Archive for the ‘Temptation’ Category



March 18, 2014

“And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet  among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.  Not so with my servant Moses.  He is faithful in all my house.  With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord.  Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”  Numbers 12:6

Evangelist Billy Graham speaking at Doak Campb...

I do not care for celebrity pastors.

That is not entirely true.  There are several pastors both alive and dead that I like very much and are, or would be, considered a celebrity under most definitions.  If your definition of celebrity is any person who is famous, then there are many pastors who are celebrities from one degree to another.

So, I do like celebrity pastors … just not all of them.

Joel Osteen

I do not begrudge the fame of those who I like.  I celebrate their notoriety because it creates a larger platform for their message to be heard.  It is the celebrity pastors who I don’t agree with, that I don’t like.  I don’t want them to have the large audiences  to teach what I believe might be detrimental to the kingdom of God.

I am quick to praise those I like;
I am quick to disregard those I don’t.

I struggle to resist our culture of praise and condemnation.  We live in a media environment dominated by critics and fans.  I find it strange that people will stand in line to get an autograph of a pastor.  I find it equally strange that people, who profess Christ, feel free to lob venom-latched bombs of accusation and indictment upon a fellow heir of the kingdom of God.

I believe that our evangelical communities would benefit from a healthy dose of meekness and fear.  Moses’ distinguishing characteristic was meekness.

Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.  (Numbers 12:3)

Now, I don’t know any celebrity pastors.  I do not attend a church led by someone famous.  Therefore, I cannot speak directly to the humility of the famous who occupy pulpits.  All I can comment upon is what I observe from the outside looking in.  From this vantage point, it appears that more meekness among our notable pastors, teachers, and leaders would be very beneficial.

No one would ever confuse Mark Driscoll as a rival to Moses in the category of meekness.  His public persona is almost the opposite of meekness.  That is unfortunate because I believe that much of the current controversy resulting from his plagiarism (Is Driscoll Getting Away with Plagiarism?) would never have happened if he was “very meek” as Moses was.

These individuals who bear the fame that we heap upon them, face an immense temptation.  I do not know what it is like to have someone seek out my autograph.  I can only image the temptations of pride that emanates from seeing your name as author of a best seller, as the keynote speaker, or to be sought out for interviews.  Meekness must be a difficult virtue to hold onto in an environment that continues to reinforce how wonderful you are.

If we believe that the church of our age needs leaders who are meek, then we need to pray for them.  My prayer for Mark Driscoll is that God will use this controversy to teach him humility and meekness.  I am hopeful that is exactly what is happening in Mr. Driscoll’s apology.  My prayer for all famous Christians is that the Lord will give them accountability partners, events, and/or thorns in the flesh that will cause them to keep their eye on Jesus and the things of the Spirit rather than the intoxicating praise of men and women.

I pray that the Lord will deliver them from the temptation of pride.

There is not a pastor, teacher, or religious leader on the face of the earth who is an equal to Moses.  Therefore, they are all open to questioning and accountability.  However, much of the criticism that tries to pass itself off as Christian accountability is often as lacking in meekness as those who they are criticizing.

I believe every person who decides to speak critically of another person would benefit from asking the following questions:

Is my opinion beneficial?  I have learned with age that not all of my many opinions are worth giving a voice.    We should only speak when it will be beneficial to the one of which we are critical and those who they influence.  If what we have to say is not beneficial and to the glory of God, then we should keep our mouths shut.

What are my motivations?  Opinions are often espoused merely to get it off of an opinionated chest or for other selfish reasons.  I have read too many articles where the criticism is leveled in such a way as to show how smart the author is.  That is not a good enough reason to enter into a dialogue that is often too closely akin to gossip.  Aaron and Miriam’s criticism of Moses was based in jealousy.  We are just as susceptible to similar selfish motivation.  If our motivation is rooted in selfishness, then we should keep our mouths shut.

Am I treating them like I would want to be treated?  The golden rule does not cease to be applicable when we decide to give voice to criticism.  We need to treat the famous in the same manner as we would want to be treated.  If we cannot give criticism in the manner that we would want to receive it, then we should keep our mouths shut.

Am I acknowledging my fallibility?  Criticism is often spoken with such confidence and limited information.  I have often had opinions on how pastors should respond only to discover that there was much I did not know.  We should approach any criticism with an abundance of fear in being critical of someone who is doing exactly what God has called them to do.  Our opinions should be interwoven with the acknowledgment that we are fallible and prone to error.  If we cannot offer criticism in humility of our fallibility, then we should keep our mouths shut.

Does love drip off of my criticism?  We can be completely correct in our criticism, but if it is not given in love then it probably will not be received and it will turn-off those who are watching the actions of Christians – it will just be a clanging symbol.  If love is not the overriding characteristic of criticism, then we should keep our mouths shut.

I believe that our default should be to keep our mouths shut.  We should be much slower to speak than we currently are.   We should be even more hesitant to speak a critical word and we should only do it in meekness with an appropriate amount of trepidation.

I don’t see our culture of praise and condemnation changing any time soon.  However, that does not mean we need to join it.  Cultural changes start one person at a time.  So, let’s be counter-cultural by living in meekness and trepidation.

