Monthly Archives: May 2011

Finding Time for God

One of the greatest challenges for Christians in our busy society is finding quiet time alone with the Lord. More distractions scream for our attention with each passing day. As I started writing this article, I received a Facebook alert as one of my online friends declared his love for his Blackberry. Ten years ago, “blackberry” was a fruit, not a cell phone with gazillions of “apps” to keep one occupied wherever he went. Social networking sites were likewise nonexistent. These days, such technology gives us the illusion of being connected to one another, but at the same time, they create the reality of relational distance from God.

High-tech wireless devices and websites are not the only things demanding our attention like never before. Many companies expect their employees to work in a state of non-stop multitasking, thereby eliminating even the opportunity to pray a silent one-minute petition to God between tasks. Many employees work overtime—sometimes without pay—to accomplish their tasks and keep their jobs. Parents of school-aged children chauffeur them to all sorts of sports-team practices and games, leaving few quiet afternoons or evenings at home. Many churches fill their calendars with so many events that the most committed members find it difficult to set time alone to meet with the Lord. In this article, I will offer some advice to help believers find time for God.

Recognize Prayer as a Priority

In the Gospel of Luke, we read the story of two sisters. Both of them loved Jesus, but he commended the way one showed her love for him over how the other one did so.

“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her'” (Luke 10:38–42, NASB).

How easy it is for Christians to be like Martha! Those who have ministry responsibilities in the church can relate to her. The church tends to glorify the “Marthas” in its midst. It seems as if some Christians measure one another’s spirituality not so much by how much time they spend praying and reading God’s word, but by how busy they are “doing things for the Lord.” Mary had chosen the most important way to relate to Jesus; she was the one who had chosen the “good part.”

The lesson is clear: Prayer and hearing from the Lord (especially study of his word) should take priority over ministry and other activity, no matter how urgent it may seem. If you are not meeting your deadlines, the solution is not neglecting prayer. If you are not able to keep up with your various responsibilities, time with God is not the area where you should make sacrifices. At times like this, the solution is not less prayer, but more prayer. As a matter of fact, if you are active in any ministry, prayer is the most important job you have in the church. Pastors must pray for the members of their congregations. Sunday school teachers must pray for their students. Church musicians should worship God throughout the week, so that it flows naturally during the church service. No matter what role you serve in the church, God calls you to pray. In fact, some of the most effective ministries seek prayer supporters even more zealously than they seek financial donors! That is how important prayer is to them.

Set Aside Time

Jesus in Pray

Jesus in prayer. Image via Wikipedia

Many mature Christians suggest that you should pray at least one hour per day. They cite Matthew 26:40, where Jesus asked his disciples why they could not tarry in prayer with him for one hour, shortly before he was betrayed and arrested. Many will cite the morning as the best time to pray. Personally, I make an effort to get up at 5:30 AM every weekday morning, so that I can spend at least 30 minutes praying before I leave for work. I will usually add one to three more prayer sessions throughout the day. Many great men of God, including Jesus himself, would pray in the morning.

There is no passage in the Bible that gives a strict command to pray first thing in the morning. Quite a few passages testify to the importance of praying in the morning, but many of those passages will mention other times of day for prayer. Perhaps the strongest command specifying when we should pray is First Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray without ceasing.” So, if morning prayers are a fantasy for you, do not lose heart. While many Christians are especially blessed during early-morning prayer, God will honor your prayers whenever you say them.

More important than the exact time is the priority we place on prayer. The biblical principle of first fruits is very helpful when making decisions about any area of spiritual stewardship, whether it be our treasures (money), talents, or time. The principle is known as “first fruits” because, for several Old Testament sacrifices, God commanded the Israelites to bring some of the first crops received during the harvest (Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 18:4). In fact, they were not supposed to eat any of the harvest until they had presented the first fruits as an offering (Leviticus 23:9–14).

