Posts Tagged ‘temptation’

I was reading David Jeremiah’s new book, 31 Days to Happiness, which by the way will be one of the resources we will use in our study of the book of Ecclesiastes in a few weeks. In the chapter I am reading right now, Jeremiah is writing about the easy way versus the right way and he shares some insights into the way Jesus was tempted in the desert. Satan made three proposals to Jesus:

“If you want food (Jesus had been fasting for 40 days), just turn these stones into bread.”

“If you want fame, just leap from this temple , into the arms of angels.”

“If you want followers, just bow down to me.”

The devil knew exactly where Jesus was going, but he suggested the wrong ways to get there.

Yes, Jesus wanted food, but he needed fasting, not fast food.

Yes, Jesus wanted fame, but through the way of the cross, not ways that were crass.

Yes, Jesus wanted followers, but through victory over sin, not by giving sin the victory.

The testing of Jesus was all about convenience versus commitment.

Which are you seeking?

I am writing this post with a seriously broken heart. One of my heroes has fallen. He lost everything and ruined a 40 year reputation. There is a huge part of me that prays it’s not true and I do believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but the actions his organization has taken lead me to believe the charges may be true. I’m devastated. I’m not mentioning the name or telling the story. I’m telling you this because we all need to guard our hearts.

The person in question had a huge ministry, one that saw thousands of people come to Christ and now it’s over, at least for him. Part of me wants to be angry. He should have known better, but here’s what you need to know: There’s an old saying, “New level, new devil.” It’s not entirely true, it’s the same old devil, but those of us who do the Lord’s work are his prime target. We have a price on our heads from the enemy of our souls. The temptations will be ratcheted up and the more you do, the higher that price becomes. Don’t be so naive as to think no one wants to take you down. Our souls have an enemy, he’s called the accuser of the brethren for a reason. The more people you’ve been used to reach, the more havoc will be wreaked when you’re brought low. Brothers and sisters, guard your heart, know your weaknesses and cover them.

Someone might be tempted to ask the question, “Where was God?” “Why did God let this happen?” The Bible shows us something very important. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” God was there. God was faithful. God provided the way out. The person in question didn’t take it. Here’s the thing, temptation is no time to test your strength. When you are tempted the smarted thing you can do is flee.

I will not sit in judgment of this person. I pray for him and for others affected by his alleged actions, and for any one of the thousands of people who may have heard this news and today have questions about what they experienced. God is always good, even when heroes fall, even when people fail. If you read this article and want to back away from doing good, that is the wrong response. No, we need to keep doing good while guarding our hearts and looking for the God-provided ways out of temptation.

Most of us get upset about four-letter words, and we should. They can have some pretty immense destructive power, but there is a two-letter word that wields incredible power and if you are going to succeed as a creative, especially a God honoring creative, you need to learn this word.

I understand temptation… believe me I do. I remember one particular time when money was particularly tight. I was laid off the day my youngest son was born. I was hustling trying to take care of a baby at home and grabbing as much freelance work as I could. One day, while checking the classifieds, I saw an ad as rare as a unicorn. It said “Cartoonist wanted.” I thought I hit pay dirt. I called and got an interview almost immediately. I sat down in the guy’s office and he told me he was creating a screen saver featuring cartoons. He had already written the gags, he just needed someone to draw the cartoons. The pay was $10,000. I knew I could do the job and I really needed the money. He told me it would also lead to other projects. I was so excited. Then he told me the cartoons would be pornographic. I would like to tell you I abruptly refused the job and walked out with my head held high. The truth is I spent the whole ride home trying to convince myself I could still take the work. Eventually I did refuse it, but not before a lot of temptation. Thank God this thing is not out there with my name on it. I would be ashamed.

So I guess I get it when a young actress succumbs to the draw of starring in a movie made about one of the best selling book series of recent years. I understand the temptation of the money and the idea that it might be a stepping stone to a much larger career, and the exposure (no pun intended), though I think she may have wanted to have a chat with Elizabeth Berkley before she signed the papers. I guess I get the temptation, but I can’t help but think it was a bad decision and I can’t help but wonder if this is really the role Miss Johnson will want to be known for in 20 or 30 or 50 years.

Then the other day, I saw she hosted Saturday Night Live. One of the clips was a parody of a Toyota commercial that shows a father and his relationship with his daughter up to the point where he drops her off at the airport. She’s leaving to enter into the military. It’s a touching commercial. In the SNL piece, Johnson, playing the daughter is running off to join ISIS. I hear the laugh track, but I can’t imagine anyone actually thought it was anything but horrible. Something like that could be a career ender. And that’s when it hit me. Maybe Miss Johnson never learned the two letter word. The one every creative needs to know. The one that will keep us from being associated with stuff we’ll most likely be ashamed of one day. The one all creatives need to learn. The one that kept me from doing something horrible and the one that can protect you as well. Please learn it. I’m told it means the same thing in seven different languages.

