Sympathy in Our Weaknesses: Surviving Temptation

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“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

(Hebrews 4:15)

Dear Readers, Beloved of God,

Greetings and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! I pray all is going well with you and that you continue to experience the abundant blessings of God.

In this article, I will share on a subject that I believe is often overlooked in the basic teachings of Christianity. Because of this oversight, Christian’s are often left to “fend” for themselves, thus the flock scattered and seemingly left without hope or answers. This is tragic because the end result is often discouragement heaped with a healthy dose of condemnation.

The subject I refer to is “temptation” and believe it or not, it is not a dirty word. Every child of God faces, and will face, temptation numerous times while upon this earth. It is of utmost importance that believers understand that temptation in and of itself is not sin! What we do with the temptation we face determines it becoming sin or not. All temptation, regardless of form or how it is received, comes from the enemy! God never tempts anyone with evil!

Our enemy knows well the weaknesses of humankind! He is not referred to as the “most subtle” without good reason. Like any good shoulder going into battle, knowledge of the strategies of your enemy gives great advantage. Through the scriptures the Lord has prepared the Christian soldier for warfare.

First of all, the enemy always cheats, and will attack by appealing to the desires of human nature! These desires include appealing to our love of beautiful things, pride, and hunger. We can call these areas of attack, “the lust of the flesh”, “the lust of the eyes,” and “the pride of life”. (I John 2:16) Every temptation that comes at us will appeal to one or all three! In the Garden of Eden, Eve was tempted with all three and so was Jesus during His period of temptation in the wilderness! This brings me to the main point, the temptation of Jesus and how that relates to us.

Our enemy holds no punches and will attack from all directions. Sometimes multiple directions in one assault! He tempted Jesus from multiple directions! We find the account concerning the three ways Jesus was tempted in Matthew chapter four (4). The serpent of old hurled three vicious temptations at Jesus: “command these stones to turn to bread”, appealed to His hunger; “throw yourself down”, appealed to His pride, and “all these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me”, appealed to His like of beautiful things, all three fall under the desires of human nature, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Now, we have learned the strategy employed by our enemy in assaulting us, but what about our counterattack and weapons of war? Let us go back to Matthew chapter four (4) and see how Jesus handled the situation. In corresponding order, let’s listen to Jesus’ reply to each assault: “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”; You shall not tempt the Lord your God,” and “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve”. Alas! Jesus used His Sword, the Word of God, to counterattack the enemy! What was the end result? “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him”.

Temptation is a serious matter and can bring great distress to the believer. The attacks are often very intense and always strike at our most venerable weaknesses. That said; we are not left orphaned without the care of our Shepherd. It brings us great comfort to know that “we have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses, was in all points tempted as we are, yet remained without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Of equal comfort are the words of the Lord in I Corinthians 10:12-13: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” This scripture does not indicate that God is the tempter, satan is, and God will not allow him to go beyond what we are able to withstand.

Beloved, God, in His mercies, has taught us the strategy of attack employed by our enemy, as well as, the weapon we use to overcome him. Remember, temptation of itself is not sin; it is how we respond that births sin. I pray that in our time of temptations, we use them as a means to strengthen our Lord’s overcoming power in us, and not allow them to merely be the exposure of our weaknesses. We are engaged in the battle, but the enemy has already lost the war! Beloved, “fight the good fight of faith”!

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Free Will: Blessing or Curse?

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Dear Readers, Beloved of God,

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! Freedom is a peculiar word that means something different to each and every person on the planet. In the United States freedom is more or less based on constitutional law depending on the specific interpreter of the law at any given moment. Another term with equally differing opinions is “democratic society”. Although constitutional law outlines a citizens (U.S.) freedoms and liberties, they are still subject to one’s interpretation and application of the law.

In other countries freedom is unheard of and the citizens are subjected to a dictatorship. A “democratic society” is often a farfetched dream and can only be realized by relocating to a free society, and calling it home. As with most things, as pertains to life on planet earth, there are positives and negatives to contend with. A major negative in a democratic society is that often a certain “freedom” is surrounded by a certain moral ethic. One group is opposed and another group is accepting. This causes major divisions in free society that seem to somehow branch off into other smaller sub-divisions of conflict. I suppose this is the equivalent of starting several small fires until you have one huge out of control fire. We should be able to agree, that freedom and free will, are not problem free! Free will is both a blessing and a curse! In its purest form it is a love gift from God. Exercised wrongfully and it can become a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of Satan!

