“Keepers of the Aquarium”

Keepers of the Aquarium
Keepers of the Aquarium

A “FISHING” STORY:

Fishing season for the lakes open up every April  near my home in Washington State.  This year, I purchased a fishing license and headed towards a well-stocked lake nearby.  Since this was my first experience in lake fishing after 71 years, I decided to invite a neighbor who had some expertise in catching FISH.  I definitely needed some instructions from someone who was patient enough to teach me to bait my hook and cast the line out into the water. After a few miss-casts into the tree branches, I finally managed to get the rigging where Henry (my good neighbor) thought the fish might be.  I then was told to lay the fishing pole in a homemade fork looking device that Henry had brought along and then… wait.  I waited…and I waited…watching for the tip of the pole to begin twitching.  And then, it happened!  Henry yelled out, you got a fish on your line Mel.  Reel it in!  My eyes must have been as big as saucers and with a wide grin on my face I reeled in my FIRST FISH…ever.  Actually, when we decided it was time to leave our guarded fishing hole, while reeling in my fishing line…I caught another trout.  I yelled out in glee, somewhat surprising Henry I think, “Thank You Jesus”!  This does prove a point:  You can ‘teach old dogs new things.’

ANOTHER “FISHING” STORY TO TELL IN A MUCH LARGER LAKE:

Bigger Fish, bigger lake
Bigger Fish, bigger lake

There were men pulling in their fishing nets one morning.  The water from the wet nets broke the silence as two of the men stood up to stretch in their 20 Foot wooden boat.  They were eagerly searching for results from their labors of fishing all night long.  Although my experience was but a few hours on a small lake, I too eagerly waited for positive results.

But as the last of the empty nets pile into the boat bottom, they discouragingly reach for the boat’s oars as another wasted night is realized.

“How’s the fishing?” — a mans calls out from the shoreline.

“Nothing.  Absolutely NOTHING!” —they answered back.

“Throw your nets on the other side of the boat”,  orders the man from the nearby water’s edge.

“But we fished all night.”  

Frustration must have been heard in their voices.  I know my impatience would have certainly been with the fishermen’s; if I had been at Lake Padden and the results were…ZERO FISH!  But fishing in a much larger lake, the the Sea of Galilee…all night…fighting the surrounding elements…and coming home with NO RESULTS?

BUT, In Obedience–

After a long pause and the shaking of heads, a sense of authority in the voice coming from the beach is felt and the fisherman responds,  “All right, but only once more…”

456991202_47102379fbAfter a short time, letting out their nets in the same water, shouts of excitement ring out…calls for help sound from the boat.  The nets were so full, they were beginning to break!

You know this story from the conversations given in John 21:1-12.  What a moment that must have been!

The Nets Are FULL of FISH…now what?

Peter and his brother Andrew desperately brought in the catch with the nets breaking.  They must have thought silently to themselves, how did the stranger know where the fish were?  Was it a miracle?

Suddenly Peter remembered the words of Jesus,  “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

On that Post Easter Morning…

On the shore of the Sea of Galilee, as Jesus and the disciples shared together the “fish fry”, a new wind began to blow.  As the Father had sent Jesus into the world…now Jesus was sending them into the world:

“Go then and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”  (Matthew 28:19).

THE TEST:  The Acts of the Apostles 8:1, 4-5.

[1] “…On that day a great and severe persecution broke out against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”

[4]  “Now those who were scattered abroad went about [through the land from place to place] preaching the glad tidings, the Word [the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God].”

[5]  “Philip [the deacon, not the apostle] went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ (the Messiah) to them [the people].”

PAUL HARVEY once said,  “Too many Christians no longer are fishermen but keepers of the aquarium.”   

Had the church in Jerusalem become a “fish aquarium”?  Have we in the church– in our communities, become a “fish aquarium too?

I don’t know.  But what I do know is…it wasn’t God’s plan.  Jesus had been very specific when He said,  “And you shall be My witnesses in JERUSALEM and all JUDEA and SAMARIA and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth”  (Acts 1:8 AMP).

But what about Judea and Samaria?

The Martyrdom of Stephen:

Stephen’s death was an important factor in the life of the Christian community in Jerusalem.  It ignited “a great persecution” which instead of destroying the church movement, it spread the gospel beyond the walls of Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).

In my study and investigation of the evidence given in Acts 8,   I noticed the 12 Apostles remained in Jerusalem.  “Why were they not scattered like everyone else?”  

The church leaders had been granted religious protection by Gamaliel:

[34] But a certain Pharisee in the council  (Sanhedrin)  named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, highly esteemed  by all the people, standing up, ordered that the apostles be taken outside for a little while.  [35] Then he addressed them [the council, saying]:  Men of Israel, take care in regard to what you propose to do concerning these men.  (Acts 5:34-35).

After having them flogged and telling them not to speak in or about the name of Jesus…allowed them to go (verse 40).

Now personally, if that had happened to me, beaten with a whip and told you better not or else…I would have probably thought seriously, “Do I really want to be place in this same dilemma again?”  Maybe it would have been ‘safer’ if I would just mind my own business.  You know, go to church every week; help serve when I can; pray for the lost, the unsaved in the world; just be “low-key” in the larger scheme of things and keep on maintaining in the back row of the church I attend.

But reading further, we see how the 12 apostles reacted to the dilemma:

“Yet [in spite of the threats] they never ceased for a single day, both in the temple area and at home, to teach and to proclaim the GOOD NEWS (Gospel) of Jesus [as] the Christ (the Messiah)”  (Acts 5:42 AMP).

“Pastor, that is easy for you to do and say but…”

The religious leaders had agreed but…ordinary believers; the everyday working man; the stay-at-home housewife and mother had no protection.

No Programs or Written Materials to Hand Out–

I also noticed the message was a simple one:  Jesus’ death and resurrection was carried on the lips of ordinary people.

The gospel message has not changed, nor has God’s plan for personal delivery.  We must depend on the Holy Spirit’s POWER–

It Takes Time to Make Disciples:

Time of paying personal attention to people’s needs around us and hours of prayer are part of what it takes.  There isn’t a Christian assembly line knocking out believers like new cars in 30 or 45 days.  No automatic robots welding spirits and souls together to be “functional participants” in the local church.  It takes patience to teach people How to Fish: How to read the Word of God; How to feed and nourish their souls and their applications to the teaching of Jesus in their behavior.

It is ALL of that and more!

I had many questions for my neighbor Henry the first time I went fishing.  After putting the bait on the fishing hook, I asked Henry, “What do I do next?”  And his short answer to the question…“Get the fishing line in the water.  You’re not going to get any fish just thinking about what might be.” 

“Becoming a Contagious Christian” and not just “Keepers of the Aquarium”:

Bill Hybels developed a mathematical formula for reaching those who are spiritually lost from Jesus:

MR + CP + CG = ND

— Meaningful relationships + Caring for people + Communicating the Gospel = New Disciples –

This is the same pattern that the Holy Spirit used with the believers who fled Jerusalem and it is still an effective plan today.

“Salt Without Savor”–

In Matthew 5:13  JESUS SAID:  “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?  It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men.”

