Category Archives: Temptation

Standing Firm (Part 9)

Watch out for those fiery darts!

What consumes your thinking? What are the issues, dreams, or fantasies running laps like a track star in your head right now? Are they wholesome or destructive, good or evil, productive or worthless? You are the sentry who stands guard at the entrance to your mind. Whatever you allow to squeeze in has your permission to be there. It is your mind after all.

The mind is the battlefield on which spiritual warfare is first waged. It is the first line of defense. Therefore it is very important to learn how to defend it and wage warfare from a mind set on Christ.

The enemy’s favorite tactic is to launch a fiery dart (a thought that opens one up to temptation, elicits a wrong emotion, or spurs a bad idea or action). In ancient warfare, arrows were dipped in boiling pitch and set afire. They were designed to set anything they touched aflame. When a fiery dart hit, the burning tar would splatter, throwing tiny droplets of liquid fire everywhere, creating multiple fires and panic. This is what the devil wants to do in our mind. If he can set it ablaze with a thought, he will simply stand back and watch us burn.

His goal is to entice us to conform (to be pressed into a mold) to the world’s belief system (his own personal system in disguise) rather than God’s. Consequently, he will tempt us with was is exciting, popular, satisfying, or intriguing. He will present good and normal things that are legitimate needs, but his goal is tempt you into satisfying those things illegitimately. Temptation is a trap he presents, but you have to jump in it for it to be successful.

The devil cannot make you do anything. All he can do is pitch the bait and stir up your thought life. He needs a partner to be successful. That is why it is so important to protect your mind. What you spend time things about for long periods you will eventually do.

You cannot stop the thoughts from coming. They are like arrows being shot at you by the enemy. But, you can decide which ones you will allow to cross the threshold and remain. We are to take every thought captive. That is, to stop it at the entrance of our mind and question its value. You would never let a stranger in your home without asking a ton of questions and verifying the information. Don’t allow the strange thoughts the enemy sends knocking entry either.

Shut the doors of your mind and install some screens on your thinking. Look hard at what you allow to enter through your sense gates. If you don’t want Satan to build a vacation resort in your head for him and his demons, then don’t be deceived by those invitations he sends through the mail to your mind. Deal with it like you do junk mail—throw it in the garbage in Jesus name!

Destination Israel. The Power of Gethsemane (Part 10)

Garden of Gethsemane Olive Treee

The Garden of Gethsemane is one of the highlights and one of the holiest sites for any pilgrim visiting Israel. This ancient olive grove is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives on eastern slope above the Kidron Valley within the walled grounds of the Church of All Nations. It was here in this garden that Jesus prayed while His disciples slept (a situation too often repeated) in those fateful moments just before He was arrested and later crucified.

            This was a favorite spot for Jesus and His disciples when they attended the Jewish feasts and festivals in Jerusalem. They would often spend the nights here—tucked securely away from the crowds seeking miracles and the religious leaders seething with murder. As the sun would set, Jesus would retreat down the eastern slopes of Jerusalem along the winding trail from the Eastern Gate through the valley and into the garden. In the silence of these cool nights, they would talk of that day’s ministry and message, and pray together in preparation for the next. This was the spot were tired bodies found a respite and tired spirits were revived by the Holy Spirit.

            This was the place where Jesus led His intimate band of followers immediately after their historic supper where the last Passover Meal was celebrated and the first Lord’s Supper was instituted. Among these olive trees Jesus left the larger group and took Peter, James, and John with Him a little deeper into the grove to pray. It is likely that some of these very trees (some over 2,000 years old) witnessed the great cosmic battle that transpired as God’s will became the only will worth dying for.

The Rock of Agony

  As you step into the Church of All Nations (also known as the Church of the Agony) the focal point of the church is a huge flat stone that rests inside a short wrought iron fence in front of the altar. It was here that Jesus prayed alone as His three close friends were overcome with sleep. This stone soaked up every droplet of blood that fell from Jesus’ forehead as He prayed and wrestled with the direction of His destiny.  On this rock, the Rock of ages was chiseled into the cornerstone of a new house that Father God was building for His own personal residence.