Many Christians think the principle of first fruits applies only to their finances. They might say, “First I write my tithe check to the church; then I pay my bills and buy groceries.” However, first fruits is not just a financial budgeting guideline. It is a principle of giving God our highest-quality resources, including our time. Genesis 4:3–4 tells us that “Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” God rejected Cain’s offering but accepted Abel’s. Many Bible teachers claim that God rejected Cain’s offering because it was not a blood sacrifice. They cite Hebrews 9:22, which says that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” However, that would assume that Cain and Abel were offering a sacrifice for sin, which Genesis does not specify. The Old Testament mandated several different kinds of offerings, and some had nothing to do with sin. In several kinds of sacrifices, plants would have been an acceptable offering.

The source of God’s displeasure is more obvious in the Hebrew than it is in many English translations, but if   we look closely, we can still see the major distinction between the sacrifices of Cain and Abel. Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. In other words, he chose the best and healthiest animals he could offer. He gave God the best he could. Cain, however, offered some of the fruits of the soil. Nothing special here: he probably grabbed some stuff at random. Maybe he gave God the things he did not want (like many people who donate to a thrift store or food pantry). Even if he did not give God his junk, he made no real effort to give his best.

When it comes to giving God your time, do you give him your best or just whatever you can find? Do you give God the best of your time, or do you pray whenever you get around to it? If you wait until you have “nothing better to do” before you pray, you will never develop a regular habit of prayer. You will never know the joy and blessedness of an intimate, growing relationship with Christ. There will always be another television show to watch, another ball game, or another gathering with friends that will keep you from praying.

Since first fruits is our best, morning may not necessarily be the ideal time for you to pray. While I am blessed by my morning prayers, sometimes my best times are at night. Over the last year or so, my morning prayer time has evolved into “marching orders from God”; I do not lift up too many of my petitions at that time, but I get my day off on a spiritual angle, and the Lord speaks to me through his Word and his Spirit in a way that sets the tone for my day. Nights, though, can be times for really deep prayer for me. Unhurried prayer, after the day’s duties have been fulfilled, can allow me to spend relaxed time meditating on God’s word, getting to know him better, and devoting ample time to prayer for the needs which burden me most.

What is most important, though, is that you treat your prayer time as a priority. Don’t wait to “find time” for prayer. Make time for prayer, and then guard it as if it matters. If you plan to pray when you get home from work in the evening, don’t sit down and turn on the television. Find your place of prayer and get started.

Several passages, including First Peter 2:2, compare prayer and Bible reading with food. Our souls need spiritual nourishment, just like our bodies do. A good goal would be to seek three spiritual meals per day, just like we eat three meals of food per day. This will reduce the risk of getting “run down” spiritually. The Book of Common Prayer provides prayers for four different times of the day: morning, noon, evening, and “Compline” (bedtime prayers). In addition, it is helpful to set aside “spiritual snack” prayer times: praying or meditating on scripture during times when we are not otherwise mentally preoccupied. Sometimes, I will spend a few minutes with God while driving, or during a coffee break at work, and so on.

Your primary prayer time should be treated with the same urgency you would ascribe to other high-priority aspects of your schedule. Think about it this way: Do you skip work just because your favorite television show is on, or because you would rather go shopping? Probably not. Well then, why should we show more respect to a human boss, than to the Creator and Lord of the entire universe?

Set aside a time and place where you will not be easily distracted. Many people prefer morning prayers because there are fewer distractions in the morning: very rarely will someone call me on the phone at 7:00 AM! A place of prayer is important too. Usually, I like to say my morning prayers in a spare room in my apartment (at one time it was my son’s bedroom, but now that he is grown up and starting a family, it has become my “prayer closet”). Find a place where you can spend some time alone with God, with few distractions.