The word is NO.

snakesThere are a lot of people in our world that do not hold the Word of God in high regard. They say it’s an old book. They question how we can possibly believe its stories. They ask how could a loving God allow this or that to happen. They say the writers were uneducated, unsophisticated and on and on. For those of us who love God’s Word, this is maddening, but it’s nothing new.

In the garden (another biblical story often dismissed by many) we see God give His first restriction, the only one recorded to that point (Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) and no sooner does He give the command, then Satan comes along to contradict it. It’s a three step process, that we would be wise to understand since it is the same one he has used against the Word of God ever since.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”


Step one: Get us to question the Word of God. Did God really mean what he said?
Step two: Discredit the Word.
“You will surely not die” and because they did not die instantaneously, some would say he was right. However if you remember when God banished them from the garden a short time later, God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Translation death came as a result of eating the fruit, and the choice to sin. From there, Satan jumps right into the third tactic.
Step three: Discredit God.
“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Translation, God is withholding His best from you because God is not good.

First he gets us to question God’s word, then His truth and finally His goodness, because if he can get us to turn from God, Satan can fulfill his ultimate mission, to destroy what God loves most, humanity, you and me.

It’s the same tactic he has used from the beginning of time. Don’t fall for it. God means what He says. His Word is truth and the things he chooses to withhold from us are the things that would do us harm. After all when He withheld the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they already knew good. The only thing God was trying to withhold was the knowledge of evil. God is good and He loves us completely. We need to trust Him and follow Him. We can take God at His Word.

Don’t fall for the same old attack.

I read an important article last night. It’s an article every ministry person needs to read, as well as any person that finds himself/herself working with our youth. It seems like an epidemic lately. There seems to be a story every few days right now of a teacher or other professional who finds himself/herself on the wrong side of the law for becoming involved in an affair with a student. I know this is a little off topic for this blog but it is crucial that people in ministry get a handle on this. This simply cannot be… ever.

There are things we all can do.

Step One: You can’t touch the kids!
This is a rule. There are billions of available adults in the world. Anyone under 18 is off limits. This ain’t rocket science people. The Bible has this thing called the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you wouldn’t want an adult to enter into a physical relationship with your child, afford some other parent the same courtesy.

Step Two: Never be alone with a student.
The easiest way to make sure something like this doesn’t happen is to make sure it can’t happen. Never alone, never a problem.

Now that I’ve touched on the two that are obvious, let’s look a little deeper at what needs to happen.

Most of the cases I have read about involved, people who are already married, which leads to our next point.

Step Three: Work on your marriage!
The guy in the article says he fell into this affair because his marriage was shaky. This is where the title of this post comes from. There’s difficulty in the home and all of the sudden some pretty/handsome young thing is telling you you’re wonderful. Of course he/she thinks you’re wonderful. He/she may look like an adult, but he/she knows nothing! Next time someone outside your marriage starts to tell you you’re wonderful, remember this… They don’t know you, not the way your spouse does. Some of us need to ask ourselves the question “Is the reason my spouse is not telling me I’m wonderful, that I’m not being wonderful?” Marriage is work. It’s also God ordained. If your ministry is adversely affecting your marriage, you let the ministry go and work on the marriage. Get help. Save the marriage and don’t allow yourself to fall to temptation.

Step Four: Accountability
Sin loves a vacuum. The best way to avoid sneaking around in the dark is to have a same gender accountability partner who will call you on your garbage and keep bringing your life into the light. This is huge and crucial.

Step Five: Flee temptation!
It’s called temptation because it’s tempting. Get away from it. If you work with students and you find yourself becoming attracted to them, it’s time to switch careers. You’ll be able to find a million reasons why this is impractical, but how do they compare to prison?
Get help and get yourself out of the situation. Remember that 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Find the way out and take it. There are other ways to serve the Lord. Get help before you ruin some kids life, because that is ultimately what this type of behavior does. That’s why it’s a felony.

I know this was a bit off topic, and we’ll be back to creative arts ministry tomorrow, but this stuff ruins lives and families and brings dishonor to God. It’s happening too often and I just felt I needed to address it.

Hurt by Travis ThrasherA few months back I posted a review on three books by Travis Thrasher, from his Solitary Tales Series, Solitary, Gravestone and Temptation. Not long after I posted this post, I heard from Travis Thrasher and a series of events occurred leading up to me getting an advance copy of the last book in the series, Hurt, which releases January 1. I just finished reading it and it is amazing.

I read this almost 500 page book in less than a week, and if you knew my schedule you would know that is quite a feat. This book is a real page turner. The books are supernatural thrillers that follow the life of Chris Buckley, a teenager who finds himself in the middle of a spiritual battle against a town (Solitary, NC) taken over by evil forces beyond his comprehension. It’s a coming of age story, that would probably be labeled young adult fiction, though this nearly 50 year old writer found it thoroughly engaging.