SALT WITHOUT SAVOR IS:

— Ineffective…

— Worthless…

— Lost its POWER…

— Won’t create thirst…

— Won’t add much spice…

— Won’t prevent decay.

Becky Pippert wrote:  “Unless salt gets poured out of the shaker, it remains a mere table ornament.”

Knowing What To Say When Opportunities Present Themselves; or how to have “savor” in the Church!

Don’t let the idea of being “salty with savor” overwhelm you.  When opportunities present themselves, just tell your story.  It really IS that simple!

Why do you believe in JESUS?

How did you come to know God’s love in your life?

How has JESUS made a difference in your life? 

JESUS TOLD HIS DISCIPLES  “You will be My witnesses”–

In a courtroom, a witness is not expected to argue the case, prove the truth or press for a verdict.  That is the job of the attorney.  A witness just reports what happened.

The Holy Spirit is our attorney…just telling your story in sharing your testimony; it builds a relational bridge between your heart and the people you are sharing with and it lets JESUS cross over the bridge from your heart to theirs.

Here’s An Old, Old Story in Sharing Your Testimony:

I love old hymns and there is one in particular that came to my mind when telling your story or how you came to be who you are as a Christian and how they too can have the same story in their life:

Verse:  

I heard an old, old story,  how a Savior came from glory

How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me.

I heard about His groaning,  of His precious blood’s atoning,

Then I repented of my sins and won the victory.

Chorus: 

O victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever!

He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood.

He loved me ere, I knew Him, and all my love is due Him–

He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.

Being a witness for Christ is that simple.  Just sharing an old, old story about your Victory in Jesus, a hymn written by Eugene M. Bartlett years ago.

“But how do I begin the conversation?”

I’ve learned over the years, asking questions in personal conversations… is a good place to begin.

One example might be, when someone asks you this often asked question “How’s it going?”  

Rather than giving the usual pat answer…“fine”, try this:

“Well, financially, okay; family wise, pretty well; and spiritually really great.  Which one do you want to talk about?”

What’s the Point?

GOD is already at work in people’s hearts…we learn to ask questions to see the Word seeds of the gospel.  The SEED needs to be planted, watered or harvested.

So do we really want to be Fishers of Men, as Jesus instructed us…or, are we just satisfied in being dedicated “Keepers of the Aquarium”?

 

Our Approach to the Gate Called “Beautiful”

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Entering the Gate

ONE HISTORICAL ACCOUNTING & LOCATION OF THE “BEAUTIFUL GATE”:

In my detective investigation for this POST, I discovered many scholars seem to disagree with the exact location of THE GATE CALLED “BEAUTIFUL”.

I tend to side with Leen Ritmeyer’s Archaelogical Design and his explanations of the historical account in relationship to The “Beautiful Gate” ; connecting the description found in Acts 3:2, 10:  

jlm_herod_tm_s_m01-copy-copy

There was The Double Gate located at the southern wall of the Temple Mount.  A 210 feet (64 m) wide monumental stairway led up to this gate from the lower plaza.  Because of its monumental proportions, this gate was probably used by most pilgrims going up to worship and pray at the Temple [www.ritmeyer.com/2010/12/14/the-beautiful-gate-of-the-temple/].

jlm_herod_tm_dgate_d01-copy

THE MAN AT THE BEAUTIFUL GATE:

Acts 3:1-2:

“[1] ONE DAY Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer–at three in the afternoon.  [2] Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts”  (NIV).

Here we see a man who was crippled at birth and earned his living by begging.  In taking liberties and reading “between the lines”, I began to look closely at the facts presented by Dr. Luke.

#1.  Every day, this man was carried to and from the church (“temple”) gate.  That FACT tells me that he had friends or family that helped him.

So, why do you think they called the “temple gate BEAUTIFUL”?  

My guess is, the people might like to make their entrance here through the beautiful way and enjoyed the aesthetics of the place.  Especially the art work and engravings of Solomon’s Porch [above drawing].

A Crippled Beggar
A Crippled Beggar

But, how does the “crippled beggar” fit into this picture of perfection?  

He doesn’t fit in! Presumably this majestic and beautiful gate prepared your mind to worship an awesome God.  Then you open your eyes and your smile of contentment begins to fade as you spy the beggar lying or sitting in the dust.  Your spirit feels fingernails screeching along a blackboard.

It’s like when driving down the road to the supermarket and glancing towards the curb at a stop light.  There stands an unkempt stranger holding a sign that reads, “HOMELESS – NEED HELP”.  You try not to give him any notice, feeling that eye contact will only encourage him.  OUCH!   “Another “homeless beggar” on the street.”  And soon as the RED LIGHT turns green, you step on the gas and you’re off!  Safe and secure from all alarm!

So Why Was The Beggar There?

Why do the temple authorities permit this to happen every day at the Church Gate?  The beggar wouldn’t sit there every day unless…he was making money.

What this shows to me is that the “church goers” had a heart for those less fortunate.  Not all the attendees were going for the “beauty experience”; they were going to worship God.  No one said the beggar was there by the temple (the visible dwelling place of God) because he hoped to be healed in his proximity to God.

Was this Beggar hoping for a miracle or is he looking for help from man?

“So when he (the “beggar”) saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them to give him a gift.  And Peter directed his gaze intently at him, and so did John and said, Look at us!  And [the man] paid attention to them, expecting that he was going to get something from them”  (Acts 3:3-5 AMP).

Based alone on the above verses, it’s clear to me… the man was looking for a “hand-out” and not a “hand-up”.  He was begging for monetary relief.

Are we like this crippled beggar?  We come close to God, but look to man for help?  We come close to God, but look for temporary relief for what is really ailing us?

You might be thinking, “I’m not crippled, a beggar either.”  Maybe not physically crippled, but maybe crippled from brokenness or strife in your life over the years from all types reasons.

Mary Lowry and Buddy Greene wrote the lyrics to a great Bill & Gloria Gaither song that was popular in the 70’s:

Something beautiful, something good

All my confusion He understood

All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife

But He made something beautiful of my life.

NOTICE ALL THE DISCUSSION ABOUT WHO IS LOOKING AT WHAT AT THE GATE CALLED “BEAUTIFUL”:

(VERSE 4)  “And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him (the “beggar”) with John, said, LOOK ON US”  (KJV).

Verse 4 tells us that Peter and John looked, gazed intently, fixed their eyes, looked “straight at the beggar”.  Then Peter told the crippled man to look at them.  Was Peter suggesting that the beggar should look back at them…to receive a healing?  Did the beggar expect to get something in return for all this eye contact?

“YES”.  (See verse 5):  “And [the man] paid attention to them, expecting that he was going to get something from them.”  Peter wanted to have this man’s undivided attention!

So whose FAITH is revealed?

[6] “But Peter said, Silver and gold (money) I do not have; but what I do have, that I give to you; in [the use of] the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, WALK!  [7] Then he took hold of the man’s right hand with a firm grip and raised him up.  And at once his feet and ankle bones became strong and steady.  [8] And leaping forth he stood and began to walk, and he went into the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God”  (Acts 3:6-8 AMP).

