When Temptation Comes My Way

Lord, I Need You

The alignment between Proverbs 5:1-14 and Psalm 119:97-104 is amazing!  Proverbs 5:1-14 talks about abiding constantly within the wise counsel of God in the face of adversity…and not only learning from it but assuming the responsibility to be an example as discussed in the post “Pass It On” (click here in case you missed that one).  It is probably like getting hit in the face with a bag of bricks, speaking from experience, in coming to the realization that one’s actions / nonactions affect others.  It’s undeniable that what we do / don’t do and say / don’t say residuates beyond ourselves.  Are we doing / saying that which encourages others to pursue the course of life– here on earth– that leads to life– with Christ forever– OR the course of life that leads to death– eternal separation from God and all that is good?  If that’s not a sobering question, I don’t know what is!

That said, day seven is Proverbs 5:1-14…

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1My son, pay attention to my wisdom; lend your ear to my understanding, that you may preserve discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge.  For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.  Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of hell.  Lest you ponder her path of life— her ways are unstable; you do not know them.  Therefore hear me now, my children, and do not depart from the words of my mouth.  Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others, and your years to the cruel one; 10 lest aliens be filled with your wealth, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner; 11 and you mourn at last, when your flesh and your body are consumed, 12 and say: “How I have hated instruction, and my heart despised correction!  13 I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!  14 I was on the verge of total ruin, in the midst of the assembly and congregation.”

PROVERBS 5:1-14, NKJV

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The assault of evil will always attempt to avail against us.  The adulteress (which we take literally for what it says first) whose motive is seduction / enticement can stand for temptations in the greater scheme of things (this can be an applicatory interpretation).  Why must we hear over and over and over again: pay attention to my wisdom; lend your ear to my understanding, that you may preserve discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge?  “Oh, how I love YOUR law!  I meditate on it all day long.  YOUR commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me” (Psalm 119:97-98, NIV84).  Why must we meditate on the law of the Lord ALL DAY LONG?  Because temptation fights to ensue against us constantly.

Now, temptation doesn’t always announce its entrance.  It doesn’t always yell, “HEY THERE!  I AM A TEMPTATION HERE TO BRING YOU TO DESTRUCTION!”  Inversely, the appearance of temptation is often “sweet” and “smooth”.  This is why discernment (that comes with wisdom) is SO vital!  Relying on our own sight / understanding will rarely allow us to see past such a false facade; for the end of succumbing to temptation is a bitter and dangerous death!  It’s ignorance, and willfully so, of the path of life.  “She cares nothing about it”…meaning she doesn’t even think about it for a second!  What dreadful deception!  The Word of God ALONE is sweet life through and through– “How sweet are YOUR words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103, NIV84).

By not going near, that means DON’T PUT YOURSELF IN A POSITION TO WARRENT SUCH TEMPTATION!  Gosh, is this a hard lesson for us to learn.  Evil is already on a rampage against our lives, it doesn’t need any more help!  Our honor, our reputations, our souls are at stake…MORE THAN THAT others’ souls are at stake!  Remember that what we do / don’t do and say / don’t say affects others.  How many are counting on us to be faithful?  Someone is counting on you and on me to be faithful today!!

The burden of regret is NOT one that I want to bear.

Oh, God be merciful and let these NOT be our words… “How I have hated instruction, and my heart despised correction!  I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!  I was on the verge of total ruin, in the midst of the assembly and congregation” (Proverbs 5:12-14, NJKV).

Oh, God be gracious and may these BE our words… “The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.  Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.  My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end” (Psalm 119:110-112, NIV84)!

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In Need Of Christ Every Hour,

Victoria

@WithTrueHope

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Warm Greetings!

