Deception Detection

“Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” Matthew 26:41 (NLT)

Temptation has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. Just when you think you are doing pretty well in your faith journey, out of nowhere comes the lure of temptation. It’s cleverly disguised; and before you know it, you’ve taken the bait. We’ve all been there. The real question is: How can we overcome it? We need deception detection.  In Matthew 26 Jesus took His disciples with Him to an olive grove called Gethsemane to pray. He taught them and us a valuable lesson about how to overcome temptation. Jesus used their drowsiness to warn them about the kinds of temptations they would soon face. That very night He would be betrayed and handed over to the religious leaders to be tried and crucified the next day. Each one of these disciples would face the temptation to desert Him. Jesus said that to overcome temptation we must keep alert and pray. Staying alert means being aware of the possibilities of temptation. “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” Prayer heightens our alertness and gives us the spiritual strength we need to resist it. Prayer connects us with God and enables us to detect the deception that would otherwise ensnare us. If you want to defeat Satan’s scheme to deceive you, stay alert, keep watch and pray.

Ode to Mothers

“I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.” 2 Timothy 1:5 (NLT)

The Apostle Paul sings the praise of a godly grandmother and mother who passed on a legacy of faith in the life of Timothy. There’s no mention of Timothy’s father. It’s significant that his mother and grandmother lived out a “genuine faith” that filled their lives to overflow, and it spilled out on this young man who became like a spiritual son to Paul. Timothy was the first “second” generation Christian and would later become a pastor at the church in Ephesus. That’s a powerful witness to the impact of a mother’s faith! This weekend we honor mother’s and express our great appreciation for them. It’s a great time to let them know how much you value them by making worship with them at church a central part of your Mother’s Day weekend. Timothy learned about God’s love and His instructions for life from his mother who learned it from her mother! I find it fascinating just how Timothy’s mother taught him. Later in 2 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul reminds Timothy with this challenge, But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” What a great model for all of us to follow in raising our kids today! When we train our children from the never-changing truth of God’s Word, they will have a firm foundation for life. It’s the only stable ground to stand on and will keep them secure throughout life and into eternity!

Your Failure isn’t Final

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book.” Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

The psalmist reveals the tenderness of God’s compassion for us in Psalm 56:8. Consider His love for you in this verse. “You (God) keep track of all my sorrows. You (God) have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book.” There is never a sorrow wasted, never a tear discarded. God records them all! What profound love! What a comfort to know we have a God who cares so much! Peter must have experienced that same kind of response in his failure when He denied knowing Christ three times. Luke records what happened when Peter denied knowing Christ for the third time. “At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: ‘Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know Me.’ And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.” (Luke 22:61-62 NLT) I can only imagine what must have gone through Peter’s mind when Jesus looked at him from a distance. He had done what he said he would never do! With bitter tears, he wept in defeat. Yet, his failure wasn’t final! His sorrow wasn’t wasted, and his tears were not forgotten. When Jesus rose from the dead, He personally met with Peter to restore him! Our failure is never final when we take it to Christ. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available for you and me to resurrect His purpose in us and enable us to do what we could not do in our own strength. Whether your sorrow is a result of personal failure or loss or circumstances beyond your control, you have a Heavenly Father who collects all your tears in His bottle. Don’t waste your sorrows. God promises to turn them into joy. Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5 (NLT)

Rescued!

“The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of My people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them ….’”

Exodus 3:7-8 (NIV)

When you read the verse today did you notice the three things God said to Moses from the burning bush? They describe the heart of God for His people and help us understand how God works and what God is like. God is like what He does. He said to Moses, “I have seen the misery of My people … I have heard them crying out … I am concerned about their suffering.” After some 80 years when Moses had given up his rescue mission for Israel and fled to another country, God awakens a dream in his heart and He reveals something about His character to Moses. I see their misery. I hear their cry. I care about their suffering! God’s compassion for His people led Him to action. “So I have come down to rescue them!”  We say we believe in God, but what kind of God do we believe in? The God revealed in the Bible is a God who knows us. He is a God who cares about what we are going through. There is nothing too small for His concern or to great for His power. He is a God who can rescue us! God has the power to change me! Sometimes God changes my circumstances. Other times He lets the circumstances change me. His goal is to reproduce the likeness of His character in me because He created me in His image and after His own likeness. I was made by God and I was made for God. When sin entered the world, it separated us from God and led us into slavery. Harmful habits enslave us. We cry out for deliverance. We want to be free. So God sent a deliverer “who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age ….” (Galatians 1:4 NIV) We no longer have to live under the dominion of darkness bound by our sinful habits. That’s the good news! It’s why God sent His Son, Jesus. The Bible puts it this way, “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves,in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14 (NIV) I don’t know what you are going through, but I know this – God sees you, God hears your cry and God cares. He’s already come to rescue you. Receive His forgiveness and grace and enter into the Kingdom of His Son!

Rebuilding Broken Bridges

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Matthew 5:4 (NIV)

If “blessed” means pure joy and happiness, than how can this Beatitude make sense? “Blessed are those who mourn…”  It’s like saying, “Happy are the sad.” Sounds like a paradox, doesn’t it? So much of what Jesus said was counterintuitive. The truth He is revealing is the second step of restoration. Happy are those who know they are broken and come to the only one who can heal their brokenness. You see, there are two types of people – those who know they are broken and those who don’t know it yet. The fact is we are all broken. In this second Beatitude we find the second step in restoration:

“I admit my pain over my brokenness and loss. I look to God, believing He can comfort and restore me.”

This is what I call “The Hope Step.” To take this step I must:

Stop running from my pain and turn to God. The trouble is we often want to live in denial and cover up our pain. God has a way of moving us out of denial. Sometimes He will use a crisis. It could be a crisis in our health, our career, our family or marriage to get our attention. It could be through a confrontation of loving friends or family that get in our grille about the direction of our lives and see the self-destructive path we are taking. They risk loving us enough to confront us. If we still refuse to stop running from our pain and turn to God, He will ultimately allow the full consequences of our actions take effect. This is what I call the collapse phase. Proverbs 20:30 puts it like this, “Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.” (TEV)

Once I stop running from my pain and turn to God, I must believe God can restore and rebuild my life. The Bible says, “It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6 MSG)

Finally, give God your brokenness and let Him begin restoring your life. This will be a daily process. His grace gives us the desire and the power to change. It takes more than willpower. It takes God’s power; and that power is manifest in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says that “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God…and He holds all creation together.” Colossians 3:15-17 (NLT)

Let Him hold you. Grace is not about your ability to hold on to God so much as it is the grip of God when you let go. You discover He is holding on to you, and He will never let go! Let Him begin rebuilding the broken bridges in your life.