Did this “crippled beggar” have FAITH that he would be healed?

The Bible verses makes it clear–he expected money, not healing.  However, when he was told to walk he obeyed; the man crippled from birth, who was brought every day to beg before the Beautiful Gate, made the effort to rise up!

Don’t you wish that when things aren’t going the way you expected, that God would just “Do it”?  Well, if the “crippled beggar” wasn’t obedient to Peter’s words to STAND…would he have been healed, or would God have healed him right where he sat?

FAITH IS AN EXPRESSION:

I love Creflo Dollar’s definition of FAITH:  “Faith is…the practical expression of the confidence in God and His Word.”

The CRIPPLED BEGGAR was giving his practical expression; his faith being expressed in confidence and obeying the command of the apostles AUTHORITY.

Peter said in verse 4, “what I have I give you…”  And what did Peter have?  Did Peter have power to heal?

In my detective work this past week, I came upon a commentary Interpreting Acts by Harrison (p.79), where he says,  “In himself Peter had not more power to bestow healing than he had money in his wallet.”  Is Harrison right?

Matthew 10:8 reads,  “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.  Freely you have received, freely give.” 

The Message Bible reads,  “Tell them that the kingdom is here.  Bring health to the sick.  Raise the dead.  Touch the untouchables.  Kick out the demons.  You have been treated generously, so live generously.” 

Is this what Peter was giving in Acts 3?

According to Matthew 10:1, what Peter had, was AUTHORITY, in the name of JESUS to HEAL.

“AND HAVING summoned His twelve disciples, He gave them AUTHORITY over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and HEAL EVERY KIND of disease and every kind of sickness.”

PETER had authority to use Jesus’ name.  But he links two concepts together in Acts 3:16:

–He says, “Jesus name”.

–He says “the faith that comes through [JESUS] has given complete healing.”

Do We Who Live in the 21st Century Have the Authority to Use Jesus’ Name As Effectively?

Here is just a few Bible references that will answer that question if you are in doubt of your effectiveness as you approach the Gate Called “Beautiful”:

[ 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Ephesians 4:7-13; Romans 12:4-8 ].

The referenced verses above, all talk about “gifts” — all of us as Christians can have the same effectiveness through the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:9 specifically mentions “healing” as a gift.

Does that AUTHORITY rest only on those who are “worthy”?  Does that God-given AUTHORITY rest only on those who “have faith”?

“JARS OF CLAY”  Might Be the Answer–

JARS OF CLAY
JARS OF CLAY

What is meant by “jars of clay?”  (Us!)

2 Corinthians 4:7:  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us”  (NIV).

I can understand on the surface why we can be called “clay” (Gen. 2:7).  But why are we “JARS”?

As I looked more closely at the apostle Paul’s words in VERSE 7, what I received was–JARS HOLD SOMETHING!  And in this situation–a “treasure”.

So what is that “TREASURE”?  

The knowledge of God reflected in JESUS (verse 6) in the POWER from God (verse 7).  “WOW”, I thought to myself.  Is “this treasure” not being shared with others?

Does the FACT that the “JAR” holds a treasure mean…the jar in and of itself is a treasure?

Peter’s Story in Luke 22: 

Peter confesses to Jesus,  Lord, I am ready to go with You to prison and death (verse 33).  

Was this true, did he really know his own heart?

In verses 49-50 and John 18:10, the words cast additional light that reveals the servant who drew his sword was…PETER; it shows that Peter was willing to stand and fight and die for his Lord!

So how did Peter get from being willing to die to repeated denial in Luke 22:55-60?

He believed in his sword with the fact that together, they could win this fight.

When Jesus allowed Himself to be taken captive, it turned Peter’s ideas upside-down.  It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  Do you see the same parallel occurring between the crippled beggar– at the gate called ” BEAUTIFUL”– and Peter during the Luke 22 happenings?

What stuck out clearly to me was the beggar was close to God but was depending upon man and his sharp Realtor’s idea of location, location, location; how to get man to provide for his own personal welfare…every day!

Peter was close to God, but depending on his sword and his idea of how things needed to turn out.

So if Peter is much like the beggar he healed in Acts 3, why does he get to heal?

In this First Church–why this apostle, this follower of Jesus in His ministry on earth…why does he have such moral superiority that he can call God to heal the crippled beggar?

I know that this a wordy question to ponder.  The point is…Peter doesn’t have “moral superiority”.  What he has is knowledge that he’s just a “jar of clay.”  And, the “jars of clay” and their treasures are as current in today’s churches as they were in the First Church!

Unlike the beggar, unlike his ideas accumulated in Luke 22, Peter now realizes the TRUTH!

“And Peter…answered the people,  You men of Israel, why are you so surprised and wondering at this (healing of the crippled beggar)?  Why do you keep staring at us, as though by our [own individual] power or [active] piety we had made this man [able] to walk?”  (Acts 3:12 AMP).

The realization is the “authority” allows the POWER of God to work through FAITH.

“Healers in Need of Healing”

Do we sometimes get confused in our churches we attend, believing that we are part of the “treasure” instead of just the “jars” holding the treasure?

Are you a devoted Christian as long as things go the way you planned?  And if they don’t, you find yourself “crippled” by circumstances to move on?

Do you believe you should get part of the “credit” for your work in advancing the gospel?

Some soul-searching questions to ask ourselves as Christians.  God works most powerfully through JARS, who clearly understand their role and content to trust God in whatever transpires.

 

Living in a Moral Fog

Being in a FOG
Being in a FOG

One Helicopter Pilot’s Story:

A helicopter pilot was flying over Seattle and got lost in the dense fog that rolls in from Puget Sound.  He emerged from the fog and had no idea where he was.  He could see a tall building nearby with people working at their desks, hovered the aircraft near one of the windows holding up a sign asking “Where am I?”  One of the workers wrote a response then held up a sign that said,  “You are in a helicopter.”  The pilot nodded his thanks and flew straight to the airport runway.  One of the passengers quipped, “How could that sign ‘you’re in a helicopter’ help you know where you were?”  The pilot said,  “Simple.  The answer that guy gave me was technically correct, but completely useless, so I figured that must be the Microsoft Customer Relations Building, so I knew where I was!”

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How Can We Know Right from Wrong?

Most of the moral advice today is found in magazines or heard on talk-shows which leads to more confusion.  So how about this advice:

“Let your conscience be your guide”

No, that’s not in your Bible.  Can you guess (no Google-ling please) the original source of the saying?  I thought it came from my mother when growing up; and she no doubt coined the saying from the 1940 Disney movie “Pinocchio”.

In the movie, Jiminy Cricket sang a song to Pinocchio in which he said,  “Take the straight and narrow path; and if you start to slide–give a little whistle, give a little whistle and always let your conscience be your guide.”

Darn it.  I’ll have the tune embedded in my head while writing the rest of this post!

Can you let your conscience be your guide?

My answer?  YES and NO.

“YES” when you are really young, you should pay attention to your conscience, but as you grow older, we’re going to see dangerous things in letting your conscience be your guide.