Warm greetings!  I sincerely hope this finds that each of you are well.  This is just a short post today to share some of the scriptural truths which impressed me as I was going through my devotional reading earlier this morning.  The passage I was reading comes from 2 Chronicles 17…

2Chronicles17(NLT)

Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, reigned from circa 874 to 850 BC.  He was the great-great-grandson of Solomon (after whose reign the northern and southern tribes split into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, circa 931 BC).  When Jehoshaphat’s great-grandfather (and Solomon’s son), Rehoboam “was firmly established and strong, he abandoned the Law of the Lord, and all Israel followed him in this sin” (2 Chronicles 12:1, NLT04).  When Jehoshaphat’s grandfather (and Rehoboam’s son), Abijah reigned,  the icons of idolatry and adultery (foreign altars, pagan shrines, sacred pillars, incense altars, and Asherah poles) remained in the land.  When Jehoshaphat’s father (and Abijah’s son), Asa reigned, he “did what was pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord his God…remov[ing] the foreign altars and pagan shrines…smash[ing] the sacred pillars and cut[ting] down the Asherah poles” (2 Chronicles 14:2-3, NLT04).

Here is what the above passage tells us about Jehoshaphat:

a. He worshiped God, not the images of Baal.

b. He sought God, not the permeating falsehoods.

c. He obeyed God’s commands, not the evil practices of the kingdom of Israel.

d. He was deeply committed to the ways of God, not the idolatry and adultery that had become commonplace.

Jehoshaphat’s worship of, seeking of, obeying, commitment to, and revived heart toward God was contrary to what had become acceptable in the society for those past near 60 years.  And do you know what Jehoshaphat became?  …A missionary to his own people!

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In the third year of his reign Jehoshaphat sent his officials to teach in all the towns of Judah.  These officials included Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah.  He sent Levites along with them, including Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tob-adonijah.  He also sent out the priests Elishama and Jehoram. They took copies of the Book of the Law of the LORD and traveled around through all the towns of Judah, teaching the people” (2 Corinthians 17:7-9, NLT07).

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Did you know that no less is expected of us?  “Jesus came and told His disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20, NLT07).  You don’t necessarily have to leave your country, your region, your county, your city, and sometimes even your own household to be a missionary!  Mind blowing, I know.  The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded us…He has commanded YOU, His obedient disciple to teach others whether near or far to be obedient disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ likewise!

Godspeed!

Victoria

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three days silent

How long could you go without hearing from a loved one?  If you’re anything like me, it’s probably not for long.  Even the thought of such a separation makes my heart sink.  I was taken aback by a lyric in Lacey Sturm’s latest song, “Mercy Tree”, which I’d like to share with you:  “Three days silent in the ground, this body born for heaven’s crown”.  The song is about Calvary– the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.  This lyric pertains to the time in between Christ giving up His spirit when He breathed His last upon the cross (Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46, John 19:30) and Christ rising again when He left the grave empty, securing life (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20).

three days silent

Oh, how the hearts of those who loved Jesus Christ must have sunk in the        d e s p e r a t i o n   o f   e n d u r i n g   t h a t   s i l e n c e.  I had never deeply pondered what that must have been like before…until now.  It must have been THE longest three days ever!  What a mix of emotions His loved ones must have experienced!  Sadness.  Anguish.  Heartache.   Anticipation.  Yearning.  Fear.  Doubt.

After the Sabbath past, the women among Jesus’ disciples had prepared spices to bring to the grave, intending to anoint the lifeless body of Christ.  However, Christ was not lifeless but rather the absolute opposite!  They approached the grave and “[t]he angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.  “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.  “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you” (Matthew 28:5–7, NASB95).  Just as He said.  You see, Jesus knew that those three days of silence were coming before they came:  “Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Matthew 16:21, NASB95).  He promised that the silence would not last!  And that is good news indeed!

Astonishment!  Hope!  Joy!  Relief!  Delight!  Peace!  Comfort!  Isn’t that what you’d experience in reuniting with a loved one after being apart?  Well, reuniting with Jesus Christ is all that magnified an infinite number of times!  How do I know?  I’m glad you asked…

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“On a hill called Calvary, stands an endless mercy tree, every broken weary soul , find your rest and be made whole” (Mercy Tree, Lacey Sturm).

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Christ was crucified and resurrected for you and me!  Oh, what a truly bright and glorious day!  Christ conquered death and secured life for those who believe in Him!  This is the reason He came, born of a virgin as it is written, that you and I would never have to be apart from Him!  It was His good pleasure to reconcile us to Himself and give us eternal hope through His sacrifice, the shedding of His blood, on our behalf (Colossians 1:19-23)!  Praise Him for the mercy tree!

