internally and externally with the overpowering love of God.

Don’t be a victim to Satan’s manipulative gimmicks. Claim the victory Almighty God offers:

James4-7-8--AMP

“Submit yourselves, then to God.
Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7-8).

God is a gentleman; He never cajoles or begs. He waits patiently for us to call upon His name. Immediately our Lord responds with forgiveness of any wrongdoing and surrounds us with His love and grace. We need only accept His free gift of salvation as He releases our bondage of sin.

The devil is the enemy of every believer. Each Christian is engaged in spiritual warfare against Satan and his minions. Our Lord doesn’t expect us to fight against Satan, for our strength is inadequate, but God’s power is undefeatable. We are urged to stand firmly as our Lord defends us. “Be prepared. You’re up against more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon” (Ephesians 6:15-17, The Message).

In spiritual battles, God has provided two weapons for our defense: the Word of God and prayer with God. Jesus quoted the living Word of God as His defense against Satan’s methods when He was tempted in the wilderness. The Word of God is also referred to as the sword of the Spirit. “His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what” (Hebrews 4:12-13, The Message).

As we immerse our thoughts in the Word of God, He guides our actions. God opens our hearts to understanding, knowledge, and wisdom. His Word is filled with assurances of love and grace, which He delights in lavishing upon us. When we spend quality time in sincere, secret prayer, Jesus intercedes for us to the heavenly Father.

Our second weapon of defense against Satan is prayer. If on earth we desire to know people more fully, we spend time communicating with them. The same holds true with God. Not only do we talk, but we also listen, as God directs us into His paths of righteousness.

Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice as the perfect Lamb when He offered His one holy life to redeem the sins of those who believe in Him. Due to Christ’s grace, God now looks at us through Jesus’ righteousness. We still face temptation, as Jesus did when He walked this earth. But temptation only leads to sin when we yield to Satan’s lures.

The consequence of slipping away from God’s care is that Satan allures us with his devious, nefarious purposes. Like the pitcher plant, Satan’s methods are slippery. Before we realize it, we have succumbed to his wily ways, drowning in bitterness and anger, dissolved in hate, and digested in evil.

“Now that we know what we have—
Jesus, this Great high Priest with ready access to God—
let’s not let it slip through our fingers.
We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.
He’s been through weakness and testing,
experienced it all—all but the sin.
So let’s walk right up to him
and get what he is so ready to give.
Take the mercy, accept the help”
(Hebrews 4:14-16, The Message).

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

Ps19-1--WoodrowKrollQuote--AMP

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the works of His hands.
—Psalm 19:1

No matter how hard Satan tries,
he cannot dim the glory of Jesus.
People may close their eyes or turn their backs,
but neither of those actions
reduces Jesus’ divine nature.
—Woodrow Kroll

 

Ministering to the Gay Community

This article was published in 1998 at TRC (The Relevant Christian Magazine). That was before I started writing for TRC, so I read it for the first time yesterday when the publisher shared it on Facebook. Please read this with an open mind and heart, and feel free to reblog and share it. As followers of Jesus Christ we must ask ourselves, Did Jesus come for all humanity or just for those we believe are worth saving? If the church is to be the Church that Christ called it to be, it will need to learn many of the same lessons that God has taught families impacted by homosexuality. In 1998 when I heard the words “Mom, I Am Gay” come out of my son’s mouth they were anything but welcome. I desperately wanted to rewind the tape and put them back. I reasoned that if the words could go back our lives would not have to change forever. I asked God a thousand questions, like: How can this happen? How can you sentence my son to death, if he didn’t choose these attractions? Who in the church can help me sort this all out? Where can I go for help? Who will understand what I am going through? After the barrage of questions without answers flooded my mind, the protective maternal side kicked in accompanied by an assortment of what-ifs. Perhaps someone would try to physically hurt my son (a not so gay friendly society in 1998). Maybe my parents and/or his father would reject him if they found out. Would people begin to see my son through the lens of his attractions instead of who God made him to be? I didn’t want any of the what-ifs to play out, but I feared they would. Deeply embedded in the Christian community, I watched and waited for responses from Christians when the topic of homosexuality came up. The subject took on a different and more personal meaning than it had in the past. What I witnessed were the crude jokes being made about homosexuals and words that dripped with judgement and disdain. I secretly thanked God for helping me stay silent about my son’s homosexuality. I could clearly see that the Church was not a safe community when it came to this issue. The ache of my heart would not be comforted there. After five long years of hiding, God brought my secret out of the dark. I discovered that I could never be free by concealing my pain. God wanted to fully heal me and that can only be done out in the open when exposed to His light. Satan had hoped to keep my pain hidden and unhealed. Read the rest here. BlogSL2-smallest

What We Believe-Part 5

Believe in God

Our church is currently going through a sermon series on what we believe, which is a good reminder for all of us. This is the outline from the first sermon in this series, very basic—sometimes it is good to get back to the basics! Since it is quite long because I decided to fully quote the referenced Scripture passages, I will post a portion of it each day for 7 days. Today’s post is #5 of 7. You can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here , Part 3 here and Part 4 here.

I have chosen to repeat the heading portion on each of the 7 posts for your remembering pleasure.

What We Believe: A Doctrinal Primer

The need for sound doctrine –

Proverbs 1:7—“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

2 Timothy 1:13—“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.”

Titus 2:1—“You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.”

Colossians 2:4—”I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.”

Humanity: We believe that God created Humanity but they fell into sin. We believe that those who trust in Jesus alone are restored to God.

Genesis 1.31

Genesis 1:26-31—“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.”

Adam-Eve

Genesis 3:1-14—“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.””

Rom3-23

Romans 3:10-26—“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.

All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

“Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.”

“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”

“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Beloved, tune in tomorrow for Part 6—Church: We believe in the Church, the body of believers in Christ whose goal is to make disciples.

AnnaSmile