Titus 1:15-16  (RSV):

[15] To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted.  [16] They profess to know God but they deny Him by their deeds; they are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed.

“To the pure all things are pure” – What does that mean?

Some people would like it to mean that one can engage in some sort of less than pure entertainment and not be adversely effected by it.  For example, some have said that they could view pornography with their own “purity” (?) that make their observations pure.  They suggest the only way one could be adversely effected by such must have a “dirty” heart (mind) to begin with.

So what is the apostle Paul trying to convey in this passage of Scripture?  Does it mean if I am “pure in heart” in every thing I do, will it be construed automatically as PURE?  Does it mean that a person’s lust, greed, immorality, cursing, cheating and lying are all “PURE” if the person committing them is pure within?  I think that anyone who is rational thinking and dedicated to pleasing the Lord knows better than that.

Spiritual Principles of a Pure Conscience:

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary defines the English word “pure” in Titus 1:15 with the Greek word Katharos, “pure”, from the heart.  In the Greek, there are different words for PURE (“hagnos”); WINE mixed with water may be “hagnos” – pure, “not being contaminated”. But “katharos”, as used in verse 15, implies “when there is the admixture of any element even though the later is ‘pure’ in itself.”

Our English word “conscience” comes from two Latin words:  CON meaning “with” and SCIENCE meaning “to know”.  The New Testament word, sunelesis (Greek), means “to know together”.  Both words have the idea of “knowing with ourselves” or “knowing within ourselves”.

When it comes to MORAL DECISIONS, it means to “understand internally”.

Cain’s Conscience–

In Genesis 4, because of Cain’s outrageous anger, he kills his brother Abel.  Although this act was committed long before the Ten Commandments,  “You shall not murder”, Cain knew instinctively what he had done wrong.

Your conscience is to your soul what your nerves are to your body.  When your hand grabs hold of a hot pan’s handle on the stove, the nerves send a message to the brain: THAT’S HOT!  REMOVE YOUR HAND!

The same is true with CONSCIENCE.  Your conscience is like a warning light telling you what you are about to do is wrong…and if you do it, your conscience says, “See, I told you not to do that!”

Having a God-conscience:

People are born with a sense of right and wrong.  The Bible teaches God provided two solid proofs to point out His existence.

THE FIRST…an external witness of creation.

When you understand the amazing ans awesome order of the Universe around us, you are driven to admit to a higher intelligence that designed all this and created it!

THE OTHER WITNESS to the existence of God is an internal witness-conscience.  The fact that we are born with moral equipment called conscience.  It should prove there is Someone who determines the rightness and wrongness of our actions.  You don’t have to read a written law to know that stealing, killing, and lying are wrong; that’s something everyone instinctively knows.

Romans 2:14-15 says,

[14]  When Gentiles who have not the [divine] Law do instinctively what the Law requires, they are a law to themselves, since they do not have the Law.  [15] They show that the essential requirements of the Law are written in their hearts and are operating there, with which their consciences (sense of right and wrong) also bear witness; and their [moral] decisions (their arguments of reason, their condemning or approving thoughts) will accuse or perhaps defend and excuse [them].  (Amplified Bible).

Your CONSCIENCE doesn’t make you do right, or wrong, but lets you know when your about to do wrong; makes you suffer when you have done wrong.

Moral Guidance is Contorted–

Our conscience is like a piece of sharp metal within our soul.  It has sharp corners when you are considering doing something wrong; corners that can stab you on the inside.

Filing the Edges
Filing the Edges

However, every time you ignore or deny your conscience, it files down the sharp edges of the metal of steel.  The next time you are faced with the same opportunity to do wrong, conscience stabs you again, but this time, the jab isn’t as sharp.  Over time, as you continually resist the words your conscience brings to mind, sharp edges are worn down until you seldom feel them.

The Bible says, “To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted.  They profess to know God but they deny Him by their deeds; they are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed”  (Titus 1:15-16).  

Have you ever told a lie?  The first time you told a lie you probably felt badly.  But the next time you told it, it became a little easier.  People have convinced themselves that telling a “little white lie” is not actually bad–everyone does it.  Their conscience has become “dulled”.

SO HOW DO WE COME OUT OF THE “MORAL FOG”?

Your CONSCIENCE must be transformed by JESUS.  If you and I could spend our entire lives listening to and obeying our God-given consciences we would live a perfect life.  But God’s Word tells us,  ALL sinned and we fall short of the glory of God.

Have you ever told a lie?

Have you ever cheated or stolen?

Have you deliberately hurt someone?

That’s why ALL of us end up with a messed-up conscience.

Having a Guilty Conscience–

Samuel Langhorne Clemens–pen-name, Mark Twain struggled personally with his own guilty conscience.  In the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, his struggles with conscience came out of Huck’s mouth:

“If I had a yaller dog that didn’t know no more than a person’s conscience does, I would pison him.  It takes more room than all the rest of a person’s insides, and yet ain’t no good, no how.”

When you have a guilty conscience, seems like it’s hard to ignore–but that’s a good sign; shows your conscience hasn’t been completely deadened.

What Do You Do When You Have a Guilty Conscience?

Hebrews 10:22:

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water”  (NIV).

The Bible teaches a guilty conscience is a dirty conscience.  It is like moral filth that you allow to accumulate and then. pollutes your soul.  And when your conscience becomes dirty, it always affects the way you look at yourself and others.

JESUS can do two important things for a “dirty conscience”:

#1.  Your CONSCIENCE must be cleaned by His blood.

When people have a “guilty conscience”, they do all kinds of things to get rid of their guilt.  Certain areas around the world people crawl on their hands and knees up steep mountains to reach a church altar.  Other people throw themselves into religious activities trying to get rid of their guilt.  But the Bible, God’s Word, teaches only one thing to clean a “dirty” conscience–the Blood of Jesus Christ.

The Bible says in Hebrews 9:14:

“How much more surely shall the blood of Christ, Who by virtue of [His] eternal Spirit [His own preexistent divine personality] has offered Himself as an unblemished sacrifice to God, purify our consciences from dead works and lifeless observances to serve the [ever] living God?”  (Amplified Bible)

I have an old Hymn Book I keep close to my computer out of nostalgia from long days past and for reference in writing my blogs.  In writing this past week on  addressing our CONSCIENCE ISSUES that in living, we need to ask ourselves the questions a Hymn writer by the name of Elisha Hoffman asks:

“Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?  Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?  Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?  Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”  [from Are You Washed in the Blood].

#2.  Your CONSCIENCE must be corrected by His Word.

When you become a Christian,  “set your conscience to the Bible-Word of God”.

We READ in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that God’s Word ALWAYS points you to JESUS.  He becomes your standard of right and wrong:

[16] ALL SCRIPTURE is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;  [17] That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”  (KJV).

When you become a “true believer”; a follower of Christ Jesus, born-again of the Spirit–your determination of right and wrong no longer depends on your CONSCIENCE because you can’t “let your conscience be your guide”.  You come out of LIVING IN A MORAL FOG.

