When Tempted, Stand on This Promise

The Gospel According to Paul: God is faithful, and provides a way to escape temptation.       Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, May 14, 2018

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 05.14.2018” on Spreaker.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Stopped Short

The children of Israel were a chosen people who were entrusted with the charge of being God’s witnesses to the then known world. Their obedience and intimacy with God have been recorded forever, in the Bible, for us to follow their example. There are many victories recorded from which we might learn, but there are also defeats, that are equally instructive. The people had a habit of worshiping other things in place of God, lusting after evil. As a result, many of them were overthrown in the wilderness, on their way to the Promised Land.

Many times we read of such unfaithfulness, and probably have asked how in the world those people could have been so wicked. After all, did not God constantly demonstrate His power on their behalf with visible signs and wonders?

The Bible echoes, with a resounding warning, against such pride. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). This text is trying to teach us distrust of self. At the same time, it encourages us by saying we do not have to fall into the same sinful patterns. Why? He is faithful!

Tempered Temptation

The Lord has promised to filter the devil’s temptation through His loving care. Always remember that the victories that Jesus accomplished while living on the earth are available today for our deliverance. If temptations come our way, we can be assured that there is a back door ajar to aid in our escape.

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever Amen” (Jude 1: 24-25).

I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, are you?




Get Out, And Get Out Fast!

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 10.11.2016” on Spreaker.

“My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not” (Proverbs 1:10).

Solomon wrote some of the briefest, yet wisest words in the Bible. He said a lot with few words. If sinners try to persuade you to do evil, don’t do it. Can an admonition be any simpler?

A Simple “No”

On television in the 80s, I remember hearing a slogan about staying away from drugs–“Just say no! Then go! And tell!” It was catchy and memorable. I think there is a lot of religion in those few words. If I had to apply them to my spiritual life, I would say when the temptation to sin arises, just say no. When the temptation to sin arises, then go. When the temptation to sin arises, just tell the Lord all about it. All of this may seem too elementary, but it is through faith and simplicity that we are able to remain in good relationship with God.

Have we lost the childlike faith that many of us had when we first accepted Christ? That childlike faith kept us far away from evil activities, and from indulging to please our friends. Peer pressure does not affect school-aged children only. It affects all of us in some way or another. The simple word for today is to let the Lord be your guide, and “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:7-8).




The Freedom You Need And Want

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, January 24, 2016

This Week’s Devotional Focus is, “Freedom From Sin.”

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

I am going to start this week’s devotional thoughts with great news! I hope you are ready for it. You can be free from sin. Now I realize this might be a startling statement to some, because you recognize the abysmal failure you’ve been at trying not to sin. Don’t worry, though. Our “trying” is often the problem, but we will come back to that later in the week. Today, we are going to begin with Jesus.

The Bible says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:16–17). Have you ever lusted for that which is unholy? Some intimate encounters are unholy. Some desires for fame and notoriety are unholy. Some things that we do for fun that tempt death are unholy. Pride definitely is unholy. All of these things are “in the world.” That is to say, the three categories of lust in these verses, which Jesus encountered in the wilderness temptations recorded in Luke 4:1-13, comprise that which Jesus overcame according to our theme text. Further, the Bible says, “I will not talk with you much more, for the prince (evil genius, ruler) of the world is coming. And he has no claim on Me [He has nothing in common with Me; there is nothing in Me that belongs to him, and he has no power over Me.]” (John 14:30, AMP).

This is a great place to stop. Our loving God is giving us a special message today. He gave us Jesus, His only begotten Son so we would have everlasting life. Not only would Jesus pay the sin debt of those who submit to Him by faith, He also would cancel all slavery claims the devil has over our lives. If we rest our trust in Him, we are no longer compelled to serve sin. He overcame so He has the right to empower us to overcome.

It doesn’t matter to what we have been enslaved. It could be the chief sin of pride. God can handle it. It could be addiction to alcohol or drugs. No sweat. God can handle it. You might be a wife-beater. God can handle it. You may be a sex offender. God can handle it. You may have done some things so egregious it would be shameful for me to enumerate here. Guess what? God can handle even that. Here’s one more text: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:1–6, ESV).

The first order of the day is to recognize your need for Jesus’ victory to be applied in your life. Then ask the Lord to help you confess your sins so He can be faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Our freedom from sin begins with Jesus’ victory over it while living on earth. Thank God for His victory!




Way of Escape

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Based Upon 1 Corinthians 10

Some of us are just too cocky. I must admit that I come from a social culture of extreme over confidence. I grew up in the city whose Stock Exchange has become the most powerful in the U.S., and maybe even the world. We boast the largest subway system in the world. It is the flamboyant birthplace of streetball, hip-hop music, and arguably, the modern skyscraper. And the last claim to fame I referenced, gives credence to my first sentence, since another city has equal or greater reason to claim this accomplishment. Our city is a melting pot of doers. It is a city undaunted by terrorism, unintimidated by threats of economic collapse, unimpressed by incredible feats of accomplishment. We are the gateway to the American Dream.

During the Old Testament era, the people of God had many reasons to feel special: They were the apple of God’s eye; to them was entrusted the oracles of God; to them God spoke the Ten Commandments; from among them God rose up the Redeemer of the world. Yet, at times they allowed these privileges to go to their heads. They often disobeyed their loving God, and brought reproach upon His name, and judgments upon themselves. Their story of tragedy and triumph is set in the eternal Word of God for our learning. We learn about the equal mercy and justice of God. We learn about His sovereignty. We learn about ourselves, how we should never become self-confident. We learn that if we think that we stand strong in our own abilities, we should take heed, lest we fall. Thankfully, we learn that our God is able to keep us from falling and present us before the Father with unutterable joy.