            In this garden, the second Adam did not succumb like the first to the ancient serpent’s tempting words, “Has God really said…?  And with the victory secured, Jesus watched the torches of the temple guards led by Judas snake their way back and forth down the crooked path from the Temple and awaited the traitor’s kiss that would seal the fate of sin’s deadly dominion once and for all. This secluded garden had just witnessed a prelude in the darkness of what would transpire in the light over the next three days. The Son would rise and the light would overwhelm the darkness.

            The power of Gethsemane is not the ancient trees Jesus knelt under or the stone Jesus prostrated himself on. No—the power of Gethsemane was that simple prayer that shattered the power of hell. A prayer so powerful it echoed back through the portals of time to another garden where one act of self will had set in motion this amazing act of selfless will. The power rests in these simple words uttered by our Lord—“Not my will but Thy will be done!” In that surrender the victory came.

            That power is available for any situation or circumstance you face, but you must surrender and allow the Father to squeeze or press (Gethsemane means oil press) you until like Jesus you confess, “Not my will but Thy will be done!” In that surrender victory will come.

Lost in the Internet: Just a Note of Explanation

Two weeks ago, we switched web hosts and the switch that was to be seamless and easy turned into a nightmare. Since that moment we have been searching for 40-50 blogs that were archieved and available for our readers. When the switch took place everything written since December 2011 vanished.

After a great deal of prayer and expert attention, my blogs seemed to have simply vanished into the nether world of the internet. The experts seem to have no explanation and some pretty lame excuses. The result is they seem to be gone.

Therefore I will start posting again and keep praying that one day these blogs will find their way home again just as mysteriously as they vanished. I apologize to those of you who read my writtings on a regular basis. I will pick back up with the Destination Israel blogs and move on.

Sometimes life is like that. Something happens and there seems to be no explanation or plausible excuse for it. You have a choice to make when that happens. You can get mad and throw a fit and act like an all-around idiot, or you can learn from it and move on. I have chosen to move on, although deep down inside there is a part of me that would like to throw a tantrum and say some stupid things. But, alas. neither of those expressions of frustration would serve a positive purpose for anyone except the devil. So, I will just keep writing what God gives me and continue to pray for my little lost blogs as they wander aimlessly around the deep dark forest of the Internet.

No Trespassing!

As one travels north, up from the Sea of Galilee, the scenery is breathtaking. The beautiful green slopes from which Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount give way to a steady climb through the northern mountains on the way to Caesarea Philippi. As the tour bus climbs the setting begins to change and the sites become somewhat ominous and foreboding. It was here in the Golan Heights that a significant victory was won by the Israeli Army against Syria during the Six Day War in June of 1967.

The bus ride through this area is a venture back in time 30 years. The view from the window does not change for several miles as the bus steadily climbs on its way north. Out the window and to the right of the highway is mile after mile of barbwire fencing and countless signs which contain a message in Hebrew, Arabic, and English: NO TRESPASSING!  Old concrete bunkers dot the landscape, the decaying remains of Syria’s former military claim to the land. Occasionally, one can see the rusting wreckage of a bombed out tank or truck and is vividly reminded of what the residue of war looks like. Today this fenced land is a part of Israel but it is still dangerous due to innumerable land mines that lay buried in its brown dusty soil. NO TRESPASSING! DANGER! DO NOT ENTER! LIVE LANDMINES! These are signs that point to the danger that has swallowed this land making it unfit for habitation or even visitation. They are there for one reason and one reason only—to keep people from being maimed or killed. And yet outwardly to those unfamiliar with the terrain and its history, the land looks harmless—just like any other pastureland in the mountains of Northern Israel.

Imagine what would happen if the bus stopped and all the tourists disregarded the signs and climbed over the fence. In a matter of minutes, perhaps even seconds every person walking in the field would be blown to bits and if they were not killed immediately by the explosions, their bodies would be maimed and riddled with shrapnel, rendering them wounded, helpless, and unable to return to the bus. No bus driver in his right mind would come to their aid and eventually they would die from their wounds.

