Friday, April 29, 2016

One-on-one with Satan: Jesus

This post is adapted from my Bible study, Storms of Life

Last week we looked at the three lies Satan told Eve to confuse her and to cause her to disobey God. If you missed that post, you can find it here.

For Satan to tempt Eve is one thing, but for him to have the nerve to attack God's Son shows how prideful he is. In the encounter described in Matthew 4, Satan believed he could stand face-to-face with God and defeat Him. Let's learn from Jesus' responses.

What a change of scenery! After John the Baptist baptized Jesus, God proclaimed that Jesus was His Son (Matthew 3:13-17). But, rather than allow Jesus to begin His ministry in the wake of this amazing event, God led Jesus into the desert to be tempted. 

Why? Did God need to test Jesus' obedience? Of course not!  Jesus was Holy God, wrapped in flesh. Instead, God's aim was to teach us, to provide us with weapons to defeat Satan's attacks. The enemy came to Jesus when He was weak and tried to trick Him with three lies that he still uses today.

1. You don't need God, you can take care of yourself!

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Matthew 4:1-4

Jesus was hungry. Of course He was, after 40 days in the desert. Satan took advantage of Jesus' physical weakness and tempted Him to put His needs before God's will. 

What's so wrong with  that? Why should Jesus go hungry - He was the Son of God, for pete's sake! Of course God would provide for Jesus at some point but why wait? Why starve for one more minute?

For Jesus to use His supernatural powers to meet His needs would violate God's plan: Jesus was to live as a man and trust God to supply all His needs. 

Satan knows each of our specific weaknesses and he uses the same tactic on us. He tempts us to satisfy our needs and desires apart from God. He encourages us to grab what we want without waiting on God. Of course God can meet our needs, but we can do a better job and we can do it now!

We can resist the enemy's temptation the same way Jesus did: through God's Word. Jesus says that our confidence is built on the truth and faithfulness of God's Word. When we throw our faith in God's provision back in Satan's face, we can stand strong against his lies. 

2. How can you be sure God will keep His promises?

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matthew 4: 5-7

The bold-faced audacity! Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus! The words he spoke come from Psalm 91:11-12. He pulled out the phrases that suited his purpose but he left out that this promise has a condition: "if you  make the Most High your dwelling," (Psalm 91:9).

Will God protect you as He promised, Jesus? Let's just see! Throw yourself off this high point and force His hand. Make God prove Himself.

If Jesus had doubted God's protection on this day, would he have doubted God's promise to resurrect Him when He faced death on the cross? If He had chosen to test God's faithfulness, the spotless sacrifice would have been tarnished and our redemption would have been destroyed. 

Again, Jesus counters Satan's ploy with God's Word. I often rush ahead in my own will and, when everything's a mess, I cry out, "God, why didn't You keep Your promises to protect me?" We can stand strong in God's presence and in His protection. When we trust God's faithfulness, we won't need to challenge Him because our confidence is in Him. 

3. If you compromise, you can have all you want now!

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Matthew 4:8-11

I can't imagine how desperately tempting this must have been. Sure, Jesus knew the glory and kingship that awaited Him - on the other side of the cross. But Satan promised Jesus that He could be King, now. He could rule over all the nations, now. He could sit on the throne of glory, now.

But there was a condition: worship Satan instead of God. Would Jesus seize His glory now, with no pain and no agony - with no cross? 

If Jesus had chosen to avoid the cross and to seize His glory painlessly, all of us would still be condemned. Before Jesus could be King, He had to be Savior. 

A third time, Jesus stood on God's truth: Worship the Lord only! The temptation to gain through compromise is a dangerous one. Life will be so much easier if we step off of the narrow way and walk on the comfortable path of compromise. Jesus knew the glory that awaited Him was greater than anything Satan could offer Him and the same is true for us. What we can gain in the here and now pales in comparison to what God promises us: eternal life with Him.  

Do you see the pattern here? The most precious part of this account is that Jesus never once called upon His power as fully God.

He defeated Satan as fully man - using a weapon we all have sitting in our homes: God's Word. 

When we study God's Word and stay sensitive to His voice, He will bring His truth to mind and help us defeat Satan's strategies. He never leaves us defenseless. 

Praise the Lord, Jesus never wavered! 

How has God strengthened you to stand strong in the face of Satan's temptations?

Share your thoughts so we can grow in our faith together.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

One-on-one with Satan

This post is adapted from my Bible study Storms of Life


Face-to-face, eye-to-eye, one-on-one. Can you imagine standing toe-to-toe with Satan? I’d have a stroke or drop dead, or both! But that’s exactly what happened. Two people in Scripture stood in the presence of Satan: Eve, in the Garden of Eden, and Jesus, after forty days in the desert. 

On the surface, these are two radically different events but, when we look closer, we can identify the tactics Satan uses today. He tempts us when we’re vulnerable and attacks us when we’re weak.