You don’t decide what is right or wrong on how you feel, because you have learned that feelings can be unreliable.  Your standard for MORALITY is NOT what the “majority” in SOCIETY are thinking.

THE “DOINGS”, the “DEEDS” PROVE THE LIE (Verse 16):

“They profess to now God but they deny Him by their deeds”

It is rather easy to talk about God.  The phrase “Thank God!” is probably expressed several million times across the land each day.  What a grateful God-fearing nation we must be!

We notice how at the Academy Awards, so many thanked God for their award.  But the fact remains while one may verbally use the name of God, this doesn’t mean they really know Him.  In fact, it is a false claim to say one “knows God” if they are disobedient to His Word by their deeds. John, the disciple of Jesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit had much to say about this (1 John 1:6; 2:4-6).  

The Scripture passage in Titus 1:16 says those who say nice things about God but will not submit to Him are:

“liars”

“detestable”

“disobedient in nature”

“worthless for any good deed”

That’s pretty strong stuff!

The Pure in Christ Come Out of the Fog–

“…in ALL THINGS, show yourself to be an example of good deeds with PURITY in doctrine dignified”  (Titus 2:7).

The godly man or woman teaches the TRUTH and dignifies it with righteous living (1 Timothy 4:12).  

In front of everyone we come in contact with daily, with a clear (PURE) CONSCIENCE, the proof is in the “doing”.  It is because of the HOPE we have in Christ Jesus we’re motivated to take a stand with a “pure conscience”, even if it is unpopular:

“And everyone who has this HOPE [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure (chaste, undefiled, guiltless)”  (1 John 3:3 AMP).

Here’s my last question:  Has the fog lifted, can you see the landing lights on the airport runway– can you see God?

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”

–Matthew 5:8–

My Confession of a “JONAH’S SPIRIT”

I don’t want to give a shameless plug to a book my wife convinced me to read,  The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn,  BUT… I will, because God’s Spirit spoke to my spirit while reading this passage  in Chapter 20, The Things To Come:

The Prophet and Nouriel (character names in the book), were discussing the hope for America and referencing JUDGEMENT rendered by God in times past; Sodom, the kingdom of Judah, who had once known God and yet had fallen.

The king, Josiah, comes on to the scene and attempted to reverse Israel’s spiritual descent.  He banned the pagan practices, destroyed the idols, smashed altars, and sought to restore the nation to God.  He was “on fire” for God!

Now this brings you to where the Holy Spirit gave me a direct message; where He said,  ‘Mel, I want you to  make a confession from your spirit in your next blog-post’.  So try to stay with me in your reading till the end to see MY CONFESSION.

Exert from The Harbinger–

NOURIEL:  “So judgement can be delayed.”

THE PROPHET:  “Yes, even for the sake of one man.  And then there was Nineveh, the great Assyrian city.”

NOURIEL:  “As in the Assyrian Empire?”

THE PROPHET:  “As in merciless, arrogant, brutal, cold-blooded Assyrian empire.  Its judgement was also decreed.  God called the prophet Jonah…

I’ll stop the conversation there before I get in trouble with the “copyright police”.  But I want to give the exact moment God’s message entered my ear; into my spirit…

THE BOOK OF JONAH:

JONAH had been called by God to go to a city to proclaim God’s Word and their destruction.  But JONAH did everything he could do to avoid answering His call.

The character in Mr. Cahn’s book then asks the question, “Because JONAH didn’t want to proclaim the upcoming BAD NEWS?”  “NO,” said the Prophet,  “because he didn’t want them to be saved.  He knew that God’s will was not for judgement but MERCY.”

A “JONAH’S SPIRIT”:

repent-n-turn-to-gods-way

Jonah 4:2 (KJV)

But it [Nineveh’s repentance ] displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.  And he prayed to the Lord and said,  “I pray thee, Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country?  That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repentest of evil.”

Jonah 4:2 (The Message)

“God I knew it–when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen.  That’s why I ran off to Tarshish!  I knew you were sheer grace and mercy not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness.”

Nineveh, an “Exceedingly great city of three-day journey in breath”–

ninevehNormally, a day’s walking distance in ancient times, consisted of twelve hours.  Now in Jonah’s case, when he arrived after his “fish” experience, might have gone up and down all the different streets to check out the lay of the land.  But the Bible doesn’t say that, so I won’t go down that path (no pun intended).

Nineveh was settled as early as 6000 B.C. according to scholars and by 3000 B.C., was an important religious center where they worshiped many gods (polytheism), with the Assyrian goddess Ishtar, the fertility and war-goddess (sexual & warfare) a prominent idol.  Does America have anything that you know of that’s similar?

During my investigation, I discovered a map that showed the great city could have been consisted of several nearby city.

“…Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah–which is the great city”  (Gen. 10:12).

I lived in Southern California for 38 years, and the City of Los Angeles consisted of many smaller cities within the City Limits.

Wickedness and Violence – The Sodom and Nineveh Parallel.

I could go on in length on the cultural similarities and the morality of the “great cities”, but I think 1 Peter 5 lays out the issue of the yesterdays and the today’s similarities:

“…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.    Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time”                (1 Peter 5:5-6 NASB).

Discovering THE IDENTITY:

So in reading in the Book of Jonah, we discover that Jonah’s identity didn’t sound like some random pilgrim; someone who had a primitive idea of who God was and regarded Him as a tribal deity for Israel alone.  No, this isn’t why Jonah wanted to avoid Nineveh.  The answer is…Jonah knew God too well and that is why he didn’t obey God’s calling.

The Great City Was Spared–

Why did the Nineveh’s inhabitants, the non-believers listen to the prophet Jonah’s message?

“…and he [Jonah] cried,  Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

If that message was given in today’s “great cities”–countries–the response would be,  “Just another nut-case”.  But here in Jonah’s time, the people reacted differently to the message:

“So the people of Nineveh believed in God and proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth [in penitent mourning], from the greatest of them even to the least of them”  (verse 5 AMP).

Even the king of Nineveh REPENTS and makes a declaration to all the citizens (verses 6-8), and ends with HOPE:

“Who can tell, God may turn and revoke His sentence against us [when we have met His terms], and turn away from His fierce anger so that we perish not”  (verse 9).

AND THE RESULTS OF THEIR REPENTANCE; THEIR TURNAROUND FROM DISOBEDIENCE TO THE ONLY GOD?

“And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God revoked His [sentence of] evil that He had said He would do to them and He did not do it [for He was comforted and eased concerning them]”  (verse 10).

A much different reaction from God than what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah.   God told Abraham that if he could find but 10 righteous people, He would spare the city.  History revealed shows there were not 10 righteous people to be found in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah!

Why did Nineveh’s inhabitants listen to the Prophet’s Message?

JESUS Himself supplies the clues in the answer in the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 11, where our Lord and savior refers to this account:

“For [just] as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will also the Son of Man be [a sign] to this age and generation”  (Luke 11:30 AMP).

JESUS said,  “Jonah–the man, the prophet–was himself a sign to the city of Nineveh, and in just the same manner, I, the Lord Jesus Christ, be a sign to the whole generation.”  After all, Jonah had been inside of a large fish for three days and JESUS in a tomb for three days.  He was referring to Israel but meant the whole race of man beyond that; and as Jonah was a sign to Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be a sign to this generation.