Far-fetched story you might say, but that is exactly what happened with Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God in the Garden. And the truth be known, it has happened to you on more than one occasion. God has put up NO TRESPASSING signs throughout the spiritual and physical landscape that each of us is called to traverse. Warning signs in flashing lights to turn us back from destruction and death and yet some continually climb over the fence and wander aimlessly among the hidden landmines. Over and over they are hit by the shrapnel of sin and are wounded. Hopeless and helpless they lay scattered across the landscape ignoring the signs that were put there to protect them, all the while crying out in loud laments, “Why me? Why did this happen to me?”

Whenever God says, “Thou shall not,” you must understand His purpose in hanging the NO TRESPASSING sign on a particular action or attitude. The Father always seeks to protect your holiness rather than prevent you from having fun. God’s NO TRESPASSING signs are there to protect you from the danger and death you either cannot see or will not see. A word to the wise: ride the bus—enjoy the breathtaking scenery and the incredible destinations—but whatever you do, don’t ignore the clearly posted signs and climb over the fence. The ground that looks so good from the bus window is not what it seems.

Beware the Enemy Within

As the sun slowly began its rising journey over the trees and the mist slowly burned away above the wheat field, a squad of seven soldiers knelt quietly but nervously, awaiting the signal to attack the bunker that guarded the main supply route into the city. For months, these seven men had trained for this moment. Over and over they had rehearsed their individual responsibilities, which would insure the success of the mission. They had over time begun moving as one – not seven, and now all the training had ended and the plan was now ready to be carried out. This bunker located on a sharp rise just above the road offered the only resistance to the city. The objective was simple: “Kill the bunker, control the supply route, and you control the city.”

Each soldier was heavily armed and trained to carry out a specific task in the siege. Each had also been trained to carry out each of the other tasks in case a team member was wounded or worse, killed. But the success of the mission demanded that at least one of them reach the bunker and deliver the explosive charge that would render the concrete fortress ineffective.

At the precise moment, the signal came and with a barrage of machine gun fire the squad of warriors began their ascent up the hill. Almost immediately they were driven back by the destructive assault of heavy machine gun fire. In the heat of the battle, one comrade was killed. Again they began the deadly climb toward their target and again encountered heavy fire that drove them back with another member of the team falling wounded on the slopes.

Again and again the same thing happened until there were only two commandoes left.As they began one more time to mount the attack, the squad leader began to notice as they crawled inch by inch up the hill that each of the men he had lost had been shot in the back while climbing toward the bunker, not in their retreat away. Within just yards of the bunker and only inches from accomplishing their mission, a sickening realization enveloped him. The mission has been compromised and the real enemy was a member of his own squad. Rolling to his right and looking back, his fear became reality as he stared helplessly down the barrel of an M-1 rifle.

This story serves to remind those believers who are involved in daily spiritual warfare of a tremendous principle: “You cannot take ground from the enemy if the enemy has ground in you.” The result will always be the same – defeat – disaster – and even death. You cannot take what you have already surrendered.

Today as you kneel before God, surveying the enemy out in the mist before you, take a few moments and make sure that no sin has control of your life. The very thing you war against cannot destroy you unless you carry it hidden under your uniform. Its shrapnel cannot pierce the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness unless you yourself slip its razor sharp edges up under that breastplate and hide it in the soft tissue of your heart. Sin is a bullet loaded in the chamber waiting for just the right moment to pierce your back and leave you dead or dieing on the hillside within just inches of that victorious moment when the bunker you face should fall.

“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to its lustful desires.” (Romans 6:12)


Blue Bloods: Broken Mirrors (part 4 of 14)

Temptation is a cheap promise to gain you something illegally or illegitimately that God has or will give you in His grace. If the gifts of God were not so good, the enemy would not try to duplicate them with cheap imitations. Temptation will not work if you know what God says and believe it.

We left the blue blooded couple in the garden their heavenly Father had bequeathed them. Their life was one of paradise with only one prohibition. They were not to eat from the tree of good and evil. A prohibition demands a choice and choice is exercised freely through the will, another gift from God. Love is a choice, not an emotion, and the test of the garden was whether or not the man and the woman would choose to love their Father by obeying that single command. Love, according to Jesus, is doing what He says. Simple—to the point—not complicated.

