Resisting Temptation in Our Hour of Trial

In the Hour of Trial was written by James Montgomery (1771-1854), who was born in Scotland of Irish parents.  His father, John Montgomery, was a Moravian pastor. It was inspired by the story of Peter’s threefold denial of Christ, and is a plea for help in times of trial and temptation. The Bible acknowledges that we will be tempted, but help is available.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

As you listen, remember that you can always turn to Jesus for help in resisting sin.

More About Sin

In a previous post I shared a quote about sin from my devotional. Here’s another. The author is W. C. Gannett (1840-1923), a Unitarian minister:

“Yes, this sin which has sent me weary-hearted to bed and desperate in heart to morning work, that has made my plans miscarry until I am a coward, that cuts me off from prayer, that robs the sky of blueness and the earth of spring-time, and the air of freshness, and human faces of friendliness,–this blasting sin which perhaps has made my bed in hell for so long, –-this can be conquered. I do not say annihilated, but better than that, conquered, captured and transformed into a friend: so that I at last shall say, ‘My temptation has become my strength! for to the very fight with it I owe my force.'”

It reminds me of some of the things Paul tells us in his letters:

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Sin can separate us from Christ, but it doesn’t have to! When we rely upon God to resist temptation, we become stronger, and closer to Him– and when we fail, we remember that we are clothed in His righteousness.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

Growing Up, Part 2

Now my church family has a lot in common with the Culler family. We’re not all alike–we’re different in age, gender and personality type. We have different talents and levels of education. We each have had different life experiences. The one big thing we have in common is this — God called us together to accomplish His purpose in this place, and we need one another. The 12th Chapter of 1 Corinthians puts it this way:

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different ways of working, but the same God works all of them in all men … (and) to each one a manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…. God has arranged the parts of the body just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? … Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you has a part in it.”

However, we’re not born into a human family knowing what we want to do or can do as adults, and we’re not “born again” into the Christian family knowing that either. How do we find out?

To illustrate, I’ll tell you a little about how I grew up spiritually at Peace In Christ Lutheran Church ….. stay tuned for that story tomorrow ……

For more posts on the church family see:

Thankful for my Church Family

The Church Family

Living as a Family with One Another

Interesting Word #3

The word paradise is used only a few times in the Bible. The most well known verse is in the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus tells one of the thieves on the cross:

“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43

The apostle Paul also uses this word to describe a vision he experienced:

“And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” 2 Corinthians 12:3-4

Finally, it is mentioned in Revelation:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’ Revelation 2:7

But what exactly does paradise mean? Is it synonymous with heaven? Well, not quite.

Paradise was originally a Persion word meaning “an area enclosed by a wall” or a “garden.” In the Old Testament, it’s used to refer to the Garden of Eden in Genesis. In intertestamental (noncanonnical) literature such as the pseudepigrapha and apocrypha the word takes on a more specifically religious meaning. Human history will culminate in a divine paradise on earth. Since there was (and still is) no immediate access to the garden of Eden, or the New Jerusalem, paradise (also sometimes known as Abraham’s Bosom) was considered the realm of the righteous dead who are awaiting the resurrection of the body. It’s this intermediate state which is probably referred to in the verses above.

For more posts about the garden of Eden see:

Back to the Garden

It Started in the Garden

What’s a Libretto?

Interesting Word #1

I thought this month, since the topic is “words”, I would explain and talk about some words that I find interesting. Maranatha is the first. It’s an Aramaic phrase, which I was always told means “Come, Lord Jesus.” According to my big Bible dictionary, the definition is:

“our Lord, come.”

Close enough, I guess. When my children were young, there was a church near their daycare called Maranatha, which I assumed to be Pentecostal. I’m not sure why because I googled it this morning, and there are congregations from a variety of denominations using that name. (Yes there is even a Maranatha Free Lutheran Church). However, at that time, it sounded very different and exotic to me.

The phrase Maranatha is found in only one place in the New Testament:

“If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha.” 1 Corinthians 16:22

This was part of the final greetings of Paul to the church in Corinth. Although it is associated here with a curse, this wasn’t always the case.  It seems to have been used by early Christians to add special emphasis to a statement, and was possibly a sort of watchword; maybe even part of an early liturgy.

These days we seem to have lost that sense of urgency. We focus on the here and now and have forgotten that Jesus might come back any day. Maybe that’s a mistake. There are definitely times when I want to cry out “Lord, please come and come soon!” What about you?

MARANATHA!

What is Evil?

I just finished a book about evil by Julia Shaw.  It’s not written from a Christian point of view, so there were things I agreed with and things I didn’t.  For example, yes, any of us could be capable of evil in the right circumstances;  no, I don’t think that calling certain actions or people evil is just being lazy, or that we should never do it.

This got me to thinking about how the word “evil” should be defined.  My big Bible dictionary simply says evil is “that which brings distress.”  I found that disappointing.  According to Merriam-Webster, evil is “deeply immoral and malevolent.”  Hmmm … more satisfying, but not completely correct.

To me evil = sin.  It is disobeying God’s law. Evil began with a being, although not a human — Satan.  It spread to us when Adam and Eve deliberately ignored God’s command, and now is part of the world.