The books are at times very dark, but then that’s how it is in a spiritual battle and this is an intense battle. What I love about this series is it’s reality. Thrasher presents his protagonist warts and all. He presents teen angst in a way that makes one remember how hard  that time of life can really be. He shows coming to faith as a battle and shows that the battle doesn’t end when we come to Christ. Chris Buckley rises and falls and struggles and doubts and all those other things that happen when the forces of good and evil battle over our lives. Thrasher presents that battle and struggle so well and while there are some events in these books that most of us will never see (thank you Lord) he reminds us that there is a battle around us and it is very real. This has been an excellent series and Hurt finishes it out masterfully. I loved this book, probably the best series I have read in this genre since This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness
by Frank Peretti.

Like I said Hurt doesn’t release until January 1, 2013, but I post it now so you can read the other three books or better yet, get the books and give them to someone who is obsessed with Twilight, Hunger Games, etc. Thrasher really does tell a better story.

Order the books through this page to benefit AMOKArts.

Solitary: A Novel (Solitary Tales Series)

Gravestone: A Novel (Solitary Tales Series)

Temptation: A Novel (Solitary Tales Series)

Hurt: A Novel (Solitary Tales Series) Challenge Lost: Pop Art Eve

The challenge of the week was Lost. Lately I’ve been dabbling with pop-art and there was this piece I was already working on that pretty much sums up the ultimate reason we get lost. It all comes down to a choice a long time ago. God told his first two people they could have everything they wanted in the paradise He created for them. There was only one thing they could not have. Unfortunately the one thing they could not have became the apple of their eye and they made a choice. Reject God for the only thing he did not give them. It sounds senseless, but we do it every day, every time we choose something that God tells us not to do.

What was their prize? The tempter told them they would be like God knowing good and evil. Let’s examine that. They already knew good, they were surrounded by everything good and had daily communion with God in person so what did they really gain by their sin? They got to know evil. In the same way when we choose sin we get the privilege of dealing with the consequences not to mention sometimes unleashing those consequences on the people around us.

You may finally ask the question, why did God put that tree there in the first place? Why did He allow them to be tempted? Believe it or not, because of love. You see love is a choice. Without an alternative, would ti really be love? They got to choose whether or not they would love God and they chose wrong. Today we are surrounded by billions of harmful choices, and the way to resist them is same as it has always been. Choose to love God more. Anything less is a lost choice.

Yes we are surrounded by temptations and consequences on every side, but hope is not lost. God gave His only Son to die on a cross to pay the price for our sins. If we will put our faith in Him, He will save us and lead us through this minefield called life.

Hope is not lost. Hope is a person. His name is Jesus.

(If you’d like to purchase a print of the image above, click the image, or get it on a T-shirt here.)

Okay, I’ll be perfectly honest here. I only knew one thing about the first book in the Solitary Series when I picked it up… It was free. One of my Facebook friends announced this limited time free offer of a book called Solitary. I didn’t know it was a Young Adult novel and had I known that I would have passed it up. Don’t make that mistake. In the two weeks since I have read all three available books in the four book series. I know I’m not the target market for these books but what can I say, Travis Thrasher can write a story!
Travis Thrasher's Solitary

Solitary is not your typical feel good at the end Christian novel. As a matter of fact one of the things that really intrigued me was, I can usually read a book, especially a Christian book, and know how it will end. I wasn’t even close. As a matter of fact when I got to the end of this one, I had only one thought, “There better be a sequel.”

The story follows Chris Buckley a 16 year old who moved from the suburbs of Chicago to a place in the middle of nowhere called Solitary, NC. Solitary is a place with a dark secret. It’s a coming of age story in the midst of a thriller/horror plot. It moves about a million miles an hour through all three books (Solitary, Gravestone and Temptation) and it is not what you’re expecting.
Travis Thrasher's Gravestone

I can’t give you much without giving things away. All I can say is these books are really tough to put down. This is not your typical Christian fiction. It asks a lot of hard questions, as the protagonist wrestles with what to believe.
Travis Thrasher's Temptation

This would be a great one to get into the hands of fans of Hunger Games or Twilight. Travis Thrasher knows how to tell a better story. I am really looking forward to the fourth book. Challenge:Yield Challenge: Yield

I think it really is this simple. God loves you, wants what’s best for you and His way leads to life. To turn from that way is to really mess you up.

Joshua, near the end of his life challenged the people of Israel and he said this…
if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

This one made me think of the old joke:
Q: “How do you keep an idiot in suspense?”
A: “I’ll tell you tomorrow.”
I know it’s a little mean and yet it’s funny in a strange sort of way. It’s a little deception, a little bait and switch, a set up. You bite on this one thinking you are going to hear a funny joke, but you don’t realize that if you fall for the joke, you will be the butt of it. Fall for it and you get burned.

That’s sort of how sin is. You bite on temptation thinking you are going to experience some pleasure. but if you fall for it, you get burned by it. There are lots of set ups in life that aren’t funny at all. Be careful what you fall for. Temptation can leave you feeling like an idiot.