God began to unveil His plan by walking with them and teaching them that relationship—“who I am”—was far more important than servitude—“what you can do for Me.” He was not a monarch demanding entertainment, but a Father who desired intimacy. No performance to please Him, just the simple practice of enjoying His presence.

That’s the exact place the enemy attacked—the relationship—by questioning the Father’s goodness and intent. “You will not die—you will be like God,” he declared. Stop for a moment and look at the emptiness of that temptation. They were already “like God,” created in His likeness and image. The devil sold this couple something they already possessed and in return their relationship with God was fractured. Their ability to mirror God’s glory was broken. Along with a shattered relationship, he bamboozled them out of their ability to reproduce the perfect image and likeness of God and their title deed as rulers of the earth. They believed a cheap promise when they already possessed the real deal.

Unable to fulfill God’s mandate, Adam and Eve fell from their privileged positions and were shackled by sin and bound up in their self-forged chains of bondage. Their desire for relationship was distorted into a desire for prestige, power, and position. Their reflection of God was distorted by the cracks of their brokenness.

The Old Testament account is littered with the failures of humanity in their attempt to gather up the broken shards of glass and glue the pieces of the mirror back together. No such luck. Therefore, there had to be another way…and there was.

God was steadily at work with a plan to restore the relationship and take back the title deed. Throughout the Old Testament He continued to stress His role as Father (Ex. 4:22-23; Hos. 11:1; Isa. 63:16; 64:8). And then in the last verse of the last book of the Old Testament the Holy Spirit sets the agenda—the purpose for the entrance of the Messiah—the turning of the hearts—the reconciliation of the Father to the sons and the sons to the Father. Relationship would be restored and the broken mirrors would be replaced with shiny new ones.

Lessons Learned in Silence School (part 3)

My journey into silence brought another discovery. As I pursued the pathway with cautious expectations mixed with a tinge of fear and trembling, I heard another voice screaming at such a level I thought my spiritual eardrums would burst. The tenor and shrillness of speech caused me to put my fingers in my ears and push them with all my might. The phrases, the words, and even the articulation of the syllables created a sense of fear, shame, and condemnation. In the fog of the darkness that ensued, the critical voice sounded amazingly like my own. The thought even went through my mind: “Why can’t I just shut up?” It was in that moment God taught me a terrifying, yet soothing lesson: In the silence, Satan cannot hide and will be exposed for who he really is.

Once you enter the silence, the only screaming you will hear is the voice of Satan. He shouts because it’s his only means of getting your attention. He was never designed for silence—not even in his previous vocational life as the worship leader of the heavenly hosts. He was created to make music, but his sin perverted that ability into nothing more than a noisy gong and a clanging symbol. That great baritone voice, once deep and full, echoing through the portals of the universe, has now become nothing more than noise.

And…he screams to get your attention. If you listen to him, he will overpower the voice of your own spirit, thus insuring your inability to hear the voice of God. It’s certainly easier to listen to him, for he says the same old things over and over and over. It is in some ways like a deadening lullaby, lulling you into neutral or worse, into reverse. The graveled voice, though damning, seems to grip the scars of the soul, promising to give them exactly what they deserve. Its husky tone massages the depths of the wounds undealt with, and releases the poison of jealousy, envy, malice, and murder from that Pandora’s Box of the soul. Listen for long and you will find yourself once again lost in the noise and unable to find the silence.

He does not want you to seek the solace of silence. His condemnation and harassments work far better in the everyday noise of life. For it is from here he will convince you into believing the ultimate lie of condemnation: The voice that you hear is your own voice and you definitely deserve it.

In the silence, when you first hear the timbre of that voice—silence it! You have the authority and the power. Simply speak confidently from your position in Christ: “Shut up in Jesus name!” Then focus once more on the One you are searching for. God’s promise is clear: “If you seek me with all your heart, I will allow you to find me”…even here in the silence.”

Lesson #3: Silence exposes the screaming condemnation of Satan. Recognize it, file it in your spirit’s memory, and remember its purpose—to kill, steal, and destroy. Shut it down every time from your position in Christ through the power and authority of Jesus name.