Come Prepared

Finally, come ready to both talk to and hear from God. I keep a prayer list handy, specifying people and circumstances that I am praying for. I also keep my Day-Timer handy. It provides two purposes. First, I keep a list of Bible readings for each day in it. Second, if I start thinking of things I need to do, I can scribble them down very quickly and move along. Before I started doing that, one of Satan’s most effective distractions was to make me obsess about things I need to do. Now if, during my prayer time, I think of something I need to do, it is usually God’s directive for addressing one of the needs I have prayed about! The power of demonic distraction is gone.

Most importantly, bring your Bible. Prayer is not just a time to tell God what you want. It is a time to ask God what he wants to tell you. Usually, he will speak through his word before he speaks in any other way. Prayer is a dialogue with God, not a monologue with the air.

Conclusion

Most of the guidelines above are really basic principles of time management. Many people allow time to become their master. They surrender to temporal passivity, and allow circumstances to dictate how they spend their time. Good time managers recognize the need to set priorities. You must choose to allocate time for the things that are most important to you. The Bible tells us that a wise disciple of Jesus will “redeem the time,” making the most of it (Ephesians 5:16). This begins by setting aside time to commune with God. Then, you need to allocate time for the important responsibilities of your life. When you manage your time properly, you can enjoy your leisure time with peace of mind, knowing that you have not squandered an irreplaceable commodity.

Categories: Spiritual disciplines, Spiritual reflections | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Celebrating Freedom

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Philadelphia
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Image via Wikipedia

May ends with a holiday which many of us take too lightly. Many Americans think of Memorial Day as “the unofficial beginning of summer.” Many people view the last Monday in May as little more than a great day to go to the beach, host a barbecue, shop at department store sales, and so on. For many, it is just an extra day off. Like many holidays, we treat it frivolously by giving little thought to its significance. It might be helpful to consider its true significance for Americans. That will also allow us to reflect on some matters of significance to Christians.

Memorial Day was first observed as Decoration Day on May 30, 1868. That day was set aside to place flowers on the graves of soldiers who had died in the Civil War. Since World War I, the holiday has been consecrated to honor all who have
died in the American armed forces during all of our military conflicts. We should remember that many of these were young men, many of whom never had the opportunity to start families and embark on adult civilian life. While some soldiers were drafted, many volunteered for military service, acknowledging the dangers they would face.

Whatever one may think of the decisions our nation’s leaders make about the military, I cannot criticize the character of our troops. They know it is a dangerous job, but they still consider it worthwhile. They will tell you that they are serving to defend our freedoms or protect our people. They believe it is worth dying for. They believe in committing their lives to a cause and making sacrifices. Someone has said that if you don’t have something to die for, you really do not have much to live for. The soldier’s courage should be an example to all of us.

In a sense, we insult these men, both the veterans who survived the battles and those who died, when we reduce Memorial Day to a day for sales and beginning summertime leisure activities. Even worse, we degrade everything it stands for. By giving more attention to surf and sales than to freedom and sacrifice, we desecrate the blood of our fallen soldiers. This is especially true when we distort the meaning of the word “freedom.”

Most Americans seem to believe that “freedom” means “the right to do whatever you want.” Our nation’s first “freedom fighters,” the men who wrote our Constitution, enshrined in our founding documents the First Amendment. This clause gives us the right to speak our minds, even if our ideas are unpopular, controversial, or harshly critical of our nation’s leaders. It allows us to hold religious views that fall outside the mainstream. I have referred to the First Amendment as “the right to be wrong,” or “the right to make yourself look and sound like a jackass.” Thankfully, it is, more importantly, the right to cling to Truth when everybody around you swallows a lie.

However, this form of liberty can be abused as well. We have freedom of speech, even though it is often abused by those who use it to sell pornography or other vulgar entertainment material. While earlier generations realized that freedom and responsibility walked together, most Americans today seem to believe freedom is more important than morality, ethics, or righteousness, and that such libertinism is more sacred than serving God.

