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Archive for the ‘Temptation’ Category

By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” – Hebrews 11:4 (NIV)

I think it’s safe to say that our world is in turmoil. When “tolerance” seems to be a prevailing value at the same time we have a growing sense of “intolerance” on many levels of society.

Daily in international news we are beset with stories of racial tension and violence, hate crimes, terrorist attacks and the list goes on. I don’t have to cite the stories which are most likely very familiar to you.

In these times of turmoil, I see the same story repeated through history, but I also see the same resolution as well. I’ve been reflecting in these days on the first recorded murder. In the Bible, in Genesis chapter 4 we see that the first death among the children of Adam and Eve was the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. The story is well worth a review if you haven’t thought about it lately.

The conflict began when Abel brought an acceptable sacrifice before the LORD and was commended. Cain brought another sacrifice and was rejected because of his heart condition. The situation really got Cain fighting mad.

As the story goes,

“. . . but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favor. So, Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” – Genesis 4:5-7 (NIV)

When confronted with the condition of his heart Cain had some major decisions to make. Would he continue to bury his anger, brood and stew over his rejection, or would he take stock of his strong internal emotions, have his heart healed, and move on to a better place?

Unfortunately, we know the rest of the story. He misplaced his rejection, blamed his brother and violence and murder erupted.

Personally, I think this story is lived out again and again in our world today and we are seeing it played out on an international scale.

For each of us, when we begin to experience anger against an individual, a different racial, political, cultural or religious group, we are in danger of misdirecting our anger and letting it take us to places that are dangerous and destructive.

Anger led Cain to murder when internal reflection wasn’t the response of his heart. Unchecked anger can do the same for any of us.

I suppose that from here to eternity love and hate will both be opposing forces. The question for each of us, is what we will do and how we will react by hating the right things. We can choose to hate racism, for example, without hating racists. What we hate says a lot about us, just as who or what stirs our anger says a lot about us.

In the New Testament, the writer to the book of Hebrews, quoted above, says that Abel was a righteous man and was wrongly targeted for stirring up his brother’s anger. Even though dead, he still speaks. Abel was an innocent victim but was also the target of hostility. His example of godliness and suffering even in the face of violence and death is something that should speak strongly to us even today – especially today.

The ultimate expression of love in the face of hatred comes at the Cross of Jesus Christ. It was He who died in all His innocence and rose to life so that each of us could be set free from misdirected anger and hatred against anyone or anything.

Anger, along with love, is perhaps the strongest and most powerful of our emotions. When confronted with deep seated anger in our hearts, each of us can choose to step back, reflect and re-direct it toward something that is worth hating. It’s not a person or a race, a political party or country, but in reality a way of life that runs contrary to love which seeks the highest good of another fellow human being.

Abel lived a shorter life than Cain but there’s no question as to who serves as a better model for us today in these times of turmoil.

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No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  – 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

It’s a common human trait to get somewhat reflective as we start into a new year.  If you are like me, I tend to see old patterns and habits that seem very difficult to break out of and starting a New Year seems to be a good time to make a new resolve to let go of the past and form new habits for a healthier future.

One easy way to spot habits in life is to look at temptations we face that seem to crop up again and again. In my own experience I tend to see a pattern with these temptations that seem to keep pursuing me month after month and year after year.

Recently I began to probe why this might be the case. Some have suggested that a simple way to look at temptation is to reflect on a legitimate human need or desire and see temptation as a quest to meet that need in an inappropriate way.

In doing so recently I returned to the scene of an incident in my life in order to ask myself, “What was really going on there?”

In the days of my youth in Texas I would often go to a Methodist church camp that was located in the town of Glen Rose, the same town were my mother had grown up. My mother’s brother and his family still lived in Glen Rose and we had spent many days of my youth in their home which was located less than a mile from camp just down the Paluxy River.

One day while at a youth camp during free time I realized that I could sneak out, walk right down to the river and follow the shoreline right up to a hill near where my uncle, aunt and cousins lived. One afternoon without the knowledge of the camp kids or staff I took a little walk and visited my relatives!

When my plan worked to perfection by making it back without anyone’s notice I decided to try it again from time to time. A very clever way to add a little spice to my camping experience, but obviously outside the bounds of what was appropriate.

A few years later at an older teen camp, I got to bragging to Darrell, one of the other campers, about my antics in previous years. I also knew that there was local movie theater (cinema) in the town of Glen Rose and it wouldn’t be very difficult to sneak out via the river, see a film and sneak back in without anyone knowing!  So that’s just what I did along with Darrell, my new recruit in crime.

Looking back on these boyhood antics I see that there were certain needs in my life that were getting met by these excursions – needs for adventure and a feeling of being special – no one knew the secrets of Glen Rose and my ability to sneak in and out of a camp! A small and insignificant boy (so I felt) could be a magician and do something clandestine – so I thought!

That day Darrell and I did make it down the river and out to the cinema. To this day I still remember the film. About half way through we were shocked when the director of the camp walked down the aisle and sat down right next to us! Someone had blown our cover and we were caught in the act!

Suddenly the great and powerful plan for significance had fallen completely apart.

I’m seeing now that much bigger and more significant temptations and failings in my life have followed a similar pattern.

When I get to feeling small and insignificant I intentionally try harder to manufacture something that will build my sagging ego and fulfill an unmet need for significance.

I can easily feel that temptation is running after me when in actual fact I’m running after temptation. I’m seeking some experience outside of my relationship with God, like a trip down the river on my own, to find meaning and significance that only my LORD and Maker can legitimately provide.

When we begin to see temptation as a pursuit more than something pursuing us I think we’re in a better place to see what’s really going on there.

Where do you go when you need care, love, significance or satisfaction? All are legitimate human needs. What are the patterns that continually trip you up and what are you seeking in the process? I think honestly probing these questions may provide significant clues to breaking patterns that continue to bring us down.

For those of us, like myself, who claim to be followers of Jesus, we have One who know us intimately and always offers us not only Himself but a way of escape in every temptation we face.

That’s good news for all of us at any time of the year.

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If I were to rebel today where would that leave me tomorrow?

I am today where I came from yesterday and the day before.

Today I find myself at odds with the man I am and the man I wish to be.

 

Rebellion does me no good but feels like freedom in the moment

I can go there in my mind without the pain of consequence

I can also stay with You and choose to enjoy the fruits of our relationship.

 

If I were to rebel today I know You would be there with me, and you would be there tomorrow.

Like many men I struggle to feel Your presence,

It makes the rebellion easier to justify but does nothing to soothe the consequences of my poor choices.

 

If I were to trust You today and see beyond momentary gratification,

I could experience a better life free from condemnation.

 

If I were to praise You today and consider my high position,

the foolish ways of selfish rebellion would fade into insignificance.

 

The choice is mine and the fruits are mine to enjoy.

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