Reconciled To Christ, Never To Be Apart From Him!

Victoria

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where there’s a will, there’s a way…

Know the saying, “where there’s a will, there’s a way”?  It usually means that if someone is so determined to do something even if that something is difficult they will still find a way to do it.

Take Bethany Hamilton for instance.  When Bethany was thirteen years old, she was attacked by a shark while surfing in Kauai!  According to her biography, “The attack left Bethany with a severed left arm.  After losing over 60% of her blood, and making it through several surgeries without infection, Bethany was on her way to recovery with an unbelievably positive attitude.  Lifeguards and doctors believe her strong water sense and faith in God helped get her through the traumatic ordeal.  Miraculously, just one month after the attack, Bethany returned to the water to continue pursuing her goal to become a professional surfer.”1  What determination!

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Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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I came across a quote earlier this week that caused me to thinking about this saying with another perspective.

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“I assure you, if you are supposed to do something, God will make you able to do it.  You do not have to feel able, and you do not have to have experience.  All you need is a right motive and a heart full of faith”.2

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The “another”  perspective: where God’s will guides you, He provides the way for you! 

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not belittling determination at all!  I am just asking you to consider the providence of God.  “For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart Him?  His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27, NIV)  It is the other side of the coin, if you will.  When God has purposed for you to do something, He will make you able to do it!  We must be determined to do God’s will (right motive).  We must believe that God who calls us is able to see us through (heart full of faith)!

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“My strength came from my relationship with Christ…knowing that God loves me and has a plan for my life that no shark can take away is like having solid rock underneath me.”– Bethany Hamilton3

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Are you determined to do God’s will?  Even if it is difficult?  Do you believe that where God’s will guides you, He provides the way– the strength, the ability, the determination– for you?

In Christ,

Victoria

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1. Bethany Hamilton, “Biography, BethanyHamilton.com, 2010.

2.  Joyce Meyer, Never Give Up: Relentless Determination to Overcome Life’s Challenges (New York, NY: FaithWords, Hachette Book Group, 2008), p. 40.

3. Bethany Hamilton, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, (New York, NY, Simon and Schuster, Inc., 2004).

 

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‘Bout Time For An Update

Back in January, I wrote of how I usually adopt a “theme verse for the year” and that this year’s is “Pray without ceasing” from 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NASB95). As we are half way through the year, I thought that it was ’bout time for an update– a reevaluation of sorts.

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear your theme verse for the year?

Who knew that three, THREE, simple words could be so challenging! Needless to say, this year’s theme verse has been the hardest to apply so far!

Why do you say that?

As there’s so much to do and so little time, my past six months have looked a lot like this: coffee, intensely and simultaneously think about the hundred and fifty plus things that I have to do and/or am concerned about, attempt to get ’em done and/or resolved, and repeat! (Yes, I heard that “amen”, you know what I’m talking about!) But I’m not to let any instant be without prayer!

So where does that fit into your schedule?

That’s it, the exact problem: I’ve been fitting prayer into my schedule, rather than earnestly and attentively engaging in prayer with God and letting Him set my schedule!

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“And it scares me to think that I would choose my life over You, oh, my selfish heart divides me from You, it tears us apart” (“Beautiful Ending”, BarlowGirl).

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What are you going to do about it?

Ah, good question! I’m learning that intending to do something and actually doing that something are two different things, in this case. I could intend to “pray without ceasing” all year long, but if I don’t actually make the effort and do it, I’ll get nowhere. That said…I know that what I need to do about it is PRAY! I need to pray specifically that my will, my schedule, my concerns would be shaped to be what Christ wants. Christ needs to be above and over everything that I do in every instant of my life because my life is His!

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“Take all of the good and all of the bad ’cause all of it’s so me, take all of my ways the things that I chase the things that control me. And all that I hide could You bring it to life, could you open my eyes and show me, take all that was me and shape it to be reflecting you solely! I wanna lose myself, lose myself to find You” (“Lose Myself”, TobyMac).