This year, Memorial Day falls about five weeks after Easter, during the season when we celebrate Jesus’ victory over the death. It is quite fitting that Memorial Day usually falls at such a time of year. The United States has its Tomb of the Unknown Soldier—a monument honoring all those anonymous men who gave their lives for our nation. Likewise, Christianity has an empty tomb. As many soldiers have given their lives for our nation, Jesus Christ gave his life for all mankind to set us free from sin, hell, and divine judgment. Few of us give much thought to the fact that our greatest freedom was purchased with the precious blood of Jesus. We gladly accept his priceless gift, talk about how it is free for us, and take it for granted. We might say a quick prayer or spend an hour in church every week, but then we ignore the One who gave his life for us.

Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free…. Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32–36, NASB). It is true that our nation was established to seek liberty from tyranny. Yet, we need to remember that the worst tyrant in the universe is Satan, and his cruelest chains are forged with links of sin. Some people believe that following Jesus is a form of bondage. However, as St. Augustine wrote in On the Free Choice of the Will, “This is our freedom, when we are subject to the truth; and the truth is God himself, who frees us from death, that is, from the state of sin.” True freedom is found in submission to the truth. True slavery is found when we loose ourselves from our bonds to our Creator, and clamp the chains of sin around our wrists.

Saint Paul adds, “It was for freedom that Christ us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). He goes on in that chapter to point out the things that Christ frees us from: the Law (including the righteous wrath of God when we fail to live up its perfect standards) which has been superseded by the forgiveness we receive through the cross of Christ; and sin, which is superseded when we live by the greater law of love (see Luke 10:27–28).

Let every day be a day to remember, celebrate, and cherish the freedom we have been granted, both as Americans and as children of God. Our liberty is a precious jewel to be preserved and nurtured. It is not a cheap toy to be played with carelessly, thrown in a corner, and broken.

Categories: Current events, Holidays, Spiritual reflections | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jesus Will Return When HE’S Ready!

It is now May 22, 2011, and still no Rapture. I am still here, and I have not heard of any suspicious disappearance of Christians (although, from what I understand, Harold Camping is nowhere to be found). Life goes on, for Christians and nonbelievers alike.

It is easy to joke about Camping’s claims that the Rapture would take place yesterday, and that the world will end on October 21. I will make every effort to avoid ridiculing the man and his followers. Nevertheless, his false teachings cannot be ignored or swept under the rug. They need to be confronted, and Christians need to learn from recent events.

Wikipedia refers to Harold Camping as “an American Christian radio broadcaster.” I would normally not be that gracious in my assessment of him. His teachings in recent years have gone beyond misguided or controversial, into all-out heresy. He is probably best described as a “radio cult leader.” In 1994, after his first prognosticated date for the Rapture did not work out, he claimed that, instead of taking the church out of the world, God had decided to take his Holy Spirit out of the church! According to Camping, the church had become so heavily infiltrated by the devil, that the Holy Spirit had left it. He began teaching his followers that true Christians must leave the established church.

This is in complete conflict with what Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, where he told Peter, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I cannot see how a person who would make this sort of claim has any true understanding of the power of God, the mercy of Christ, or the plan of salvation.

Harold Camping has hurt a lot of people. One retiree from Staten Island, NY invested his entire life’s savings—about $140,000—in advertising to warn people of the coming apocalypse. I am sure he is not alone. To be perfectly honest, if I had believed Camping, I probably would have quit my job so I can spend my last days doing something more personally meaningful (like spending time with my wife and my son’s family). I can only imagine that countless Campingites made decisions that will have long-lasting harmful effects on them.

Camping has hurt not only his followers. He has hurt the church’s witness, in a way. Over the last couple weeks, more and more secular news outlets reported Camping’s “prophecy.” Unfortunately, news radio stations—including those that focus on brief sound bites and are therefore not well-suited for deep analysis of complex issues—may not always give all the facts. It was not always clear that Camping was wrong before (he previously said the Rapture would occur in September 1994), or that most evangelical, fundamentalist, and charismatic Christians do not agree with the man. Based on a shallow, quickly reported account of Camping’s claims, one could come away thinking that those conservative Christian nuts had come up with some crazy story.

