Resisting Temptation

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father potter

About 500 years ago, Thomas a Kempis wrote the following words about Resisting Temptation in his devotional book entitled The Imitation of Christ:

“Above all, we must be especially alert against the beginnings of temptation, for the enemy is more easily conquered if he is refused admittance to the mind and is met beyond the threshold when he knocks. Someone has said very aptly: “Resist the beginnings; remedies come too late, when by long delay the evil has gained strength.” First, a mere thought comes to mind, then strong imagination, followed by pleasure, evil delight, and consent. Thus, because he is not resisted in the beginning, Satan gains full entry. And the longer a man delays in resisting, so much the weaker does he become each day, while the strength of the enemy grows against him.*”

This reminds me of what both Paul and James wrote:

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.(Ephesians 4:26–27 ESV)

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:13–15 ESV)

When temptation comes our way, let us remember these things:

    • GOD does not tempt us: If what we desire is contrary to GOD, it is not from GOD.
    • We are not to give the devil any opportunity to lead us to sin. We must resist temptation. If we submit ourselves to GOD and resist the devil in the strength that GOD gives us, then the devil will flee. (James 4:7)
    • Don’t be so quick to scream,”the devil made me do it.” It is true that he and his demons are at work in the world and are battling to keep people from GOD, but we are at fault here too. He does not tempt us with things we are not attracted to, but places in front of us the choicest bait, that which we are drawn to in our own desires.
    • We are to resist temptation. This is an active choice and action on our part. I’m not just repeating myself here. We must understand that while it is true that no one is good apart from GOD (Romans 3:10), if we are in Christ (are you?) then we have not only been made right before GOD (Justified) but we are called to take part, to cooperate in GOD’s work in us to become more like his son (sanctification) Eph 4:22-24.  This is not working to earn our salvation, it it the fruit of it.
    • We can not be perfect now, but when he comes for us and we see him face to face, we will be made like him (1John 3:2). Until then let us remember when we sin to confess it, to put off that sin, and put on the righteousness of GOD (1 John 1:9, Eph 4:22-24). This means remembering that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and allowing him to change the way we think (Romans 8:1-6, Romans 12:1-2). This is done by finding more value in him that in the fruit of disobedience (Psalm 37:4-6).

If you want an e-copy of this book, click here or go to my resource download page.


*Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (trans. Aloysius Croft and Harold Bolton; Accordance electronic ed. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, n.p.

Song (original): Here I Come

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Click here to hear my newest song: Here I Come

You said come to me, all you who are weary

Come and learn from me, take my yoke upon you

And you’ll find rest for your soul

You showed your love for me, by taking on the curse and

You bleed and died for me, though I am the worst

     Now you’ve risen from the grave

   And you’ve given me your name

“Come to me all you who are weary”

Lord here I come

Sin’s hold on me, is broken and I’m free

Lord here I come

Lord here I come

All the guilt and shame that I used to carry

Your blood has washed away, I’m born again, a new me

Now I am brand new

You are making me like you

Of this now I am convinced, your Spirit in me: evidence

I’m a child of GOD and-will-be forevermore

No demon, sin, or earthy thing can take from me the life you bring

My inheritance is kept for me by God

kept for me by God

“Come to me all you who are weary”

Lord here I come

Sin’s hold on me, is broken and I’m free

Lord here I come

Lord here I come

 

Victory Over Sin

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14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. [1Jo 2:14 ESV]

As I read this, a great hope wells up within me. Like these believers, I too know the Father. I too am strong. I too have overcome the evil one. I recognize that this may seem like a presumptuous claim to some who read it, but it is not. It is a promise straight from GOD’s lips and it would be both foolish and perilous not to claim it.

GOD Has Set Me Free

It’s not that I don’t sin. I do not claim that, nor could I in this lifetime (1 John 1:8). I claim that which has been promised by GOD­– victory. By faith, I am in Christ Jesus, and it is he who has defeated the devil. Galatians 2:20 says

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. [Gal 2:20 ESV]

The old me is no more. It is dead. I have died with Christ and have been raised to walk in newness of life. That newness is a call to holy living. I can do this because Christ lives in me and is at work destroying the works of the devil. So it is not my strength that brings victory, or self-derived faith, or my own effort, but the power of GOD that works in me, giving me victory over sin. My faith in him causes me to overcome the world. I do not boast in my own strength but in his. This is because my faith is a gift from him that brings life, forgiveness, and victory over sin and death.