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Learning to lose myself (Rom. 6:11-13),

Victoria

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Quest to be the Best

I saw on ESPN this week that Major League Baseball may ban several players including such well known players as Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez. It appears that Major League Baseball may have secured a witness in their investigation of active baseball players who may have used “Performance Enhancement Drugs”. As I listened to the reporter, I couldn’t help but think why would a millionaire athlete take the risk of suspension and the related embarrassment by taking performance enhancement drugs? What is it that drives a person to go down this type of path? As I pondered this thought throughout the day, I couldn’t help but think it is the quest to be the best. We live in a culture where everyone wants to be the best…everyone wants to be first. We use phrases like a quest to be the best, or striving for excellence, or a team of “type A” personalities, but what it really comes down to is a desire to be known as being first or being the best at whatever you do.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that this view — which is applauded by our society — is actually a contradiction to what is taught by the Bible. John chapter 3 tells us about a discussion that Jesus’ cousin – John the Baptist, had with his disciples. You see, John had risen to the height of popularity in his day. Crowds of people were coming to hear the message that John was preaching and they were responding and getting baptized in water. We then see that Jesus goes into the Judean countryside and starts to attract crowds and baptize people. In our vernacular, the rivalry had begun. I can see it now…John’s disciples (agents in today’s “sports environment”) start to point out to John that he was losing his status as the main “go to guy” for baptisms…and to make it worse, to them it seemed that it was John’s cousin that was stealing his title. Maybe he should take some “Performance Enhancement Drugs” so that he could once again be at the top of his game. Maybe he should change his approach so that he could attract bigger crowds once again. Maybe he should serve food or provide designed swimwear to create a “value add” experience. Instead John gives an incredible answer in John 3: 22-36 (NLT)– let’s take a look:

 Then Jesus and His disciples left Jerusalem and went into the Judean countryside. Jesus spent some time with them there, baptizing people.  At this time John the Baptist was baptizing at Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water there; and people kept coming to him for baptism.  (This was before John was thrown into prison.)  A debate broke out between John’s disciples and a certain Jew over ceremonial cleansing.  So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to Him instead of coming to us.”  John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.  You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for Him.’  It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at His success.  He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.  “He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but He has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else.  He testifies about what He has seen and heard, but how few believe what He tells them!  Anyone who accepts His testimony can affirm that God is true.  For He is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives Him the Spirit without limit.  The Father loves his Son and has put everything into His hands.  And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”

Did you catch that? John basically says that he doesn’t need to be the best, he doesn’t need to be first, in fact he states boldly that “HE [Jesus] must become greater and greater, and I [John] must become less and less”. What an incredible statement! This shows us that we don’t have to strive to be the best. We don’t even need to try to be first in everything. As Christians, our role is actually to become less and promote JESUS CHRIST! This is the opposite view of our society. It is not about being the first or the best, it is all about willingly recognizing that first place belongs to JESUS CHRIST.

Are you on a quest to be the best today? If you are, I want to encourage you to be less and less and allow JESUS to become greater and greater in your life. This is the type of radical attitude change that will truly impact the WORLD!
Become LESS and let JESUS BE GREATER in your life today!

–Stephen

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At the Conner of Contentment and Complacency…

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Ever feel like you’re teetering between contentment and complacency?  Maybe you’re not sure where one ends and the other begins? Perhaps you’ve wondered if there even is a difference?  You’re not alone!  These are some questions I have been pondering.  So the aspiring educator in me went searching for some dictionary definitions…

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Ed.) defines contentment (a variant of content(ed)) as an adjective meaning “feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation”.  Merriam-Webster’s defines complacency as a noun meaning “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies”.  The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (11th Ed.) similarly defines contentment as “a state of peaceful happiness or satisfaction” and complacency as “smug and [uncritical] satisf[action] with oneself or one’s achievements”.  Already we can notice some differences.  For starters, contentment is associated with peace and satisfaction, whereas complacency is associated with arrogance and ignorance.

But this wasn’t quite far enough, so the aspiring theologian in me went searching through Scripture for biblical definitions and descriptions…

The first passage I came across was 1 Timothy 6:6 and 17-19 which reads: “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment…Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.  Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (NASB95).  And the second passage I came across was Philippians 4:11-13 which reads: “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (NASB95).

While the word “complacency” is not explicitly stated in the passages above, it seems to be implied as the direct opposite of contentment– complacency is then being conceited or fixing one’s hope on temporal and uncertain things, boasting in what oneself believes to have secured or supplied for himself or herself by his or her own strength.