Temptations are an inevitable part of every person’s experience here on earth. The devil stops at nothing to sidetrack and discourage us. He knows that he cannot force us to do wrong, so he litters our pathways with ample opportunities to see some forbidden experience as more enjoyable or desirable than God’s ideal for us. And his manifold means of doing this really just boils down to this: No matter to what vice he lures our minds, if we consent, he has accomplished his purpose–to place a wedge between us and our God.

Let me say at the outset, that temptation is not sin. The Bible shows us how this works: “Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one. But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death” (James 1:13–15, AMP).

So, temptation is not the issue here. The issue is how we handle that which can possibly mature into sin. Whenever there is some desire that arises in us that goes against God’s will, if we rush to Him in prayer and faith, we do not have to succumb and sin. “For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently. Therefore, my dearly beloved, shun (keep clear away from, avoid by flight if need be) any sort of idolatry (of loving or venerating anything more than God)” (1 Corinthians 10:13–14, AMP).

I must underscore that temptation in and of itself is not sin, and the Most High is able to keep us from falling. With every temptation that comes, He has already provided a door through which we can escape and remain faithful to Him. The key here is that He is faithful, He has provided the victory, and He has made a way of escape. We must simply remain surrendered to Him and we are safe.

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The Call of the Wild

It happens in a moment. Something deep within cries out for satisfaction. Cravings are strong and will not be denied. Louder and clearer now, rationality weighs the pros and cons. Do you give in, or do you fight?

The call, the enticement, that whiff of something delicious is different for each person. For LaShawn, a 27-yearold screenplay writer, the call of the wild was screaming for her to break her diet with a chocolate muffin. This year, like every year, she started off with resolutions and diets, but the cravings for the chocolate are just too strong. Can LaShawn ignore the call of the wild, or will she fall victim again to her desires?

Meet Ray, a 38-year-old married father of two and an information technology expert. He receives the call from the wild quite frequently. His struggle has always been with pornographic Web sites, and while at church recently, he committed to abandoning them. Yet something within him just keeps triggering, and urges fire back strong. Temporary fulfillment feels good, but the mental pain of guilt afterward depresses him. Does Ray get on the site again, or can he ignore the call of the wild?

Jamie, a 42-year-old high school teacher, has been married for seven years. Her call came from an old boyfriend who found her on Facebook. He knows she is married, but makes sexual advances anyway. With little attention from her husband, a lack of intimacy and communication, Jamie feels tempted by the conversation. Her marriage is really suffering. Can she ignore the call of the wild?

The compulsion to pick up the phone, take a bite, or connect online seems undeniable. Like LaShawn, Ray, and Jamie, many want to be free, but do not know how. Even Paul, in the Bible, complained that “I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7:18, 19, NLT).* In verse 23 Paul speaks of two members warring inside of him. This is the classic battle between flesh and the Spirit. To give in to the wild, or fleshly side, is a choice to please self. To fight urges and deny the desires from the flesh is a choice to please God. The choice lies within.

YOUR WORST ENEMY:

Allow me to share a harsh reality. The devil is not our worst enemy. That’s right! The reality is that “self” is our worst enemy. Satan has no power over us. Jesus said in Luke 10:19, “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” The devil cannot make anyone do anything. He may tempt, but it is we who decide to give in.

The first requirement Christ gave His disciples in Luke 9:23 was to deny self. If we claim Him, then we embrace the concept of discipleship, and with discipleship comes the practice of discipline and denial of self. The call from the wild is a cry out from deep within to please self. To successfully fight off self, drastic measures must be taken.

Jesus’ disciples were accustomed to casting out demons. One day they met a possessed boy, but could not cast out the demon. Jesus came in after them and easily set the boy free from the demon. The Word of God says in Mark 9:28, 29: “And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ So He said to them, ‘This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.’ ”

We pray to God to help us overcome things, but when was the last time we prayed and fasted over a specific problem? Fasting is another way to practice self-denial and completely lean on God.

After His baptism, Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. After His fast, Satan tempted Him. Jesus, who was physically weak at the time, was spiritually strong and able to pass the test. When we add fasting to our prayer life, God honors our sacrifice. We build a stronger sense of self-control, powered by the Spirit of God. This empowers us to deny self when the call of the wild comes. LaShawn, Ray, and Jamie are real people who found success in this battle. Each of them found victory over the call of the wild by prayer and fasting.

Further, it is the power of the Holy Spirit working within us that gives us the strength to deny the call of the wild.

Also know that the very fabric of character is being weaved with every decision we make. If character is the only thing we will take with us to heaven, God will allow temptations to come that give us the chance to unravel character flaws.

Finally, observe Christ and His sacrifice for us. Remember the temptation He suffered. He too—even He—got the call from the wild in the Garden of Gethsemane. Burdened and plagued by our transgressions, He actually asked God the Father if there was another way to save humanity. Thankfully, however, Jesus quickly ended His prayer with “not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Be of good cheer, my friends; you can have the victory over self. Whether it is that slice of cake, cheating on your spouse, viewing pornography, or the social pressures you face. All of these are chances to ignore the call of the wild, “deny self,” and embrace the Spirit of God. In that very moment of weakness, remember the sacrifice Christ made, and follow His example: Not our will, but God’s will be done.