Yet, we can learn some positive lessons from this ordeal, and I would hope more Christians try to seek a positive outcome. Saint Paul tells us that all things (I would dare say that will include heresy and irresponsible preaching by false prophets) work together for good for those who love God, and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). If we continue to pursue God’s purposes, we will be OK. More than that, we will see greater blessing not only in spite of Camping, but because of him.

A few lessons we can learn and remember are the following:

  1. Jesus will return when he and his Father are good and ready! Camping is not the only date setter to get it wrong. Before Harold Camping, Edgar C. Whisenant wrote a book in 1988, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. When that did not pan out, he followed up with a book proposing reasons why the Rapture would occur in 1989. I started telling people that I would write a book entitled, Ninety Reasons Why Jesus Will Return When He’s Darned Good and Ready.
    Well, I never did write that book. Plenty of “prophecy experts” have issued their warnings over the years, and have been proven wrong. It is easy to grow cynical about the second coming of Christ (see Second Peter 3:3–7). Yet, Jesus never gave us a date for his return. In fact, he told us that his Father is the only being who knows the date of his return—neither Jesus nor the angels know the date (Matthew 24:36; 25:13).
  2. It is not our job to know when the end will come. It is our job to occupy until Jesus comes. In Acts 1:7, 8, Jesus ended his earthly teaching ministry by answering yet another question by the apostles, about the dating of end-times events. Jesus said, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” We do not need to know when Jesus is coming back. We just need to proclaim the truth that He is returning, and that he offers forgiveness and everlasting life to all who call upon him.
  3. We do not know when our own end will occur. This should be obvious. While I was writing this post, I heard about a killer tornado in Joplin, MO. Although the article I read did not give any numbers (it referred only to “some fatalities”), I can be sure of one thing: those people who died in that storm did not expect it. I would not be surprised if they had Day-Timers filled in, like I do, specifying where they expect to go and what they plan to do tomorrow. Their plans will not be fulfilled. It does not matter to them when Jesus will return. Their judgment day is now.
    The same is true for all of us. I can hope to live another 30, 40, or even 50 years. It is not inconceivable for a man my age, in reasonably good health, to expect to live a long time. Yet, there are no guarantees. Accidents, sudden illness, or other tragedies can take us out of this world when we least expect it. So, it does not really matter when Jesus will return. We will all face our day of judgment; we will all stand before him sooner or later. We do not know that date and cannot schedule it on our Blackberry. We need to just be ready always to meet the Lord.
  4. Therefore, let us live each day with our eyes on eternity. On my Facebook page, I list one of my favorite quotes, which I saw attributed to actor James Dean: “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.” Sadly, he did die young, and I do not know exactly where he said it. But, the truth is worth considering. We can make plans for our future. We should have long-term goals. At the same time, those long-term goals should be pursued with a mindset that focuses on eternity.

To explain that last thought, I turn to an observation by Stephen R. Covey on page 11 of his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004). He asks:

How many on their deathbeds wished they’d spent more time at the office—or watching TV? The answer is, No one. They think about their loved ones, their family, and those they have served.

So, if the world were scheduled to end this week, and we knew without a doubt that the Rapture and/or the Second Coming of Christ, what would you do? How would you spend your last days on earth? What would you do to make those last days meaningful or rewarding? What would you want Jesus to see you doing at the moment of his return?

Based on those questions, why don’t you do those things now? Make those matters high-priority goals for the weeks and years to come. Take those things that you say would matter most at the end of days, and give them priority treatment for the rest of your days.