The Last Chapter and the Spirit of Jonah revealed–

In Chapter 4 of the Book of Jonah, we read of the encounter between Jonah and God.  You might think the story would be over in Chapter 3 after ALL the people of the Great City covered themselves in sackcloth and ashes–a true sign of humbleness and repentance before Almighty God.  Repentance meant more than “I’m sorry God”– it was a 180 degree turn in direction from where they were headed–God-lacking, immorality, disobedience, idol worship…

JONAH’S SPIRIT -MAN:

“BUT IT displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was very angry”  (Jonah 4:1).

My spirit-man–

I speak with my mouth how angry I am with what I am hearing from our President, our Congress, local politicians, our Mayor and town council, regarding their beliefs and practices and imposing them on me.   Topics like “same-sex marriages”; the killing of the unborn by abortion; the debt crisis; Law & Order in our inner cities, and on and on.  It’s so frustrating, I get so angry with the situation and I CONFESS with my lips,  “God, bring your wrath down on this godless society I live in!  Enough is enough!”

This is where the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear,  “Mel, you have the same ‘spirit’ as the prophet Jonah.  Pay attention to the Word.”

JONAH was angry with God because the outcome he expected, his plans, didn’t pan out.  The Assyrians, were a brutal and godless people who needed to be damned, not saved.  They deserved God’s punishment.  After all, isn’t that the reason for me being here?

There is a lot of Jonah in all of us I think.  We act as though we would be delighted to turn on the Evening News and hear that Iran, Syria, Russia, China, you name them…lay smoldering in ruins.  But God loves the people of IRAN, SYRIA, CHINA, RUSSIA…anyone who we might consider our enemies…just as God loved the enemies of Israel.

The “Gourd” Above Our Heads–

Jonah had just prayed to the Lord that he was fed up with this whole idea, that when sinners turn to Him and meet His conditions…“You revoke the sentence of evil against them”  (Jonah 4:2).  Then said the Lord,  “Do you do well to be angry?”  (verse 4).

Now Jonah wasn’t ready to answer the Lord’s question and admit to his failings and neither am I.  My grandfather use to say when things reached his “boiling point”; becoming frustrated about the way things were turning out in his life would say,  “I’m going up into the mountains and just eat worms!”

With Jonah’s disappointments,  the mountains were out of the question; so he decided to go to the east of the Great City; make a Tabernacle or “booth”, getting out of the hot sun and into the shade.

“And the Lord God prepared a gourd and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head…”  (verse 6).

Castor Oil Plant
Castor Oil Plant

The Hebrew Word in verse 6 for “gourd” is for the castor oil plant, or literally “the vomit plant”.  If you have ever tasted a spoonful of “castor oil”, you get the picture here.

God is showing us that Jonah’s heart wasn’t in the right place.  He needed to vomit out the evil of his heart; the bitterness, the judgmental attitude toward Nineveh.  When I saw this message to Jonah, it was the same message I was assimilating from God’s Spirit:

“Mel, you need some CASTOR OIL and vomit up your anger towards America’s leaders and the ungodly who are surrounding you.”

Some Choice Words to ‘Chew On’ that follow…

“God prepared a plant, appointed it”.

The plant grew up and covered Jonah’s head, evidence of God’s gracious provision in spite of what it looks like around us.

But on the second day of his pouting in the sun, God prepared a worm:

“…God appointed a worm which attacked the plant so that it withered”  (verse 7).

Jonah 4:7
Jonah 4:7

The WORMS EFFECTIVENESS and Turning the “Heart Lights On”–

“You are the LIGHT of  the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven”  (Matthew 5:14-16 AMP).

We are LIGHTS, not to be covered up, no matter what the condition is of our cities we live in, our state, our country or even our churches we attend.  “Let the REDEEMED say so!”

God has sent us to where we reside in this world to DECLARE the word of Jonah.  Do you see as I have seen how suddenly and subtly the Holy Spirit has insinuated us into the picture?  Around unsaved people–the “godless”, we call them, the “lawless and the disobedient”.  I wanted to dismiss this group from my life saying,  “Revolting, disgusting people who deserve damnation!”.  We sing of God’s tender grace and His mercies and His compassion but avoid saying anything about JESUS to them.  After all, we don’t want to offend anyone.

Some Choice Words Given–

GOD prepared a plant, appointed it.  And the plant grew up and covered Jonah’s head, the evidence of God’s gracious provision in a day of frustration and disappointment.

BUT…on the second day, God prepared a WORM:  “…God appointed a worm which attacked the plant so that it withered”  (Jonah 4:7).

Many times in my long life, thinking that I was defeated in a thing–frustrated, angry and then…God provided some shade in the shadow of His arms.  And then, when perhaps I forgot the blessings, lo and behold…a WORM comes along and I find myself back where I started from.  And that’s a good thing!

A Hot East Wind Blows–

Poor Jonah just sat there sweating, suffering and suffocating until he fainted; he even asked that he might die:

But God said to Jonah,  “Do you have the right to be angry about the vine?”  “I do,” he said.  “I am angry enough to die”  (verse 9).

You know, it’s easy to point a finger at a situation, a condition, a person in your life, but haven’t you ever said to your Heavenly Father  “I want what I want.  I don’t care what You do Lord.  Of course I’m angry at what’s going on in society and in my country.  I don’t like what’s happening!  Take me away.  Take me to heaven and let the trumpet sound!”  

NOTICE WHAT GOD SAID:

Jonah 4:10, 11:

“The the Lord said,  ‘You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work, and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight.” [10]

“And should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” [11]

That is the Hebrew way of describing children; 120,000 little children.  He said,  “You can take pity on a ‘worm-infested’ plant but you can’t take pity upon a great city filled with children and people who don’t know their God.”  And then…the Book of Jonah ends abruptly.  Why?  Because that is where it’s suppose to take us–the revelation of the heart of God.

“MY CONFESSION”:

I have become like Jonah; I have let the “JONAH SPIRIT” take hold of my spirit.  Am I demonstrating to others the heart of God who loves the world, who are staggering on in blind willful ignorance and doesn’t know where they are going?

He has sent me, and you as disciples, as Ambassadors for Christ and to be a sign to this generation.  What is the sign of Jonah?  It is the resurrection, the sign of people who were once dead but who have been made alive in Christ Jesus.  Let the Redeemed say so!

new-york-street-pedestrians

–My Prayer–

Abba Father, Daddy, thank You for directing me

to the Book of Jonah this past week, through it,

a look at my heart-light.  How like the stubborn prophet I am

intent on my own goals, my own comfort, and my unconcern about those

around me whose hearts cry out for You and touch Your heart of compassion.

Lord, grant that I may feel like You feel, to have pity on the people

of this Nation who cannot tell their right hand from their left.

And Lord, help my heart reflect your heart and show them Your 

LOVE and COMPASSION in declaring the Gospel Message of truth, in Jesus’ name.