I have laid this small foundation concerning freedom, as freedom and free will go hand in hand. To exercise your freedom is to exercise your free will. We, as humankind, have the capacity to choose to rightfully or wrongfully exercise its use.

I believe we can all agree that we are free moral agents possessing the ability to make our own choices and decisions concerning any matter we may be confronted with. Agreed, but where do we follow the roots of our free will? Contrary to what many governments would teach us, our free will was instituted and given to us by God Himself. Although scripture doesn’t state this verbatim, it is implied, as I will show you.

Let’s journey back to the Book of Genesis into the first few chapters. These chapters teach us of the creation of the heavens, earth, and mankind. Now, let us consider Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God spoke to Adam saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” God then created Eve out of Adam and she became his wife, and the two became one flesh. Therefore, as one flesh, what one chose affected the other and vice versa.

I do not know how long Adam and Eve had occupied the Garden of Eden prior to the appearing of the serpent, but he did appear on the scene and approached Eve. The serpent asked Eve if God indeed said “you shall not eat of every tree of the garden”. Listen to her reply: “And the woman said to the serpent, we may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, you shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.” The serpent sealed the deal of deception by telling Eve that they would not die, and that God knew that if they ate of that tree, they would be like God, and have knowledge of good and evil.

The case for free will is hereby established: If Adam and Eve did not have free will then there would not have been any reason for God to tell them what trees they could and could not eat of. Furthermore, through deceptive tactics, the serpent presented Adam and Eve with the choice to exercise their free will and eat of the forbidden fruit. Also, Eve acknowledged to the serpent that God had told them not to eat of that particular tree. Our free will and freedom to choose originated in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve! As a result of their disobedience, Adam and Eve became aware that they had the ability to exercise their free will for good or bad. The choice they made, opened wide for us all, the knowledge of good and evil, along with the ability to exercise our free will, rightfully or wrongfully! God gave man free will, and I believe that before the “fall” Adam and Eve knew it a pleasure and something easy to do, in obeying the commands of God. Furthermore, if man was not a free moral agent, would God encourage us to choose His will?

So, Adam and Eve, influenced by Satan’s deception, chose to eat the forbidden fruit and their eyes were opened to good and evil.  The first thing they noticed was their nakedness! This should be interpreted in the literal sense, but let’s spiritualize it just a bit. I believe that not only did Adam and Eve realize their physical nakedness; they also came to a realization of their inward nakedness. They also had an epiphany of the inward man (woman) without the presence and Spirit of God. This new ability to choose wrong was overwhelming to them! Up to this point, they naturally chose right, as they just trusted and obeyed God at His Word!

What Adam and Eve do next is the fuel on the fire! They heard the voice of God in the garden and they hid from Him. God called out to Adam asking where He was, not because He didn’t know, but because He knew that Adam had sinned. Adam answered by telling God that He had heard Him and hid because of their nakedness. God in turn asked if they had eaten from the tree He had commanded them to avoid. Now, the “blame game” begins. Adam blames Eve and in a sense God and Eve blames the serpent. Adam and Eve tried to side-step their disobedience, refused to hold themselves responsible and accountable, and attempted to pass the blame forward. In the end God punished all three, Adam, Eve, and the serpent. He held each accountable for their individual actions.

The disobedience of our ancestors has had catastrophic results on humanity throughout generations past, and will continue through those to come. We have seen how humanity inherited the inability to “always” do what is right. Every one of us at one time or another has blamed someone else for our own actions.  Free will started out as a complete blessing, but as a result of the fall of mankind, it has been intermingled with curse. Now, we have what I call “hybrid” free will. Just as gold is not pure before going into the furnace! Think about this, we do not have to teach a child to be selfish and misbehave; we have to teach them to respect others and to behave. The point is that this side of mankind is what comes natural and effort has to be exerted to do differently.