PRAYER: Father, Lord, forgive me of my critical and opinionated spirit.  Forgive me for speaking too often just to hear my own voice.  Help me to keep my mouth shut.  Help me to know when I need to speak.  Help me to speak for the benefit of others, in love, and for your glory.  Father, I need you to keep me walking in your Spirit especially when it comes to expressing my opinions I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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November 13, 2013

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  Matthew 4:1

Tambako the Jaguar / / CC BY-ND

“You’re not going to like it”, were the words we heard upon stepping into the unique blend of humidity and chlorine that greets visitors at the City pool.  The petite, teenage, lifeguard was standing behind the front counter with a look of someone who has a secret.  She quickly divulged the inspiration behind her prophecy of my pending dissatisfaction.  The thermostat that controls the boiler for the pool had malfunctioned and over-heated the water.  The pool water was at a steamy 94 degrees.  I have never swum in a hot tub so I figured I would give it a try.

All it took was a warm up lap to realize that I was not going to like this.

Swimming in hot water is a strange sensation.  You cannot cool down.  Normally, swimming provides the delightful experience of vigorous exercise without overheating and sweating.  I can reach the pool’s edge after a strenuous set, with my heart pounding and gasping for air, yet I am perfectly cool.  Water is an amazing heat sink.  All the heat created by my body from swimming can easily be removed by the water.  You can work incredibly hard but you only break into a flop sweat after you get out of the pool.

However, this phenomenon only occurs in a pool with a temperature in the eighties or below. When I tried to swim in 90 degree water, I could feel an accumulation of heat with ever lap.  By the fifth lap, I had to stop.  It almost became claustrophobic.  As I struggled to keep my eyes on the black line below me, I could feel this oppressive heat building around me and sapping all the strength from body.  By the time I got to the pool’s edge on my fifth lap, I had to get out.  I had to stand up and allow the air to cool me off.  I did not like that at all.  I ended up doing only three set of five laps before I had had enough.  My endurance succumbed to the hot water of the pool.

The Christian life takes us through a lot of different kinds of water.  There are some waters so hot with temptation that all we can focus on is the temperature on our flesh.  The temptations of other waters can be so minor that setting our minds on the things of the Spirit can be done without consideration to the heat on our flesh.

The temperature of the water is unique to each Christian. 

hidden side / / CC BY-NC-SA

I have struggled with lust since my teenage years.  I cannot swim in those waters for any length of time.  I know that even a single lap of an extended ogle of cleavage, a click on the seductive, or the relishing of the sexual will not go well for me.  (THE PETRAEUS IN ALL OF US)  I have to get out of those waters.  I know many people for whom those waters are not hot.  They can swim for miles and miles in those waters and their minds easily stay fixed on the things of the Spirit.

It is not that way for me.  I am embarrassed by my continued weakness in this area; I hate it.  When I was in my teens, I never thought that lust would still be a temptation in my forties.  I have prayed many times for God to take this weakness away.  He can but He has not.  Therefore, I strive to live in a manner that God may be glorified in my weakness and I am careful of the waters that I swim in because I know myself.

Jimmy Morris / / CC BY-NC

I don’t have a huge problem with gossip.  However, I can get caught up in the web of gossipers after a few laps through those waters.  For me, swimming through the waters of gossip is an accumulation of heat.  The gossip’s entire conversational playlist often contains a relentless bombardment of opinions about other people.  Gossips normally find that I am not a very sympathetic ear.  I don’t suffer their negativism very well.  However, I do have to be careful because I can succumb to a bombardment of gossip if I am around it too much.  I need to punch out after a couple laps if a gossip will not be redirected.

I know some folks who have very sympathetic ears and seem to be honey in the attraction of gossips.  They cannot endure the hot water of gossips.  They don’t have the personality to shut a gossip down so they are immediately sucked into the conversation and succumb to the temptation.  The waters are too hot for them.  They have to get out of those waters.  They should not be around some of their “friends” due to the increased temperature of temptation that they bring.

SanforaQ8 / / CC BY-NC-SA

I don’t struggle with contentment.  I know that there are many who ride the spiritual roller coaster.  They are exuberant on the highs but fight the temptations of discontentment and discouragement on the lows.  For them, a spiritually dry season is a difficult swim through hot water that causes their faith to feel claustrophobic.  They have to seek respites from the temptations to discouragement and discontentment through the faith of others.

I am in a dry season that has lasted about 1-1/2 years.  I am not particularly excited about what is going on in my faith.  Most mornings, I don’t feel like getting out of bed to do my devotions of Bible reading and prayer.  However by God’s grace, I always get up, pour myself a cup of coffee and settle down for a time with my Lord … I am rarely disappointed.  My Lord always seems to give just the right amount of nourishment to cool my soul and prepare me for another day of swimming through this world.  Even though I am in a frustratingly dry season that I don’t like, I feel very content and satisfied.  I can eagerly join my voice to the chorus of “It is well with my soul”.  By God’s grace, He has enabled me to swim comfortably through waters that others might find too hot.

Every follower of Christ must know their soul and be able to gauge the temptation temperature of the water.  We all face temptations of various kinds and forms.  It is the work of the Spirit through our sanctification that enables us to find the way out in all circumstances.

We know that God does not tempt anyone (James 1:13).  However, we also know that the waters we swim in have temptations that are included in His sovereign plan.  His plan is for our good and that includes temptations.  When we overcome temptation, we are strengthened; if we succumb, we are humbled and see our continued need of a Savior and the works of the Spirit for further sanctification and grace.  Our sanctification is a divine work of the Spirit in our lives.  He is living and active and is working all things for our good.  He loves us

We just need to learn how to cooperate with the Spirit to still our souls and glorify God in all circumstances.

PRAYER: O Father, you know me better than I know myself.  I know that I am in your hands.  Help me endure the temptations of this world.  Sanctify my heart.  Help me in my weaknesses.  May others be lifted up through my strengths.  May you be glorified in both.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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