Amen.

Every WEB Begins with a Single Thread – (Part 2 of 2)

WEB of TEMPTATION
WEB of TEMPTATION

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB)–

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.”

WE HAVE TO EXPECT TEMPTATION WILL COME:

“but with temptation…”  (verse 13).

Most of us go out into the world each day ill-prepared for a “spiritual battle”.  Ephesians 6:13-18  informs us that not only are we to get ready, but to stay ready and “put on the full armor of God”.  Yeah, I know, many of you who are reading this series on TRIAL and TEMPTATION are saying,  “I know that verse all to well”, or maybe…”I know what the Bible says about being prepared and being strong against trials and temptations.”  That might be the case, but have you tucked the POWER of Ephesians 6:13-18 so far away, when trials and temptations arise…you forget where it is?   

Think of yourselves as a tube of “spiritual toothpaste”–PRESSURE brings out what’s really on the inside.

A WORD STUDY in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

TEMPTATION:  peirasmos from peiazo = To make trial of, try, tempt, prove in either a good or bad sense.

It describes first the idea of putting to the test– then refers to the test or pressures that come in order to discover a person’s nature and the quality of some thing.

Peirasmos implies TROUBLE or something that breaks the pattern of peace, joy, and happiness in someone’s life.

TRIALS rightly faced are harmless, in fact beneficial:

“Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter TRIALS of any sort or fall into various TEMPTATIONS.  Be assure and understand that the TRIAL and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience”  (James 1:2-3 AMP).

OVERTAKEN:  lumbano = Taken hold of, grasped, seized and in so doing, bringing under one’s control.

In some secular uses, “lumbano” meant to be taken by violence, seized, carried off (as a prize or booty).  It was also used of passions, feelings, etc.–meaning to be seized by a thing– “caught in the webs ‘stabilimenta’ or elaborate web decorations”  [*See Part 1].

Paul uses the perfect tense in verse 13 “overtaken”–

The perfect tense emphasizes that they had not only been solicited by TEMPTATION but seized and overcome and that this temptation “has laid hold of you” (Berkley, Wuest, Amplified).  Using the perfect tense brings us down to the present moment; there has never been “peirasmos me anthropinos.”  In addition to this there is certainty that God will never prove FAITHLESS.

COMMON TO MAN–Such as is human!

Don’t let use of this sentence as an excuse to sin when you are tested–TEMPTED–rationalizing the act in your mind saying, “I’m ONLY human!”  That’s not the application Paul intends.  As one person has written,  “God promises a safe landing but not a calm passage.”

J. Vernon McGee writes that…A great many people feel that nobody has ever been tempted as they are tempted.  My friend, no matter what TEMPTATION you experience, there have been others who have had the same kind of temptation.  The encouraging thing is that God will make a way of escape for you.  God is FAITHFUL, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can endure.

We often want to excuse our particular tempting circumstance as “very unique” or a “special exception.”  But God reminds us our temptation is NOT unique…that many other men and women of God faced the same or similar temptation, found the strength in God to overcome the temptation.  Others before you found strength in the Lord to overcome your temptation and worse!

Becoming Victorious in Overcoming–

So you can be victorious in the STRENGTH of JESUS, not in your own strength:

“But clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), and make no provision for [indulging] the flesh [put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature] to [gratify its] desires (lusts)”  (Romans 13:14).

“But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God).    For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do”  (Galatians 5:16-17 AMP).

We FIGHT TEMPTATION with Jesus’ power, like a young girl who explained what she did when Satan came to her with TEMPTATION at the door of her heart:

“I send Jesus to answer the door.  When Satan sees Jesus he says,

“OOPS sorry, I must have the wrong house.”

“BUT GOD IS FAITHFUL” – (verse 13).

Timothy Edwards notes that “God’s faithfulness is shown in not permitting temptation to be too intense or too long in duration.”

Word Study:  FAITHFUL – (pistos from pertho – to persuade or induce one by words to believe, have confidence), is something or someone who’s worthy of faith or keeps promises and is applied to God, humans, His Word, etc.

And Paul’s Point…?

God always acts consistently with His character, thus has made a provision adequately to meet the need of those who rely upon His strength and seek to be conformed to His will:

“Inasmuch then as we have a great High Priest Who has [already] ascended and passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [of faith in Him].

For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning.

Let us fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it]”  (Hebrews 4:14-16 AMP).

Illustration of God’s Faithfulness:

There was once a young boy whose Dad left him on a downtown corning one morning, telling his son to wait there until he returned in about a half hour.  But the father’s car broke down and he couldn’t get to a phone.  Five hours past before the father managed to get back, worried that his son would be in a state of panic.  But when the father got there the boy was standing in front of the dime store (‘old story’), looking in the window rocking back and forth on his heels.  When the father saw him, he ran up to him, throwing his arms around him, then hugging and kissing him.  The father apologized and said,  “Weren’t you worried?  Did you think I was never coming back?”  The boy looked up and replied,  No Dad, I knew you were coming.  You said you would.”

God Will Not Allow You to be TEMPTED “Beyond What You Are Able” —

In short, NO TRIAL/TEMPTATION is naturally stronger than our spiritual resources.

People sin because they willingly sin.  Notice that God doesn’t promise to deliver us from the trial/temptation but He does promise to LIMIT its intensity so that it does not overwhelm our ability to handle it!

He also promise to provide the way of escape that we might be enabled to bear up under the trial/temptation (Gen. 19:20,21; Psalm 124:7; Jeremiah 29:11; Lk. 16:26; Acts 27:44; Jas. 5:11). 

–Standing On the Promises–

Standing on the promises I cannot fail,

Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call.

Resting in my Savior as my all in all,

Standing on the promises of God.

The words of that old favorite hymn still have an effect on our lives when it comes to being tempted/tested.  Oswald Chambers encourages us writing that…

“PATIENCE has the meaning of testing–a thing drawn out and tested, drawn out to the last strand without breaking, and ending in sheer joy.  The strain on a violin string stretched to the uttermost gives it its strength; and the stronger the strain, the finer is the sound of our life for God, and He never strains more than we are able to bear”  (The Hope of God – The Ministry of the Unnoticed).

4 -TRUTHS to Remember the Next Time You Are ENSNARED:

1.  Others have already gone down the same path.

2.  God can be trusted in your trial and temptation.

3.  God will not allow too great a temptation or test to come into your life, although, it may feel that way.

4.  With every TEMPTATION or TEST, there is the way of escape.

THE WAY OF ESCAPE–

“The Way…” does not lead us to a place where we escape ALL temptation (that’s heaven alone), the way of escaping THE WEB leads us to te place where we are able to bear it.

We are reminded that to be tempted is not sin,  BUT TO ENTERTAIN TEMPTATION OR SURRENDER TO TEMPTATION IS SIN.  When we bear temptation, Satan often condemns us for being tempted (Rev. 12:10; Job 1:9-11; 2:5; Zec. 3:1-2).  But it is that condemnation from Satan the Christian does not need to accept (Eph. 6:13; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9).  REMEMBER, God provides the armor, but we must completely put it on.