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“[Be] content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6, NASB95).

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Complacency is entirely SELF CENTERED, while contentment is wholly GOD CENTERED, where the former concerns reliance on oneself and what is rather uncertain while the latter concerns reliance on God and what is absolutely certain.  Complacency would say something along the lines of “my hope is in myself and what I have done or what I can do”, whereas contentment would say “my hope is in God alone, who He is and what He has done and will do”.  Therefore, there is a huge difference between the conceited satisfaction in the meaningless “accomplishments” of oneself and the humble satisfaction in God and His holy sovereignty over every possession, status, situation, etc. of our lives.

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“The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, but a good man will be satisfied from above” (Proverbs 14:14, NKJV82).

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To determine if we are walking along Contentment Lane or Complacency Avenue the question becomes, “What satisfies us– hope in ourselves or hope in God?”

Hope in God!

Victoria

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Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

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To “swim against the current (or tide)” is an idiom meaning to go against popular thought or practice.  Collins English Dictionary defines this idiom as, “to resist prevailing opinion”.  It has origins as a Shakespearean metaphor in Henry IV where it was used to describe characteristics in opposition to one another.  Being so, to “swim against the current (or tide)” carries with it denotations and connotations of opposition, resistance, and contradiction.

And that’s supposed to sound appealing how…?!?

It might seem like swimming with the current (or tide) is the appealing course rather than swimming against the current because it seems easy and effortless.  Indeed, if we consider a similar idiom, “going against the grain”, going with the gain might seem as if it is the established way – the way that everyone else is doing it.

But if something seems easy and effortless and established, does it mean that it is the best course?  Not necessarily…

Psalm73.2-18,NKJV

In this passage, the psalmist expresses a not-too-unfamiliar doubt.  When things don’t seem to be going “right” for the “righteous”, it’s hard to not envy the “unrighteous” for whom it seems that things are going “right”.  Have you ever thought: How come such-and-such a “good” thing happened to so-and-so when they don’t even live wholeheartedly for Christ let alone believe in Him?  How come those unrepentant sinners have all those “blessings” and are “prospering” while I don’t and am seemingly not?  How come they’re carefree?  How come they have it easier? 

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“I can’t explain why I suffer though I live for You, those who deny You they have it better than I do, cover my eyes now so that my heart can finally see, that in the end only You mean anything” (BarlowGirl, Psalm 73/My God’s Enough).

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Did you happen to catch what the psalmist became aware of in verses sixteen and seventeen…”When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me— UNTIL I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end“?  The Holman Christian Standard Bible phrases it this way: “When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless UNTIL I entered God’s sanctuary.  Then I understood their destiny.”  The psalmist further concludes that making assumptions from the surface that your eyes physically observe in the moment does not accurately represent the eternal truth.  The boastful, arrogant, wicked, proud, ungodly are NOT better off — they’re on a slippery downward slope to destruction, separation apart from God.

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“For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works” (Psalm 73:27-28, NKJV).

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It’s foolish and ignorant to assume that swimming with the current (or tide) downstream is worth it because it may seem easier and effortless (and established).  The explanations and implications provided in Psalm 73 not only pertain to an understanding of the ungodly’s end but an understanding of the godly’s end as well.  The godly have the hope of glory, they will be received by God with honor (Ps. 73:24)!  Moreover, because of the glorious hope the godly can expect to receive after life, they can assuredly live with hope today.  Today the Lord God is always with those who trust Him; He holds their hand, He guides them with His counsel, He is the strength of their heart and their portion and their refuge!  Swimming against the current (or tide) (when swimming with the current (or tide) is in opposition and contradiction to God) is the course to go!  It’s beyond worth it!

So which direction are you swimming in?

Some Food For Thought!

Victoria

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Focus, focus, focus…

How many of us know what it’s like to be overwhelmed in the midst of intense circumstances? How many of us have experienced what it’s like to suffer with analysis paralysis or distraught thoughts? How many of us get frustrated when we feel like we’re losing or have completely lost control? If we are honest, we’d raise our hands to all of the above.