In society today, it seems that accountability and responsibility are fashions of the past. The “blame game” is one of the most used tools for selfishness and the lacking of holding oneself personally accountable. We tend to blame the bad things in life on our parents, grandparents, children, employers, employees, government, police, and who or whatever else we can think of. The most hideous of blame casting is when we throw it at God! Have we forgotten that He is our creator and if He chose to, could wipe all humanity out with one stroke? We are His and He can do with us as He desires. The truth is that He means us no harm, but somehow we still find reasons to blame Him. Maybe finding reasons to “blame” Him is just another way to try and reject Him?

In the United States, and in most states throughout the country, criminal law recognizes misdemeanors, felonies, and capital felonies. This means that misdemeanors are the lowest form of crime and capital felonies are the highest. As we see, man has determined that some crimes are petty and others are heinous. How does God view the law and our behavior? Sin is sin is sin! There are no differences in the eyes of God! A crime of murder is the same as petty theft, and is the same as not doing what we know to do. God tells us in His Word that the lack of belief is sin. Now, is that a misdemeanor or felony? Neither, it is the same as murder!

Another fascinating fact concerning our free will is that God will not revoke it or interfere with our exercising it. It is a gift from Him and the “gifts and callings of God or without repentance. Now, if we have received Jesus, and are considered a child of God, then through His Holy Spirit He will encourage us to do right and guide us in making the right decisions, but will never force us. Our free will is just that, free! Every one of us is responsible and accountable for our own actions and decisions. We have no right, it is never proper, and is always sinful to blame God!

We must all understand that here on earth bad things will happen, evil will exist, and people will make senseless, neglectful, and even evil choices. Jesus never promised any of us an easy ride. In fact, He told us that “through much tribulation we will enter the kingdom of heaven”. Why? Because man has free will, God is just, and therefore He cannot revoke free will or it would make Him unjust and a breaker of His own law!

In this world there has been much tragedy since the beginning of time. There has been domestic and international wars, religious persecution, bombings, shootings, catastrophes, mass destructions, mass taking of lives, and terrorism to name a few. All nations and people of the world have been victims and none are immune. But, beloved, I must be truthful and tell you that God is not the blame for any of this! Mankind, corporately and individually, are the responsible parties! Often, when tragedy strikes, and no answers are found, God is blamed and a torrent of questions rush forth; “Why did God allow it”, and “Why didn’t God stop it” among many others. I can’t tell you the answer to either question, but I do know that a reason exists in heaven and God knows what it is. I can also assure that He is not to blame.

The next time evil and tragedy strike, take a moment to think before you raise a clinched fist to heaven and blame God. He has promised “good to those who love Him” and that He will take the bad in our life and use it for our good. You can find this promise in the Book of Romans chapter 8 verse 28. God cannot be our Savior, Deliverer, and oppressor at the same time.

As we should have been taught, and hopefully have taught our children, there are consequences to our actions. Sometimes these consequences are serious and effect many lives. One single incident can have devastating consequences upon the whole of humanity! As we learn not to blame God and to turn to Him instead, let us remember these small and simple definitions: “Obedience” is rightfully exercising our free will and “Disobedience” is wrongfully exercising our free will. Free will can be a blessing or a curse depending on how we choose to exercise it! I pray the God of peace to protect and keep evil far from you, In Jesus name, ~Amen.

The Love Trigger: God or Emotionalism?

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Dear Readers, Beloved of God,

I am compelled to write this article in light of the tragedy in Boston Massachusetts, United States. Not because I feel I must “weigh in” with my opinion or to add to the ever present rhetoric that has already flooded main stream media and social networks. I write because I have made some observations that caused me to “think” before the Lord.

The tragic event that took place in Boston yesterday caused me to reflect on violence, hatred, and calamity globally. I must admit that only in the last twenty or so years has the United States been plagued with large scale violence and attack. Sadly, it is not only from those that hate America internationally, but also from those within our country. Yes, sadly, we are domestically attacking and killing each other including our children! Evil has no boundaries and Satan has no conscience!

I am in remembrance of the civil wars that have been fought across the world, Syria to name a current one. I am reminded that Israel receives rocket fire daily, religious and political wars are being fought all across the globe. And, to add fuel to the already uncontrolled burning, we too, in America, add to the senseless and shameful taking of innocent life. These horrendous crimes range from petty theft to a demonically deranged maniac walking into an elementary school and murdering innocent school children. The victims themselves barely potty trained. And we ask why? Some look to heaven and curse God! Others are not even fazed, or use tragedy as an opportunity to promote political propaganda and “campaigning” tasks. And still others see tragedy as an opportunity to mass market violence and tragedy to make fortunes selling t-shirts, souvenirs, and the making movies, which we have the audacity to call entertainment and free enterprise.