Finally, if any Harold Camping fans read this: God has not failed. A man has made a serious mistake in his interpretation of Scripture. God is still on the throne, he is still all-knowing, and he is still in control of the universe. I urge you to find a church that preaches the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. It does not have to be a perfect church (there is no such thing, because all churches are filled with imperfect people); just one that remains faithful to the truth of God’s Word. Continue to seek a living relationship with Jesus Christ.

Categories: Current events, Spiritual reflections | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tempted As We Are, Yet Without Sin

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15–16, ESV).

The story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness can be a great source of encouragement and inspiration to all believers as we face temptation. This passage, found in Luke 4:1–13, provides insights that can challenge all who desire spiritual victory.

Christians are often tempted to surrender to defeat in different areas of our lives. We justify sin with the excuse, “Well, nobody is perfect.” When reminded that Jesus overcame sin, we shrug it off by saying, “Yeah, well, he is Jesus and I am just an ordinary person. He never dealt with this problem.”

The Hebrews passage at the top of this article takes all of those excuses away from us. It reminds us that Jesus was tempted in all the ways that we are, yet without sin. He faced every temptation you face, in some form or another. Our Lord even faced many of those temptations to a greater degree than you or I can imagine. All of us slip into sin before feeling the full force of temptation and we can immediately ask for divine forgiveness. Many of our sins do not have obvious serious long-term effects on our lives. However, if Jesus had sinned, even one time, his entire mission in life would have failed. He would then have to die for his own sins, and we would still not have a redeemer.

So, he faced every temptation with the added stress of knowing that one failure would derail his entire purpose for coming into the world. If we stumble (or even charge full-speed-ahead with no reservations) into sin, we can always repent with the full assurance of complete forgiveness. However, we have that option only because Jesus was crucified for us as the sinless Lamb of God, without blemish.

Jesus faced temptation with no excuses. Christians who are single can overcome sexual temptation, in part by encouraging themselves that they can enjoy such pleasure when they get married. Jesus did not have that option. Blasphemous as it may sound to some, I am certain that he had to face that same rush of hormones other adolescent males face during puberty. He probably even faced sexual temptation during his ministry. Nevertheless, he overcame, never giving in to sin.

Jesus’ wilderness temptations can remind us of several sources of temptation faced both by the nation of Israel and by individual believers. The temptations Jesus overcame were very similar to those that Israel gave in to during the wilderness wanderings (after the Exodus).

Many articles and sermons will point out how these temptations correspond to the major areas where all people are tempted (the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life—see 1 John 2:16). Since others have addressed this connection so effectively, I will not repeat it here. However, both approaches (the “three categories of temptation” approach and the perspective I offer below) remind us that while times, cultures, and technology change, human nature remains the same. At their roots, the temptations we face in 2011 are very similar to those that Jesus faced nearly 2000 years ago and those Moses and the Israelites faced 3400 years ago.

First, Satan tempted Jesus to command a stone to become bread. Soon after Israel fled Egypt, they murmured against Moses and the Lord, complaining about the lack of food. God provided bread from heaven (also known as “manna”) and quail to sustain them (Exodus 16:1–15). Moses would later tell the people that God fed them in this way so that they may “know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Jesus recalled this scripture and reminded himself that he needed sustenance from the word of God. He spent 40 days in the wilderness, feasting upon scripture and prayer. As he focused on divine truth, he knew his heavenly Father would strengthen him for the fast and meet all his needs (Matthew 6:33). There was no point in giving in to the devil for even a moment.

After this temptation, Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and offered to give him authority over all of it. In exchange, all Jesus would have to do is worship him.

Two of Israel’s wilderness experiences come to mind here. First, not long after fleeing Egypt, the Israelites gave in to temptation to commit idolatry. While Moses received the law on Mount Sinai, the rest of the Israelites replaced the unseen God who delivered them with a golden idol of a calf deity (possibly reminiscent of Baal or El, two of the chief deities in Canaanite paganism).

Later, Moses sent 12 spies into Canaan to spy out the land God was giving them. Like Jesus, they saw what God would give them to rule over. The Israelites failed the test, looking at the size of their opponents and forgetting that God had already delivered them from the world’s greatest superpower at that time.