In the midst of those overwhelmingly intense circumstances, our analysis paralysis or distraught thoughts, and frustration…what or who have we focused or are focusing on? Have we focused on the negativity of the situation or what has gone (or is going) wrong? Have we given all our attention to the impossibilities that have knocked or are knocking at our doors? Have we lost or are losing sleep over wrestling with thoughts about what should have, could have, and would have been if only…? What about wrestling with worries about what might or may be? Again if we are honest, we’d probably each admit that focusing on all these kinds of things seem to be our natural, initial reactions or even intentional responses.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not pointing fingers.  I am by no means innocent of reacting or responding with wrong focuses. The point is that we all have settled at one time or another for awfully lousy and foolishly troublesome alternatives instead of fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ.

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We can’t appropriately function when we have the wrong focus! Remember Peter who nearly drowned when he took his eyes off of Jesus to focus on the surrounding frightful storm instead (See Matthew 14:22-33).
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 So if focusing on Jesus is the right focus and not focusing on Jesus is the wrong focus, what does that have to do with initial reactions or intentional responses?

Having a right focus (one that is set on Jesus) is a conscious choice, an intentional response. Such an intentional response is contrary to the reactions of our sinful nature. But there’s good news! There is hope! The Lord Jesus Christ is able and wants to give us a new nature, a justified and sanctified nature– a nature which becomes more and more like Him so that our initial reactions AND intentional responses become more and more like His. We must genuinely seek His face and wisdom and will. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8, NASB95).

If you’re caught in the midst of an intense circumstance, chose to focus on Jesus Christ and have a deeper relationship with Him! Study His Word (the Holy Bible), pray to Him and listen to Him, trust Him, and praise Him!

Acts 16:16-40 gives us the account of Paul and Silas who were stripped, severely beaten, and imprisoned with their feet fastened in stocks! Even so, their focus was NOT on the injustice or wrongs done to them. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25, NIV84). Eventually, the jailer and his household came to believe in the Lord Jesus as their Savior and after Paul and Silas came out of the prison they met with the believers at Lydia’s house and “encouraged them” (Acts 16:40, NIV84).

Why mention that account?

Because there are some really great lessons we can learn from it.
i) In the midst of their intense circumstance they chose to focus on God! It is possible for us to do the same by His grace!
ii) Others near to the circumstance noticed that they were rightly focused on God, and it impacted those others as well! People around us notice our initial reactions and intentional responses, as what we do speaks volumes.
iii) They were able to encourage and inspire others beyond the immediate circumstance to focus on God as well! Our personal testimonies are powerful in encouraging and inspiring others of the reality of the hope of Jesus Christ!

I’d like to share some lyrics to a song I wrote during a particularly intense circumstance in my life, it is my prayer that you will be encouraged and inspired to focus on the certainty of God even in the midst of uncertain circumstances:

“I’ve been thinking about all the things that I don’t know, calculations of what the future may hold; I’ve been worrying about all the things that I can’t see, the uncertainty of what might be. I didn’t stop to breathe, to remember that I believe…YOUR ways are higher than my eyes can see; YOUR thoughts are higher than my mind could every dream. Why should I fail to have confidence that YOU are much higher than this? I now know that all I need to know is YOU’RE in control and my future YOU hold; I now see what I was meant to see, the certainty of YOUR sovereignty. I’ve got to stop to breathe and remember that I believe… YOUR ways are higher than my eyes can see; YOUR thoughts are higher than my mind could every dream. Why should I fail to have confidence that YOU are much higher than this?” (“Higher” © Victoria Alfieri, 2012).

Victoria

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Consequences of Compromise

Compromise (verb): means to make disgraceful or disreputable concessions which jeopardize, expose, make vulnerable to peril, or endanger.  The consequences of compromising are inherent in its definition– jeopardy, exposure, vulnerability, endangerment.  How appealing does that sound?!  It is reasonable to assume that these consequences result from the disgraceful concessions of the compromiser and will therefore adversely affect the compromiser.  But how often do we consider that the compromiser’s disgraceful concessions will ALSO adversely affect others besides the compromiser?

