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11

As I mentioned the other day, I was in a bit of a funk. This particular funk came about in a period of convergence. I am not talking about some astrological event. I am talking about a much more terrestrial phenomenon. Though it has some similarities as I think about it.

Over the course of the last few months, I have said yes to a few people, while not pruning my existing schedule. All those ‘yeses’ seemed to converge on my calendar, aligning a number of schedule orbits.

When these orbits align themselves like this there is a pretty natural consequence. Pressure builds.

There is a sin that “easily besets me” as the scripture says, a temptation that tiptoes up and knocks on my door from time to time, that I normally can withstand pretty well, but in times of these schedule convergences, my resistance lowers and I buy in to my old friend enemy self-pity.

Now my problem here is that I don’t always see it as the ferocious enemy that it is. It presents itself as a cuddly kitten that clearly needs to be entertained and embraced. It feels like an old friend.

The tricky part about self-pity is that often times the ones who love you allow self-pity, unlike other, less ‘godly’ sins. My wife would never suggest I head down to the strip joint to let off some steam. My brother elders would not tell me to get drunk and forget my problems. But in my clever presentation of self-pity, I can elicit others to fuel my own self-destructive behavior.

The real point I want to make today is that there are sins in our lives, (clearly self-pity is one for me) that we don’t recognize as deadly, and so we allow them to slip into place, and begin their destruction of all that we have built. Once in, they set up house keeping. Paul calls it a stronghold.

We must identify these as sin and begin to hate them. We must go to war with them.

Sin – any sin – leads to death at some level. [Tweet This]

Remember James’ progression?

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. - James 1:14-15

  • Temptation of our own lust
  • Sin is born
  • Death is harvested

These ‘little’ enemies must be destroyed or they will eat our lunches. (and hey – I like lunch)

My self-pity and your _______________  is killing us.

This means WAR!

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

Let’s mix it up today.

Ben

5

There is this crazy train of thought running around inside my head – perhaps headed for an idea train wreck, but I am sure you will let me know if I crash and burn.

Here is the thing.

God is Holy – in fact He is Holy Holy Holy

One part of holiness is separation – sort of a “set apart”ness. And God’s holiness sets Him so far apart – so completely set apart – that He is unapproachable.

Many times I am overwhelmed by a realization of the great holiness of the Father. The problem with this is that it puts me right there beside Isaiah, in Chapter 6 where he cries out

Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

Isaiah 6:5

Sometimes we forget that God has actually dealt with this problem once and for all.

Yes – His holiness can rock my world, and seemingly amplify my sin in my own eyes, but He is no longer asking me to stay back, to keep away.

No longer does only one man have the privilege (perhaps dreaded privilege) to enter the Holy of Holies.

Now you and I are called into His presence.

We are told, at the very time we feel the greatest temptation, that moment that our enemy, the accuser, is saying “if you were a real Christian, you would not even have thought of that” – right then – that is the time the Father calls us to His throne.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4:15-16

Do you see it?

It tells us in no uncertain terms, since Jesus has been tempted, He “gets it.” And that is why we must screw up our courage, stir up our daring, and walk right into the throne room of All Might God, King of the Angel Armies. [Tweet This]

And what will we find there? What awaits us?

… so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

In His throne room we find, first, mercy because, we all know we need mercy . What we don't get is what we deserve! We don't get the fiery wrath of a holy God! Nope - Jesus got that at Golgotha.

And grace to help.

So there it is. Right in the middle of our sinful day, we sense the tug of the Spirit, we head over to the throne room (easy access granted to all who will be thankful and praiseful) and the Father  forgives all that has come before, and dispenses to us the exact implement of grace needed to face the temptation we are currently combating.

Don’t let the presence of temptation cause you to run for the bushes and put on your fig-leaf bloomers! Head to the throne and get the grace you need to face the day.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

Shine where you are plugged in!

Ben

The Sower - Van Gogh

Today I want to walk through the 2nd soil in the parable. I think you'll find a surprise in the Word today. For the rocky soil, we are going to read both the parable portion and the explanation. Again I have interwoven the scriptures (see notes below.) The differences are minimal but interesting.

Rocky Soil

And others (seed) fell upon the rocky places (ground, soil), where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But (as soon as it grew up) when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root (it had no moisture), they withered away.

And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; (they believe for a while) yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, (and in time of temptation)  immediately he falls away. Matthew 13:5-6,20-22, Mark 4:5-6,16-17, Luke 8:6,13

You get this, I am sure, from the natural perspective. There is nowhere for the roots to go, so though the plant springs up quickly, it withers and dies when the sun comes daily, and it has no where to go for moisture.

Most of us love a sunny day. When the sun is bright and beating down on me, especially this time of year, when you step outside and feel the warmth of the sun, even in the dead of winter, it is a wonderful sensation.

Jesus seems to have another idea about sunshine.

What constitutes the sunshine in Jesus' story? Affliction, persecution, and temptation! (Kind of put a twist on those old songs, “You Are My Sunshine” and “You Are the Sunshine Of My Life”)

Sunset in the Poconos
Sunset in the Poconos

So let’s just think about this for a couple minutes.

Sunshine is completely necessary for growth. It is in fact a very good thing. Therefore affliction, persecution, and temptation are also good things, necessary for our growth. Without them you will never flourish as a believer.

But if you do not have a root system that can supply water to bring the nourishment to meet the sunlight, you might just burst into flames. [Tweet This]

Jesus said it this way

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10 NASB)

But if I am going to burst into flames, it does not sound like a blessing.

It is only a blessing when you are in a Beatitude state of mind with:

  • A poor spirit
  • Mourning over your sin
  • Meek, and submitted to the will of God
  • Hungry to see righteousness prevail
  • Quick to show mercy
  • Pure in heart
  • Helping others to find peace with God

These are the ones who will find joy, maybe not giddy happiness, but unshakable joy, in the face of affliction, persecution, and temptation.

BenThanks for coming by today.

Tomorrow we will look at a thorny subject.

See you then

Ben

For more on the Beatitudes check out my series walking through them here.

* The 3 passages have been interwoven using colors to show which passage each word originates from. I have not added anything, just pulled from the NASB in each case. Red text is from Matthew, green from Mark and blue from Luke.

And do not lead us into temptation (Matt 6:13)

This part of the prayer always seems a bit odd to me. Jesus, in teaching us how to pray to the Father gives us this phrase. It is great as a stand alone, but when I get to James 1:13 I scratch my head a bit.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. (James 1:13 NASB)

It strikes me as odd that Jesus would instruct us to ask the Father not to temp us, when God is untemptable, and does not temp anyone with evil.

But as I ponder this, I remember that in Mark’s gospel, after the baptism of Christ I read this:

And immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him. (Mark 1:12-13 NASB)

This word “impelled” some translations use the word drove. What is wild is that many of the time this word (impelled – Greek “ekballo”) is rendered ‘cast out’ as in the case of demons.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not the word used in our verse, but my point is that the Holy Spirit “drove” Jesus into the wilderness to face satan’s temptation. (Clearly it is not the Father doing the tempting here, but God is clearly able to lead or put us in situations where our faith will come under pressure.

And by the way, it is OK to pray that He does not do that! In fact when you find yourself in a place of temptation there are clear instructions in the Book for that too!

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16 NASB)

Can you share the story of a time you faced temptation, and found that victorious grace in your time of need? Will you share it with us? Victory is contagious!

Thanks for reading today.

Ben

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