Called to Live Righteously

So then, do I sit back and simply let GOD do all the work, or am I called to participate? The answer is two-fold: Yes, GOD will do the work in me by his grace, but I am called to participate. I am called to live for him. John says that because we hope in Christ, we should therefore live for Christ:

3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. [1Jo 3:3 ESV]

My faith brings victory over sin, but does not make me void of it. Having victory over sin means having a way of escape, which is something I did not have when I lived in the flesh. I was dead but have found forgiveness and life in him (Col 2:13). Since I have been given life in him, I am also called to live life for him (Col 3:1-5).

In his article called Live Life to the Full, Dallas Willard explains this GOD-powered call to righteousness:

“The path of spiritual growth in the riches of Christ is not a passive one. Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning. Effort is action. Earning is attitude. You have never seen people more active than those who have been set on fire by the grace of God. Paul, who perhaps understood grace better than any other mere human being, looked back at what had happened to him and said: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” (I Cor. 15:10)” [emphasis mine]

Living out our faith

If you are a Christian then all of this pertains to you too. This is not for me only, but for the whole body of Christ. How then are we to go about this process of progressive sanctification? How do we make an effort without boasting? How do we participate without taking over? Volumes can and have been written about this but I want to make two points:

1) Believe GOD’s promises

2) Have the mind of Christ

Believe GOD’s promises

This is just what it sounds like. If GOD says it we need to believe it and live like we do. Are you a Christian? Then you are strong and have overcome the world! Don’t believe the lie that you need to live a certain way and then you will have victory, then will be loved by GOD. Believe that he meant it when he said that he loves us and gave himself for us despite our sinfulness. Believe that you have been set free from sin. Believe that when you do sin you have an advocate in Christ Jesus, not a judge.

If any of this is new to you, you need to open the word of GOD and find out what GOD promises us. His promises are many, and they are good. When you add them all up they come together to mold us into the image of Christ, and one day we will be like him.

2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. [1Jo 3:2 ESV]

Have the Mind of Christ

Read Philippians 2:5-8. In that passage we see the mindset of Christ, and we also receive a promise. GOD promises that, because we are in Christ, we have the mind of Christ! Live like it. What is Christ’s mindset? Looking at the passage we see that he:

    • Honored GOD: “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped”
    • Humbly put the Lord before himself and others: “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant”
    • Was obedient, even unto death:  “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”

We have been reconciled to GOD through Jesus Christ. We have been given victory over sin and death. We have been called to purify ourselves as he is pure, and he has given us all that we need to do this. Let us begin (or continue) to live a life of victory in Christ by believing his promises, and having the mind of Christ. Let us also give praise to him who has given us victory over sin and death.

14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. [Gal 6:14 ESV]

{Choose Joy} Dwell On The Promises of God (and Free Printable)

amngilbert:

This post from “In Pursuit” is a nice reminder that we should find our comfort, peace, and support in the Lord. Do not listen to the lies of the devil, the flesh, or the world. GOD is faithful.

Originally posted on :

I have tried to search for words to explain what is going on inside of me right now. But I can’t find anything more substantial than, “I am so excited!”.

It’s difficult to put into the words the way the Spirit of God moves and satisfies. It’s difficult to explain the way one can actually find joy and peace in the midst of very uncertain times. I mean, call me crazy, but sometimes I can’t even talk about it, because I begin to laugh and smile while I’m talking.

And not one of those, ‘I’m happy grins’, but one of those, ‘oh-my-goodness-my-cheeks-hurt-from-smiling-and-people-must-think-I’m-so-weird-or-that-I’m-laughing-at-them’ kind of smiles.

Seriously, if I was someone else, I’d probably be annoyed with myself. Because that’s what happens isn’t it? We usually don’t know how to choose joy and peace, so we get upset with anyone else who isn’t just as miserable as we are.