In Joshua 7, we are told that some men of Israel were sent to survey the town of Ai.  The men of Israel who surveyed Ai brought back the report, “‘There’s no need for all of us to go up there; it won’t take more than two or three thousand men to attack Ai.   Since there are so few of them, don’t make all our people struggle to go up there”” (Joshua 7:3-4, NLT).  So Joshua, the appointed leader of Israel, sent about three-thousand soldiers to Ai in accordance with the report.

“[B]ut they were soundly defeated…Joshua and the elders of Israel tore their clothing in dismay, threw dust on their heads, and bowed face down to the ground before the Ark of the Lord until evening” (Joshua 7:4,6, NLT).

Could you picture this…the rejoicing after Israel’s miraculous defeat of Jericho by the hand of the Lord…the jubilant confidence with which Israel approaches the battle of Ai…then the wholly unexpected and gravely traumatic defeat of Israel at Ai…the retreat in utter panic…and the disappointment of Joshua and his lament along with the elders of Israel.  “Oh Lord“, I could picture Joshua desperately praying, “How? Why?

 “But the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this?  Israel has sinned and broken My covenant!  They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for Me.  And they have not only stolen them but have lied about it and hidden the things among their own belongings.  That is why the Israelites are running from their enemies in defeat.  For now Israel itself has been set apart for destruction.  I will not remain with you any longer unless you destroy the things among you that were set apart for destruction.  Get up! Command the people to purify themselves in preparation for tomorrow.  For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Hidden among you, O Israel, are things set apart for the Lord.  You will never defeat your enemies until you remove these things from among you.”” (Joshua 7:10-13, NLT)

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This was certainly an “ay ay ay” at Ai!

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“Early the next morning Joshua brought the tribes of Israel before the Lord, and the tribe of Judah was singled out.  Then the clans of Judah came forward, and the clan of Zerah was singled out.  Then the families of Zerah came forward, and the family of Zimri was singled out.   Every member of Zimri’s family was brought forward person by person, and Achan was singled out” (Joshua 7:16-18, NLT).

 Could you picture this too…the Lord’s revelation of the reason Israel experienced such terrible defeat…then the morning arrives and all that are heard throughout the assembly of Israel are “gulps” as they wait in suspense until…”gasps” of horror resound because…it’s Achan!

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“[H]e has done a  d i s g r a c e f u l  thing in Israel” (Joshua 7:15, NKJV).

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Achan, Achan, Achan.  How could such seriously unappealing consequences ever seem appealing to the extent that you would dare to compromise, jeopardizing you AND all that you had AND all of Israel?

“Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel.  Among the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound.  I wanted them so much that I took them.  They are hidden in the ground beneath my tent, with the silver buried deeper than the rest” (Joshua 7:20-21, NLT).

Our initial reaction to this distressing account might be along the lines of: “What was he thinking?”  Honestly, I don’t believe that he was even thinking.  He saw, he wanted, and he took.  He failed to consider the inevitable consequences of compromising and as a result not only was he subject to the adverse consequences of his compromise, but ALL Israel was exposed to jeopardy because of it.

Doesn’t this pattern –of seeing, wanting, and taking— sound quite familiar?  Remember Eve, who saw the forbidden fruit, desired it, and took it?  Remember how that ended up?  Not only was she then subject to the adverse consequences of her compromise (estrangement from God), but Adam followed suit and was equally subject to the adverse consequences, and we are even subject to the consequences of their compromise to this very day!

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“Then Joshua said to Achan, “Why have you brought trouble on us?  The Lord will now bring trouble on you.”  And all the Israelites stoned Achan and his family and burned their bodies.  They piled a great heap of stones over Achan, which remains to this day.  That is why the place has been called the Valley of Trouble ever since. So the Lord was no longer angry” (Joshua 7:25-26, NLT).

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Trouble…compromise brings trouble…not just for the individual who compromises, but for all those around the compromiser as well!  Our actions produce consequences which reach beyond ourselves.  We ought to be urged not to assume that our sins won’t find us out and not to act in rashness without considering the consequences of our actions.  Instead we must cry out to the Lord Jesus and seek wisdom and strength from Him by consulting His Word, listening to His Holy Spirit and prompting within us, and heeding the counsel of the godly leaders He has placed in our lives!

“I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.

Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!”

(James Rowe, 1912)

 Victoria