“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” 1 John 5:19

It’s also become part of our human nature, as the apostle Paul says,

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. ” Romans 7:19

As the author of the book  says, evil is more prevalent than we like to think.  Sometimes we try to distance ourselves from it — for example, we may say slavery is evil, yet purchase consumer goods produced in another country by slaves.  If we don’t see it, it doesn’t count.  Sometimes we try to assign evil tendencies only to certain truly repugnant crimes — serial murder or pedophilia,for example.  We may excuse an evil act because “everybody does it.”  None of this cuts any ice with God.  The Bible tells us that:

“… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:21

We’re all sinners.  we’re all lawbreakers;  we’ve all done evil things and had evil thoughts.  All we can do is plead for mercy and say along with Paul:

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

For more posts on sin see:

God’s Victory Over Our Sin

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Sin

Choosing to Sin

 

 

 

 

The Holy Spirit and Freedom

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  2 Corinthians 3:17

Paul begins this section of the letter to the Corinthians by saying that he is the minister of a new covenant — a covenant not based upon following the laws but upon the Spirit of God generating faith within us.  The old covenant was good, but this one is better.  Under the old covenant, God’s glory was obscured by a veil — the people had only an incomplete understanding of the Messiah and what His coming would mean.   Now, the veil has been lifted and through faith in Christ we have eternal life and freedom from trying to save ourselves through perfect adherence to the law.  What a relief to have this burden lifted!

Does this mean we are free to do whatever we want?  Of course not.  Paul addresses this very question in Romans:

“What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!”  Romans 6:1-2

Once we have been united with Christ by receiving the Holy Spirit in our baptism, we are also free from the power of sin in our lives.  Yes, we will still sin, but we are no longer enslaved by it. Our desire will be to live holy lives, and through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, we will become increasingly Christlike.

Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God Almighty we’re free at last!

For more on the topic of freedom see these posts:

The Freedom of Baptism

What Freedom?

The Freedom of Grace

 

Filled With the Spirit or Full of the Spirit?

In our most recent class on the Holy Spirit, we learned that there is a distinction between being filled with the Spirit and being full of the Spirit.

The Bible tells us that all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  For example, Paul tells the Corinthians:

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? “1 Corinthians 3:16
He also reminds Timothy:
“Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure that has been entrusted to you.”  1 Timothy 1:14
If you are a Christian, you have been filled with the Spirit, who is with you at all times, to guide, enlighten and comfort.  However, there are also times when the Holy Spirit fills us in a temporary way in order to fulfill a particular task.  This occurs in both the Old and New Testament.
One example is when Samuel anoints David as king:
Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.” 1 Samuel 16:13-14
Another is when Mary is told by the Angel Gabriel, that she will bear God’s Son:
“The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35
When Peter gave his famous sermon in chapter 4 of Acts, he was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8).  In 2 Peter, chapter 1 we are told that all the prophets were “carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  Of course, Jesus Himself was filled by the Holy Spirit at His baptism. (Luke 3:22), when he begins His public ministry.
Maybe you, too, have felt this filling of the Spirit when you were called to take on a task or project that seemed beyond your abilities.  The Spirit is always with us.  He will guide us, enlighten us and empower us to do the things God calls us to do.

 

 

Apathy, Sympathy or Empathy?

I’m currently reading a book about kindness (a fruit of the Spirit) which I’ll review tomorrow.  Today, however, I want to talk about one interesting idea that stuck me — there is a difference between sympathy and empathy.  Here’s how the author describes it:

  • Apathy:  I don’t care if others get wet if I stay dry
  • Sympathy:  Here’s an umbrella, hope it helps
  • Empathy:  Standing in the rain, together

Often, as Christians, we show sympathy — which certainly isn’t bad, and sometimes it’s all we are able to do–but we never try to go any deeper.  However, the Bible tells us to:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15

Sounds like empathy, doesn’t it?  Deep empathy requires listening to others so that we can understand what it is they really need.  We normally empathize more easily with people who are like us — people who have led similar lives or hold similar beliefs.  However, we can increase our empathy when we practice.  Here are some ideas:

  • Ask someone to share a favorite tradition from their culture or typical day in the country they are from.
  • Have a cross-cultural potluck.  Talk about what makes each dish a favorite.
  • Read a book about a different culture or with a main character whose race or country is different than your own.
  • Ask someone from a different faith tradition to write down five important ideas about their belief system and you do the same.  Sit down and talk about them.
  • Have a conversation with someone who is much older or much younger than you are.  Listen thoughtfully to their opinions.

Jesus was never apathetic.  He showed sympathy and empathy for many different people — the Samaritan woman, a tax collector, the rich young ruler.  He listened to them;  he spent time with them, and He understood their needs.  Of course, He was God and we are not;  but we are called to imitate Him and be guided by the Spirit.  As Paul said:

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.[“1 Corinthians 2:12

Listen to others; listen to the Spirit;  practice empathy.

 

We’ll Never Know

Recently my husband and I took a trip to South Carolina to meet our newest grandchild, Bradley.  We spent a lot of time driving and listening to music in the car.  One day, after hearing the song, Go Rest High On That Mountain, written by Vince Gill, my husband mused, “I wonder if Gill knew while he was composing this song, that it would become such a hit.” (It won the BMI Most Performed Song Award in 1997).  Well, I doubt if he did, because his reasons for writing it were deeply personal.  He began this eulogic song after the death of country music star, Keith Whitley (1989) and finished it after the death of his older brother in 1993.

As we each go about our lives, we’re constantly creating, sharing, and interacting with others.  We’ll never know how many of those things will turn out.  Something that seems insignificant to us and which we quickly forget, may have deep meaning in the life of another.(Try asking your grown up kids what they remember best about their childhood — you may be surprised!)  The teacher who inspires, the parent who provides a good example, the friend who genuinely listens, may be doing so without imagining the effect of their actions.  Often they are just using their gifts, following the calling that God has given them.  Right now, ” we see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12).  Sometimes we are blessed to see the results of our work, but more often, it is uncertain.  What we can be certain of is this:

“…we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:20

Just as God’s Word will accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 55:11), our lives have been ordered by Him, and cannot fail to fulfill His plan.  We don’t need to know the details, because we trust the One who is in charge.

For more on Go Rest High on That Mountain go to this post:

Go Rest High On That Mountain