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Book Review: The Blender Girl, by Tess Masters.

My wife, Simcha Gilbert, really enjoyed this book, and when I offered her the change to do the review she agreed. So below is a book review for one of the three cookbooks I am reviewing this summer.

 

blender girl photo 4 of 5 stars


 

Blender Girl, by Tess Masters, is a book of blender based, vegan recipes.  Far from just a smoothie book, there are recipes for soups, salad dressings, snacks, main dishes, and desserts.

There are some good smoothie recipes, of course, but they are not the highlight as far as I’m concerned.  What really makes the book unique is the “how to” sections for everything from sprouting grains to making cheese substitutes.  Blender Girl really seems to contain everything one would need to know to adopt a healthy, balanced, vegan diet… which is a lot more difficult than one might think.

Of course, for those (like me) who are not interested in a full dietary overhaul, the book still has a lot to offer.  I may not sprout my own grains every day, but knowing how to soak cashews to add creaminess to a soup is information I can use.  The book is well laid out, and thus I have found it to be a handy reference which I open on a nearly daily basis, even if I am not actually making one of the recipes.

What’s good:

Aside from all the tips and tricks and dietary information, all of which I have found very useful, some of the recipes are phenomenal!  The watermelon gazpacho was absolutely perfect during last week’s heat wave.  The dream of spinach soup was equally amazing (although I think I will use a little less garlic next time… my piece was especially large).  The salad dressings are also excellent.  I have not had a chance to try the appetizers or entrées, but I am sure they will not disappoint.

What’s not so good:

I was actually a little disappointed in the smoothies.  They are almost all really fruit heavy, with ice as a base.  The pineapple salsa smoothie was tasty, as was the fruit curry, but neither of them made much of a meal.  I need more than fruit and ice to hold me from 6:00 to snack time.  She does have a handy “build your own smoothie” table, and the recipes have provided inspiration for improving my own smoothie making intuition.

It is also worth noting that there are plenty of ingredients that will require a trip to Whole Foods.  Raw nuts and miso paste are not on my normal grocery list.  The book may contain all of the information needed for a food lifestyle change, but that change will come with a hefty price tag and often a time expense too.  It may be true that “anyone can make their own nut milk,” but I for one do not have the time or cash flow to soak and squeeze $20 per pound macadamia nuts each morning.

Bottom Line:

Overall, I would recommend this book for its educational and inspirational value.  However, I would approach this with the same mantra with which I implement all attempts at health/diet/life improvement: Something is better than nothing! Blender Girl is really a book advocating an entire way of life, not just a collection of recipes.  The reader should be prepared to honestly decide how much of this lifestyle they are able/willing to adopt, and then be okay with that decision.

I know that sounds heavy for a cookbook, but this is the health food movement we are talking about.  I have found that, no matter how many changes I make to my diet, there is always someone way more extreme just delighted to tell me all the ways I am poisoning myself and thus not living up to my full health potential.  That being said, I want to make it clear that Tess Masters is not at all preachy or dictatorial in her tone!  She has a wealth of knowledge that can be incredibly useful, as long as the reader doesn’t allow it to become overwhelming.

Who should read this book:

If you want to consume a raw-foods or vegan diet, this book is definitely for you!  The novice will gain the necessary know how, and the experienced will get some really tasty recipes.  For those who aren’t interested in specialty stores or just want to know how to make a descent kale smoothie, this book will likely be more work than you bargained for.  For all the rest of us, this can be a great resource.  Just be willing to substitute where necessary and decide how you will compromise to make this work for you.  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

More about this book

Simcha GilbertSimcha Gilbert is the beautiful and talented wife of the amazing Jack Gilbert.  She is a recent graduate of Smith College and currently teaches math at The High School of Commerce in Springfield, MA.  She is not a vegan, and likes her steak medium-rare.

 


 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. I was not required to give a positive review.

Poetry by W.A. Ewing: The Pocketknife

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Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 3.37.50 PMI found this poem in a book in the local library. It’s more of a story than a poem, really. It reminded me of several childhood memories, which is why I like it I guess. Here you go.