Jesus prevailed, remembering the word of God. He knew that it was an abominable sin to worship any “god” besides his Father, the one true God, the maker of heaven and earth. However, I think this may have been the most difficult temptation of all for Jesus. He knew the grueling vicious torture he would face for our salvation. Satan was offering him a shortcut to claim his eternal authority as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Perhaps Jesus reminded himself that the kingdoms of the world were already promised to him. He would have to endure the cross (Hebrews 12:2), but that would bring a far greater joy. The son of God had a choice. He could endure a night of betrayal, torture, and beatings, followed by several hours on a cross and a few days in the nether world. This would enable him to cherish a joyful eternity with the people he saved. Or, he could lower his standards for a few brief moments and avoid the suffering; but then, he would have to spend eternity as ruler of the universe while all humanity burns in hell.

Also, Jesus recognized Satan as the father of lies (John 8:44). Satan may offer wonderful gifts if we obey him, but he is a liar! Even if he does reward his followers with fame, fortune, and fun, he does not tell the truth about everything they may receive for following him: addiction and heartache in this life, and eternal suffering in the next.

When we look at our options from God’s perspective. we can find greater encouragement to resist temptation. Jesus did not focus on the short-term benefits of avoiding pain and suffering. He looked to the eternal joy. Likewise, we should look at our eternal rewards, not settling for the temporary comforts and pleasures of this life.

Satan’s final wilderness temptation of Jesus attacked the human desire for respect and admiration from others. He tempted Jesus to go to Jerusalem and put on a dramatic show of a miracle to impress the people in the temple.

Likewise, Moses was tempted to draw attention to himself. On two occasions during the wilderness wanderings, the Israelites complained about the lack of water. Both times, God instructed Moses to bring forth water from a rock.

On the second occasion (Numbers 20:8–11), God commanded Moses to tell the rock to yield water. However, Moses gave in to his frustration. Instead of following God’s instructions, he scolded the Israelites and asked, “Shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” (Thus, Moses spoke as if he were giving the water, instead of God.) Then, he struck the rock with his staff, as if his own strength were responsible for providing water.

For this failure, God did not allow Moses to enter the Promised Land with the Israelites. Joshua (whose name in Hebrew, incidentally, is very similar to “Jesus”) would lead God’s people. Virtually all of Israel, even its leaders Moses and Aaron, failed the tests of temptation and missed out on God’s blessings.

Praise God that Jesus passed the test! Praise God that, since we have Christ’s example along with the indwelling Holy Spirit and the complete word of God, we can prevail as well!

Jesus overcame, and so can we. Like Jesus, we should meditate on the Word of God, so that we may know God’s will for our lives and withstand temptation. Prayer and fasting are vital tools to pursue spiritual victory as well. We should always rely on these gifts of God and on the strength he provides to win the battle against Satan.

Categories: Bible meditations, Spiritual reflections | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

OSAMA BIN LADEN NOW IN HELL (via Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog)

Strongly-worded title, but it needs to be said. I saw Joel’s blog while I was working on my post (see below; I published it just before I posted this). He says a number of things that I probably would have said in a more detailed analysis. I urge those who read my post to follow it up by reading his.

The long American nightmare is over. Osama bin Laden has been brought to justice, killed in Pakistan yesterday by U.S. commandos after a decade-long hunt. Justice has been served. But let’s be clear: bin Laden is not now in Paradise with 72 virgins. Bin Laden was a fanatical Radical Sunni Muslim. He hated the Lord Jesus Christ. He hated and cursed Christians and Jews. He murdered Christians and Jews and others; recruited, trained and deployed tho … Read More

via Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

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Reflecting on the Death of Bin Laden

What a way to start our day. I slept in a little this morning, since I had already decided to call in sick: a prolonged elbow soreness just seemed to get much worse over the weekend. Time to stop “toughing it out” and call the doctor. While I was brushing my teeth, Joyce turned on the radio to listen to the news on 1010 WINS, and the first thing she hears is something like, “Stay tuned for in-depth coverage of the death of Osama bin Laden.” (And I went to bed thinking the world’s biggest news is “My elbow feels horrible.”)