The filth and disgusting messages that pours from our main stream media and so called Hollywood heroes has only served to numb us to the tragic realities of our world. Hate and violence are very real problems on a global level and sadly enough there is only one solution, the return of Jesus Christ. Not sad because of the return of Jesus, but sad because mankind has set itself on a course of self-destruction and depravity.

Right now, at this very hour, I offer the cry of my heart before Almighty God and all who read this, and shout wake up world, including America, rise from your slumber and realize your need of a Savior! Not only for our sins individually, also for our sins corporately. None, not even one, are exempt from the need of a Savior. Each and every person on the planet has free will and is free to exercise it as they see fit within the laws of their particular lands. People of the world, you have a choice to make; turn aside my words with a deaf ear laughing me off as a “religious nut”, or heed my words of your need for a Savior and ask Him into your life. In the days of Noah the floods came and the people were living life as usual. We are no different across this world today.

This brings me to my point in writing. Have you ever noticed that when tragedy strikes it brings out love and compassion for each other, even if it is only short lived? Is it, that only tragedy is the trigger of brotherly love? Have we allowed the evil of this world to be the only thing that triggers our love and goodwill toward our fellow men and women? Have we reduced the worth of human life to only expressing love in tragic events? I for one am worn out, with rhetorical comments like “America is resilient”, “United we stand”, and “those responsible will feel the weight of justice”! What political nonsense! Is there really justice for such hate, evil, violence, cruelty, and senseless murdering? Do we really stand united? We fight and disagree violently over various political parties! Is this justice? I think not! Only forgiveness, as given and obtained through the love of God can bring peace and justice! The time has come when the people of the world should listen to the voice of God and not the voices of political leaders and governments concerning the things pertaining to God! “Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God”!

The time has come, when we as a people globally, should exercise this brotherly love and compassion toward humanity always, not only during tragedy, and the truth of the matter, this can only be accomplished in the power of the love offered through Jesus! Don’t misunderstand me! I am all for love, kindness and compassion throughout the world, but we need the “here stay” love and not the “whimsical” kind that seems to come and go upon the clock of tragedy. We need an abiding love, and that is only found in Jesus! When the smoke clears and the tragic events are entered into the history books, we tend to revert back to self-love. This is because although heartfelt, the love we had at “the moment of crisis” played more on our emotions, and as soon as the “high” of emotions wore off, we were no longer emotionally supercharged, and went back to living life for ourselves. We must realize that although love is emotional, it is also a choice that must be exercised or it dies!

I write this article fully aware that “world love and peace” is only an unfulfilled dream that cannot be had through mere human effort. It will only be accomplished when Jesus takes the throne in His Kingdom on the earth. So why write such articles and make such brash statement? Simply because I know, that lives are changed one heart at a time, and as a result, one changed heart and life will breed another changed heart, and so on down the line. With every person we have contact, an impression is given and a difference made in their life for the positive or negative. It is possible to love without Jesus but it is not abiding and with the guarantee of eternity. We must choose to live life daily in the love we find through tragedy and we must have Jesus to make this choice, one of abiding love. So, what is your love trigger, God or emotions alone?

Some will read this article and scoff over offering Jesus as a solution to all problems, and others will take issue with what has been stated. But honestly, if this article causes one soul to rethink their spiritual state and receive Jesus, the abiding love, then the “hate mail” will be well worth it. My heart then, has helped another heart change, and that heart will find another heart in need, and so goes the process of spreading the “love bug”. Truthfully, I believe the expressions of love we see through tragedy, is God’s response and love, through people. Some just don’t realize that God is not just using them to reach out to another, but reaching out to them also. The scriptures reveal that “God is love” and His love must come full circle.

Father God; open our hearts to this abiding love, and let our loving response to tragedy be our response to our fellow men and women daily, in times of quiet, peace, or unrest. And thank you Father for not loving us as you do, out of emotions, because if that were the case, we could not be loved at all. ~Amen