The Pocketknife

So unexpectedly, last night, I remembered him:

Antonio, at the volunteer fire meeting, unwrapping the new pike, needed something to rip through the strapping tape.

“Here,” I said, and tossed him my pocketknife:

there in mid-air, between my throwing hand and Antonio’s open palm, the brass studded knife turned slow-motion, lighting in my heart bald and black-suited, skinny, shiny Mr. Schenck.

When I was a kid in his Sunday school class, he was so old, so old he had always been old, so old he had been born old, so old he knew everything, without fuse or passion, quietly knowing everything there was to know, or think about, or love.

And then off he went, one wet Pennsylvania winter, to Florida. Florida! Paradise, Eden! All that sun, ocean, sand, shell’s, and skin. the Sunday he returned, spring’s first teasing touch returned as well. My damp socks were still chill, but the light warm on my capless head. Mr. Schenck had a little gift for me; from his thin hands I shyly took and cupped a slim box, tissued and ribboned.

When I opened it there at the many-boyed, hand-nicked Sunday School table, into my fingers fell my first knife: folding, pear-handled, a palm tree, the sea, Miami Beach.

Ah, Mr. Schenck not only knew everything there was to know; he sensed the way a boy could fly, and how a boy could sit so still, with hints that a whole wide world can be in his pocket, and that’s gonna be OK, always.

 

A poem by W.A. Ewing, publisher, poet, and author

From the book: To Honor a Teacher: Students pay tribute to there most influential mentors pages 72-73

 

Unity in the Church Amid Disagreement

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An Interesting MeetingUnity_thumb

Tonight my wife and I packed the kids in the car and drove to our church, First Central Baptist, to attend the semi-annual business meeting.  As a member of the church, I believe it is important to take part in the workings of the church in whatever way I can. When I told a friend that I always find the church business meetings interesting she looked at me like I needed a hobby. ;) I explained to her I find these event interesting, not because of the content, but because of the spiritual significance of the event itself.

There were several things to discuss tonight but the main issue at hand was whether or not to drop the name Baptist from Frist Central Baptist. The point of this was as a means of outreach to lost persons with negative connotations to the name. I will not bother with a for-or-against argument here. If you want that, check out Pastor Mark Wheeler’s post today about the subject, or his original post (What’s in a name) written about a year ago when the name change was first purposed.

The result was a nearly 50/50 split. We have a two-thirds voter requirement to pass issues being voted on, so we will remain First Central Baptist Church. I’m not writing about the result, however. I am writing about the Spiritual significance of the event itself. Both sides of the issue were discussed. Both sides had good points and disagreements. What is so important about tonight’s meeting–in my understanding– is not the result of the vote but

  1. How the disagreement was handled
  2. What happens next

It is these two issues that will have a bearing on the how we function as a church and how we are viewed by the world that is looking in at us.

How the disagreement was handled

People have disagreements; even born again Christians. Disagreement is not a bad thing in itself. It is how we handle our differences and how we treat each other that matters. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul stresses the importance of unity in the body. They were facing some bad times because of outside influences and Paul wanted to reassure them and exhort them to maintain the unity of the Spirit.

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [Eph 4:1-3 ESV]

      Community is part of what we are called to as Christians. We are called to gather together (Heb 10:25), to encourage and build up one another (1 Thes 5:11), bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and to love one another as Christ has loved us (John 15:12). This is a command, not a request.

What I found encouraging about the meeting was the patience and reasonableness shown by those involved. No one was name-calling or accusing. There was open and honest discussion between people with different opinions but who all love the Lord and each other. Disagreement handled with reasonableness and love will not hurt the body of Christ. John Piper says it like this, “Christ-honoring passions, Paul says, can unite us in spite of differences of application.”

What Happens Next

So now that the first part of this–the discussion and the decision–have taken place and were handled well, the important thing is what happens next. First of all, will it continue to go well? That is to say, will we walk in the decision made treating each other with love? Secondly, since we met with intentions of further outreach, will we do something about it or does it end in a discussion about changing our name?