The death of Osama bin Laden comes at an interesting moment. It came one day after the 56th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s death (perhaps they can become roommates now). It was also the eighth anniversary of George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech, after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. (Wow, I guess they can start an “Axis of Evil” fraternity in the nether world.)

I confess: I can go for days on end with these quips at the expense of bin Laden. Many have already beaten me to it. When I heard that our military gave him an immediate “burial at sea” (to balance Islam’s requirements of immediate burial with the fact that no country would accept his remains), my first thought was: “There is a part of me that wishes we had boiled his body in pig blood and then fed it to rats. Send him out in a manner most offensive to Muslims. He does not deserve our respect.” (Yes, I actually posted that online, on a friend’s Facebook friend.)

That is the human side of me speaking: the side that demands justice. However, after having a few cups of coffee, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, and spending a few minutes reading the Bible and praying, I realize that I need to apply my beliefs as a Christian AHEAD of my values as an American.

So, the following are just a few random thoughts about bin Laden’s death. This is not an in-depth analysis by any means, just a few thoughts that came to mind this morning.

  1. At the beginning of the “War on Terror” in 2001, I shared a word, which I still believe came from the Lord, at church. I shared that terrorism is merely one of many forms of evil—of the work of Satan—in the world today. We must not allow ourselves to sell out to wickedness in our efforts to end terrorism.
  2. Growing out of that, I have to think: Maybe it is a good thing that we gave bin Laden a burial at sea. No, it is not what he deserved: For his crimes against humanity, he deserved something akin to the pig-blood-bath I proposed above. But, we proved something to the world when we buried him at sea. We, the American people, are BETTER and MORE NOBLE than bin Laden and his fellow Islamic extremists. Despite his wickedness, we treated him with a certain degree of dignity as a fellow human being. Islamic extremists will place their religious convictions ahead of human dignity. The Judeo-Christian tradition recognizes that human dignity is central to our entire ethical and moral system, since God created us in His image.
  3. Indeed, I will be so bold as to say that our value system, based on a Judeo-Christian system of morality and ethics, is more noble than the repressive value system of Islamo-fascism. I am not ashamed to say that. Am I being intolerant? Absolutely: And I will remain intolerant of immorality, evil, and wickedness until the end of eternity.
  4. The war against terror is not over. Osama bin Laden is dead, but in the days to come, we will all have the displeasure of getting to know who will take his place as head of Al-Qaeda. Bin Laden was evil, but he was not an idiot. He knew our troops were coming after him. He was fighting for a cause that he believed in, one he was willing to die for, which he would want to maintain after he died. Someone will take his place. Someone has been groomed to keep his blind vision alive.
  5. The war against evil will never end until Jesus Christ returns. The Book of Revelation summarizes the spiritual war between God and Satan, which is usually manifested in the flesh-and-blood world we live in. In Revelation 20:7–15, we read how God will finally judge the world: Satan, the demons, all those who stand condemned when judged according to God’s righteous decrees, and finally hell and death will be cast into a lake of fire. (Revelation 20:13 says that the sea will give up the dead that are in it: Yes, Mr. bin Laden, this means you!)

There are probably countless more things that can be written about this event. I am sure we will read and hear more about bin Laden and his last days as the news unfolds. As we consider this, let us remember that all of us are in need of the forgiveness and mercy of God, revealed in Christ Jesus and received through a relationship with Him. Bin Laden was evil, but we must remember that we too are sinners, in need of grace.

I, for one, will continue to pray for an outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit, both in our nation and in those nations that remain hostile to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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