We’ll start with Satan’s encounter with Eve learn to protect ourselves from his lies. Next week, we’ll watch Jesus defeat the enemy at his own game.

Adam and Eve lived in a perfect garden. Everything they needed was within their reach. They didn’t know illness, sorrow, fear, or anxiety. Best of all, they walked with God – can you imagine their conversations?

Into this paradise, slithered the snake, to entice and entrap them. With three lies, he destroyed their perfect lives.

1. God doesn’t mean what He says.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

Satan’s intent was to throw Eve off-balance, to cause her to doubt God’s words. He bombards us with the same question. "Did God really say..."

He tries to convince us that God didn’t really mean what He said or that it no longer applies to us. 

It’s dangerous when we doubt one part of what God says because it’s a slippery slope to doubting even more. Gossip, dishonesty, or immorality become easy because the question has taken root in our minds: Did God really say that?

2. God is a liar!

“You will not surely die, said the serpent to the woman.” Genesis 3:4

Can you believe it? Satan looked straight at Eve and declared that God was lying. You won’t die. In fact, there won’t be any consequences at all.

This lie is rampant today. Society chants the mantra, “It’s your life! If it feels good, do it!” We live in a world where sinful behavior is rewarded with success and happiness. Our friends live with careless abandon and they seem to suffer no consequences.

When we wade in sin and nothing happens, we feel safe to go in deeper. Often, the consequences are disastrous and can leave long-lasting scars. Listen to that small voice, “Don’t do that, it’s too dangerous.” 

God’s Word is truth and we can trust Him to lead us to safe waters.

3. You will be like God!

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” Genesis 3:5

This is the most attractive lie of all. Eve was captivated by the idea that she could be her own god. It still sounds wonderful. We can set our own standards for good and evil. We can define sin to suit our purposes. We want to command our own future. Our will becomes our guide and we ignore God.

When we try to take our lives into our own hands, it usually leads to a mess. When will we learn: God is God and we are not! Selfishness leads to sorrow. Only God knows the path to joy.

How can we resist Satan’s lies?
  • Know God’s Word.  Spend time with Him. Read His Word. It’s a powerful weapon against doubt.
  • Count your blessings. Are the things you’re tempted to do worth the risk?
  • Build your life on God’s standards. Trust Him; He knows what’s best for us.
  • Listen to the warnings He places in our minds. He often reminds us of a phrase or verse from Scripture that helps us.
  • Run! Eve was on the right track when she exposed Satan’s lie, but that wasn’t enough. If she’d walked away, Satan would’ve been defeated. Run, don’t walk to God’s protection.

Satan’s goal is to kill, steal, and destroy our peace and joy. He strives to unravel our relationships with God and to cripple our witness. He uses the same lies but, in God’s strength, we can fight back and win. 

Photo credits: Thad Bergmeir via Google images ; via pinterest;;

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Friday, April 15, 2016

5 Truths: Pray for Today's Ninevah

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44

Not easy is it? Some of us have been hurt so deeply that it's hard to imagine ever being able to forgive them, let alone love them. A few of us have lost a loved one who was far from home, fighting an enemy, to protect our country. Pray for them? Seems almost impossible. 

Enter Jonah. God uses the story of this headstrong, opinionated man to reveal His love for the worst of us. 

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away and from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. Jonah 1:1-3a

1. God loves our worst enemies! God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and warn them that He was ready to destroy them because of their wickedness. He wanted to give them one last chance to repent. So why did Jonah run away?

The people of Ninevah were cruel and depraved. They were Judah's most hated enemy. Imagine how Jonah felt when the Lord told him to go preach to those horrible people. Jonah would have been much happier to go bomb them!

Perhaps we can understand how he felt. I wonder how many of us prayed for Sadam Hussein to find Christ. I find it very hard to pray for God to use believers to witness to the terrorists in the Middle East. I know God calls to me to pray for my enemies, but when it comes time to write my prayer list, my mind rebels against His command. 

2. God's commands are not suggestions! Jonah ran to a port city and jumped on a ship. Bad idea! God brought a violent storm and Jonah had to admit his disobedience. He encouraged the crew to throw him overboard so they wouldn't all be killed. 

God could have rejected Jonah and called someone else but He saved his life. He could have left Jonah to die in the sea but He chose to send a whale to rescue him. Yep, to rescue him. It sounds kind of unbelievable to me but God loves to use the improbable to do the incredible.

God expects obedience. When God calls, He expects us to act. Just like Jonah, we are human. Many years ago, lies about my family almost destroyed us. As the years went by, God began to guide me to forgiveness for those who had attacked us. I refused, I resisted, I rebelled. Thankfully there weren't any whales in Houston! Months, even years, passed before my heart began to soften a bit. I still struggle with His call to forgiveness but He is lovingly leading me, one step at a time.

3. God is faithful.  From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: "In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry." "But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit." “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple." Jonah 2:1-2, 6,7

How amazing! Look at those verbs: answered, listened, brought my life up. While still inside the whale, Jonah realized that God had delivered him from certain death. He knew that God saved him even though he had rebelled against His plan.