I have confidence that we will continue on in love. We must. If we don’t we risk robbing those watching us of the chance to see the love of GOD at work in his people. Jesus said:

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” [Jhn 13:34-35 ESV]

I remember seeing this love between brothers and sisters in Christ as a non-believer. It is a powerful thing. It’s appealing. Seeing people who have to deal with all the same life issues as you do (disagreements?) but with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control, well, that makes you want to know how they are doing it. How we do that, when we do, is through the power of GOD. We love because he first loved us! (1 John 4:19)

Secondly, it seemed obvious to me that everyone there really wants to see us reach more people with the message of Christ. This is good. It was the motivation behind the year long discussion about name change, and behind many of those voting. So now what do we do with this energy? Do we let it settle down now that the vote has past, or are there other ways which we can reach out to the community in the love of Christ, spreading the message of reconciliation, forgiveness, and love to which GOD has called us? That’s a subject for another post I guess, but it is surely worth asking.

Book Review: Torn to Heal– God’s purpose in suffering by Mike Leake

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‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

–      Laura Story; Blessings

“Why is this happening to me?” This is a question that seems almost cliché’, and yet we don’t think of it that way. Perhaps it is because we have seen tragedy in the lives of our friends and family, or in our own lives, and with each new trail comes a fresh reminder that things are not as they should be.  Pastor and Author Mike has written a book titled Torn to Heal– God’s purpose in suffering which deals with this question from a biblical perspective.

Mike shares with his readers the theology behind suffering, trumpeting GOD’s sovereignty in all things, and yet he avoids writing in a cold or academic manner. He explains that while GOD is not evil and does not do any evil, he often times allows things to happen in the lives of his children which seem harmful to them, but will ultimately work out for their good. He works off of the following basic tenets of the theology behind suffering:

  1. God is not evil and does not do evil.
  2. God is executing his long-term plan to eradicate all evil.
  3. God is sovereign, and everything that happens comes from his hand (whether directly or indirectly).
  4. As autonomous human beings we are personally responsible for our own evil acts (that is, we cannot evade responsibility for our actions by claiming they were caused by God, Satan, circumstances, our past, our limitations, or other people).
  5. God ultimately does all things for his glory.
  6. God is ever working all things together for the greatest good of his adopted children (and this redounds to his glory).
  7. Ultimately, our greatest good is conformity to Christ, which gives us the capacity for an eternal enjoyment of God himself.”

Torn to Heal is biblically based and gives a reasonable perspective. Mike does not seek to answer why any specific evil was allowed to happen, but instead he asserts that the bible teaches that GOD is for his children and that all that he does or allows to occur in his sovereignty is for the betterment of their spiritual lives, drawing us closer to his Son.

Leake’s argument reminds me of a Derek Webb song called “Me” where Derek writes, [I’ve been thinking about] “why bad things happen to good folks, and age old questions; but more about why good things happen at all, and why I don’t notice them.” Leake puts it like this:

“Prayer that flows from a gospel-informed theology of suffering will be real with the hurts and pain of life in a fallen world. It will be as gritty as the psalmist’s cries, yet as stead­fast as Job, who said, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15a). Instead of al­ways praying, “Lord, take this illness away,” our prayers will be transformed into, “Lord, use this for your glory. If you are glorified through my healing, then so be it. If you are glorified through my patiently enduring through this trial, then may you be praised”

I enjoyed this book. If you have suffered, know someone suffering, or are someone who will eventually suffer (so, that’s everybody) you should know what GOD wants for you when you suffer. This book is a good start to that end because it points you back to the best book of all–GOD’s word.

Mike Leake (@mikeleake) is the author of  Torn to Heal: God’s Good Purpose in SufferingHe lives in Jasper, Indiana with his wife, Nikki, and their two children. There he serves as an associate pastor at First Baptist Jasper. You can follow his blog at http://mikeleake.net.

Disclaimer: I did not receive this book for free, or anything else for that matter. I bought the book and enjoyed it, and so I commend it to you. However, I will never turn down a free book. Do you hear me cruciform press?  ;)

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