Ephesians 6:13
Ephesians 6:13

I’ve given you a lot to think about in this two-part series on TEMPTATION, TESTING and TRIALS we face daily.  As a Word Detective, let me leave you with this WORD STUDY:

1.  Temptation – Greek Word, PEIRASMOSS – Trials of a varied character.

2.  Escape – Greek Word, ekbasis – Way or escape, the way out of a defile, a mountain pass (a WEB).

3.  Bear (endure) – Greek Word, HUPOPHERO  – To bear up under.

4.  Faithful – Greek Word, PISTOS – To be trusted; reliable.

So if you were to commit this verse to memory, you will be able to resist the grasp; the single stand of the Spider’s WEB and ESCAPE the snare of Satan.

1 Corinthians 10:13:  “No temptation has overtaken you but such as common to man; and God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it”  (NASB).

REMEMBER, it only takes one thread to ensnare you…then the hold of the WEB.  Avoid the “thread” avoid the SIN!

Every WEB Begins with a Single Thread – (Part 1 of 2)

TEXT:  1 Corinthians 10:13:

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.  (AMPLIFIED BIBLE)

The WEB of TEMPTATION
TEMPTATION’S WEB

“Why Spiders Decorate Their Webs”

Stabillmentum (singular):  The word means, “a single zigzag line or combinations of lines or even a spiral whorl in the web’s center.”

But why do spiders decorate their webs?  Well, I am certainly not an ARACHNOLOGIST (an expert on spiders), but in my detective investigation, I found that there are multi-purposes for the Spider’s Web and they begin with a single strand:

1.  STABILITY.

2.  VISIBILITY.

3.  CAMOUFLAGE.

4.  PREY ATTRACTION.

5.  MATING.

Are you beginning to see where I’m going in the Spider Web analogy of temptation?  The WEB of Temptation that lies in front of each one of us: It is often camouflaged; sometimes attractive because of the light being reflected off the “stabillmentum”; even the opposite sex being a distraction of what can’t be seen at the moment of the attraction.  Hey, it happened to King David, to Sampson and others in the Bible.  The “spider” is always waiting…and waiting…and waiting.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A TRIAL AND TEMPTATION: 

A TRIAL is different and can be sent from God in order to deepen your walk with Him or to bring about God’s plan for your life.

A TEMPTATION is never directed by God, for rather its purpose is destructive.  It is not a sin itself, for JESUS was tempted in the wilderness.

TEMPTATION can make us stronger if…successfully overcoming it.

Facts About TEMPTATION:

FIRST of all, it’s going to happen!

Luke 17:1-2:

“AND [Jesus} said to His disciples…”

Hold it right there for a moment.  Jesus is addressing ALL of His disciples, His followers…He is talking to BELIEVERS in the 21st Century.

“Temptations  (snares, traps set to entice sin) are sure to come, but woe to him by or through whom they come!”

[Verse 2] “It would be more profitable for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were hurled into a sea than that he should cause to sin or be a snare to one of these little ones [lowly in rank or influence]”  (Amplified Bible).

THE WARNING:

The warning comes to those who become a stumbling block to someone else.  Rather than being a stumbling block, we need to seek to build up–restore the one who has stumbled.

“BRETHREN, IF any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin in any sort, you who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit]  should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also”  (Galatians 6:1 AMP).

TEMPTATION Comes from Within–

I was watching a news segment on the NBC’s TODAY Show last week regarding the idea of legalizing DRUGS and PROSTITUTION in America.  America seems to have the mindset, as many other countries in the world, that if you can’t defeat something…LEGALIZE IT!

Temptation comes from within, from the devil, from the worldview that the devil promotes sinful people to accept.

It is never directed by God  (James 1:13)–

“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.”

God is never effected by sin and doesn’t make any decisions effected by sin because of His character…WHO HE IS!  He is totally pure and Holy!

TEMPTATION is an individual matter–

“But every person is tempted when…” [ Here is where that “spider web” comes into play].  “he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions)”  (James 1:14).

Billy Graham has said, “None of us should deliberately place ourselves in a position to be tempted.”  Satan will always attack where we are the most vulnerable.

He goes on to say, “But each one of us is TEMPTED when by his own evil desire, is dragged away and enticed…”  Was Mr. Graham seeing the same Spider Web as I?  Perhaps.

Temptation will always follow the same pattern– 

A thought enters the web and we pamper it….it germinates and grows into an evil act…and that’s where the devil has a pattern of attack.

TRUTHS of 1 Corinthians 10:13:

1.  Our TEMPTATIONS are not unique.

“For no temptation, has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man…”  (v. 13).

2.  There is a way to stand up to and over temptation–

“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)”  (verse 14).

3.  GOD KNOWS my limits.  He is not unaware of my situation!

John MacArthur tells a story of a friend of his that I think illustrates this point:

A friend of mine told me one time, that he had taken a new job, with a very important company–he was very excited about it.  He had only been on the job for a little while.  Everyone had left the office one night and on his desk someone had left a HUGE sum of money.  He immediately took the money, put it in his briefcase, and thought I am going to have to return this.  He wrapped it up the next morning and brought it back and when he came to work he immediately walked into the bosses’ office and put the money down on the desk and said,  “Somehow, someone left this money on my desk and I don’t know who it was or who will be missing it, but I wanted to turn it in as fast as I could, so no one would be distressed by its absence.”  The boss looked him in the face and said, “I put the money there–it was a TEST–you passed.”

How would you have reacted to the TEMPTATION?  If your answer is,  “That depends…”, then keep reading this blog-post.

We OVERCOME TEMPTATION by:

Looking for a way to avoid the temptation–

In one sense every TRIAL (or TEST) is also a temptation that affords the opportunity to FAIL!

Alexander Maclaren distinguished being TEMPTED  and being TRIED or TESTED like this:

“TEMPTATION says,  ‘Do this pleasant thing, do not be hindered by the fact that it is wrong.’  TRIAL or PROVING says,  ‘Do this right and noble thing, do not be hindered by the fact that it is painful’.

AVOIDING THE “WEB” OF TEMPTATION:

An Old Testament example is found in Genesis 39:12.  Joseph flees from Potiphar’s wife when she wanted to commit adultery.

1.  FLEE FROM THE SITUATION IF POSSIBLE.

Submit Your Thoughts to God  (James 4:7; Philippians 4:8):

We should take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5:

“[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought captive into the obedience of Christ  (the Messiah, the Anointed One).”

MOST OF OUR THOUGHTS could be characterized more as captivating us rather than being captivated.  I need to watch what my mind is dwelling on.  We aren’t so much as seized and we seize the thought.

2.  SUBMIT YOUR WILL TO GOD’S.

Most sin is grounded in selfishness.

We must commit ourselves daily to God according to Romans 12:1-2 and by daily confessions Colossians 3:2:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you;  Taking your every day, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life–and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.  Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out.  Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.  Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you”  (Romans 12:1-2 The Message Bible).

“And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth”  (Colossians 3:2 AMP).

BREAK  *SEE Part Two for the continuation of the The Differences Between a Trial and Temptation.