No matter how rebellious we are, God never turns away. If necessary, He disciplines us to bring us back to Him. Jonah trusted God's faithfulness. He was confident that God listened to him, answered him, and delivered him.

Jonah rebelled and God disciplined him. Just as He did with me, He changed Jonah's heart from rebellion to praise and thanksgiving and He will change ours too.
4. God doesn't change His plans. If you know Jonah's story, you'll remember that the whale vomited Jonah on the shore near Ninevah. Sometimes, when we repent, we want our circumstances to change. It would have been wonderful if God had caused the whale to spit Jonah out near Jerusalem but that isn't what happened. Jonah's assignment remained the same: Go preach judgment on Ninevah. God's word is firm and unchangeable.

In His sovereignty, God knew that the people in Ninevah would fall to their knees and cry out to Him for forgiveness. He also knows the hearts of our enemies and calls them to Himself. Regardless of our feelings,  His command to pray for our enemies remains unchanged. 

As God has softened my heart, I have begun to pray that the evil terrorists in the Middle East will hear the words of the believers they threaten with death and will respond to that powerful testimony. Can God use the death of one of His saints to bring an enemy to faith in Him? A resounding YES!!

5. God's redemption stays the same. Right now, the Middle East is our Ninevah. There are a few committed souls that have gone there as missionaries to bring the truth of Jesus to this hardened land.

The rest of us are called to pray for our enemy's salvation. For them to accept God's mercy and grace.

They are our enemies but, we must remember that we were once enemies too.

Once we were God's enemies. But we have been brought back to him because his Son has died for us. Now that God has brought us back, we are even more secure. We know that we will be saved because Christ lives. Romans 5:10 (NIRV)

Praise God for your salvation and pray for the salvation of others, even your enemies!

Photo credits: 1.  2. via unsplash 3. via pinterest

Friday, April 8, 2016

3 Lessons From A Mind-Boggling Miracle

What a mind-boggling miracle: 4000 hungry men and Jesus fed them all with seven loaves of bread and a few fishes (Mark 8:1-9). As I studied this passage, I realized there's a second miracle that lies beneath the surface: the response of the disciples.

Let's peek in on the disciples and discover 3 lessons that can lead to a miracle.

1. Remember! How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied. They had a few small fish as well. (Mark 8:5, 7)

It hadn't been that long since Jesus fed 5000+ people with five loaves of bread and two fish (Mark 6:30-44). More people, even less food! Afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of crumbs when dinner was done. Perhaps they'd forgotten that.

Miracle 1: Even though they thought the situation was impossible, they told Him what they had. 

How often do we think things are hopeless but we've forgotten how God provided for us in the past? Many years ago, we gave money to a struggling friend, with no thought that we'd be repaid. Five years later a large, unexpected bill hit us and we were stunned when a check arrived in the mail from that dear friend. The amazing thing? He didn't even know what was going on in our lives!

Now, when something blindsides us, I remember the check from our friend and I trust God's provision.

God is always at work in our lives. When we remember the ways He has blessed us in the past, it strengthens our faith in Him to meet our needs today. 

2. Give what little we have to Jesus.  When He [Jesus] had taken the seven loaves and given thanks...He gave thanks for them [a few small fish] also and told the disciples to distribute them. (Mark 8:6, 7) 

Seven loaves and a few small fish. Doesn't seem like much, does it? I wonder what the disciples thought when Jesus told them to bring the basket to Him.  Jesus took it in His hands, gave thanks, and then told the disciples to serve lunch.

Miracle 2: They thought there was too little to feed the crowd but they brought it to Him anyway.

One of my friends who has a license to drive the church van commented to me that she wished she could do something more important for our ladies group. I reminded her that the rest of us couldn't drive the van so, because of her, we were able to go to many wonderful events. She gave her "small" talent to God and we all were blessed. 

It's tempting to believe that our abilities are too small for Jesus to use. He asks us to bring what we have to Him. In His hands, it's amazing the miracles He can work. 

3. We expect a small result, Jesus can work a miracle.  The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  Mark 8:8

Don't you know the disciples were stunned! All the people were stuffed and there were leftovers. What began as one small basket, placed in Jesus' hands, fed thousands.

Miracle 3: They saw God's provision because they obeyed in spite of their doubts.

Jesus works miracles when we give Him all we have, no matter how small we feel. When we teach in Sunday School or open our mouths to sing, we might feel insignificant. When we sit at home and pray, we might feel as though our prayers are to no avail.  

But when we ask Jesus to teach through us or to encourage others with our songs, the sky's the limit. When we pray heartfelt, earnest prayers, we might not see the result but God's power is released through our words.  

When we live for Him, we have no idea how many people are blessed. His power multiplies our faith and it reaches beyond what we can imagine. Don't measure your value. Trust Jesus and let Him measure the results.

In His hands, our meager faith might bless 4000 people!

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