Are You “Ripe” for Temptation?

Do you recall the setting where Jesus was tempted by Satan? After he was baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert for 40 days. 

Ever wonder why the temptation account occurs in the desert?  Satan does not attack us when we are strong; he attacks us when we are weak.  Jesus was in the desert for 40 days and ate nothing. And, except for Satan who was tempting him, he was alone. We are told of three specific temptation interchanges, but I expect there were many more before the end of the 40 day ordeal. I expect the temptations were relentless covering every possible thing that Jesus might have longed for over those 40 days. 

If you are in the desert Satan will come after you because it is there that you are weak. We can end up in the desert through many circumstances, but the crazy thing is that we often go there almost voluntarily.  Okay, what I mean by that is that we voluntarily allow ourselves to become weak by not building safeguards around ourselves that protect us from temptation. 

Dr. Charles Stanley teaches an acrostic called “halt” that I just read about. He says that “we can put a “halt” to letting ourselves be too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. That is, we are wise to eat regularly, experience the peace God offers, stay in fellowship with others, and get enough rest.” These routine practices will keep us strong and less susceptible to temptation. 

So, if you want to “halt” temptation, build in safeguards that will protect you from becoming weak against Satan’s attacks.  Dr. Stanley’s suggestions are applicable to all of us, but I bet you can think of even more safeguards that you know you need in particular, like an accountability partner who can help you stay on track in the weaker areas of your life.  

Remember that Peter tells us Satan prowls around looking for someone to devour.  Make sure you are not the next item on the buffet line!

©Stephen B. Hatcher. All rights reserved.

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Powerful Relational Wisdom

I REALLY want to encourage you to look at this blog entry from Ken Sande:

http://www.rw360.org/2013/05/09/the-compassionate-boxer/

You can look at it and read the analysis in just a few minutes and you will thank me.

Ken is the former head of Peacemaker Ministries and has started a new ministry called Relational Wisdom. The link shown above will take you to a short movie clip that was so emotionally powerful that I had to share it. Read through Ken’s analysis of the wisdom we can all gain from the clip. I would also encourage you to subscribe to the Relational Wisdom blog to improve your skill at relating to others.

Steve

Spinning Plates

Are you old enough to remember the Ed Sullivan Show? Yes, I am dating myself, but one of my favorite acts on this first of its kind variety show was the guy who could keep a dozen plates spinning on top of long, slender rods all at the same time.  The viewer would be gasping with fear and anticipation as the performer got to the wobbling pole just in the nick of time to give it another spin, right as the plate was about to fall and crash. 

Does that sound like your life?  A friend recently confided in me: 

“I need help discerning God’s path for my life.  I feel like the clown at the circus, spinning a couple dozen plates at the end of large poles, continuously running from plate to plate, always to the plate that is “wobbling the most” to ensure none of them hit the floor and crash.”

I knew what that felt like.  I had been in that spot before. Almost without even thinking, here was my reply: 

“Sometimes, plates stop by themselves and do not crash, we are just worried that they will.  Sometimes you need to simply count the poles and take some plates down, because you put up too many poles.  And sometimes, you have to get someone else to help you keep spinning the plates that are left. 

Sit down, catch your breath and make some decisions about the plates.  Some decisions may be hard. In the long run some of the plates cannot be risked; but some can.” 

I think life in modern America encourages us to spin more plates, often just for the sake of spinning more plates.  After a while, we are the ones spinning, not just the plates. 

Look at all the plates you are spinning.  You may be spinning several that you do not even want, you are just spinning them because someone convinced you that you should.  And keeping those plates spinning may actually be endangering those plates that are so much more important to your life; those plates that, at the end of the day, you actually cherish. 

Some plates are expendable; just more fluff.  Others are essential, critical. Take a look at the plates you are spinning and begin to make some decisions.  Take some down.  Let some crash if that is inevitable.  But, protect at all costs those plates that are precious, those that are irreplaceable; especially those plates that have eternal significance. 

Which ones are they?  I think you can figure that out if you stop long enough to have an honest discussion with yourself, especially if you ask God to help. James 1:5 tells us “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” 

Trust that promise and let God’s word speak to you: 

Psalm 127:2: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for He grants sleep to those He loves.”

Matthew 6:25-26: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” 

©Stephen B. Hatcher. All rights reserved.

Big Roles vs. Little Roles

This thought will be not be earth shattering, but it is important.  I spent too many years always looking for what big, major role God had in store for me. What big task was I going to be challenged to take on for the glory of God?  What major leadership role, new life changing ministry or awe inspiring work for the Kingdom was going to consume my life? I regret to say that I was almost disappointed when I finished The Purpose Driven Life, only to find that it did not hold the key to some awesome, new path God had for me. Was I simply supposed to keep working at all of those “normal” Christian activities of witnessing, staying in community, growing in my faith and in my relationship to God? It almost felt like it fell short of the mark.  In a word, that picture would not be “remarkable” in any sense. It would just be a life of normal, faithful living. 

I think part of my problem is living in America, where what is rewarded is most often “remarkable” or above and beyond the norm.  The remarkable achievement, the atypical business success story, or the outstanding sports performance. Those get attention in American culture. 

But I had to step back and ask… what is it that gets God’s attention?  How do I eventually get that “well done good and faithful servant” award? 

Over the past couple of years, with what I have been through and with more time to think deeply, my thoughts on finding my unique calling have changed.  God may have some big huge thing that He wants me to tackle some day, but historically that has been more the exception than the rule, at least for most believers. Yes, there are the Josephs and the George Mullers of the world. There are the Billy Grahams and the Mother Teresas who will never be forgotten. But for most of us, that level of notoriety is not part of the journey God has planned for us. 

Ephesians 2:10 has become a life verse for me: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Note that the phrase is “good works”; not BIG good works or LITTLE works.  Some works will be big and some will be almost unseen, but both play a unique role in God’s plan. I just want to step into those works planned for me, whether they are big or small. 

In the past, I would spend too much time looking off in the distance for the big calling.  Now I concentrate on the little calling, the work I need to do today.  The kind word, the helpful assistance, the faithful prayer time.  I look for the “divine appointment” that God has ordained for me today and I try to be faithful in the moment. For example, if I can simply be a dot, connecting with some other dots in God’s bigger plan that eventually brings another person to a relationship with Jesus, that is enough. I don’t need to be the whole chain, I just need to be the best link I can be in the chain, playing my part in the work God has already “prepared beforehand”. 

This is likely not some big aha revelation for you, but refocusing on the little, daily works of serving the King has made a big change in my life. Every day is now a new and exciting adventure to see how God might use me, even in small ways, to advance His kingdom and spread His love. Whether I am faithful in big things or in little things, if I am faithful I will someday hear Him say “Well done!”

©Stephen B. Hatcher. All rights reserved.

Living in the Land of the Unexpected

I had lunch with a good friend today. I said to him “I feel like I am living in the land of the unexpected.  I never expected to have cancer.  I never expected to write a book.  I certainly never expected to blog… but here I am.” His response was that the Christian life should be full of the unexpected. This struck me as likely true (my friend is really sharp), but not really too comfortable.

What do you do when the unexpected shows up in your life? Sometimes it is an unexpected raise or promotion. Sometimes it is bad news about your health or that of someone close to you. 

In Ecclesiastes 7:14, Solomon tells us this: 

When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover
anything about their future. (NIV)
 

We will never know what tomorrow holds.  We want control, safety and freedom from worry. But what we want is not what we need.  What we need is trust, faith and a relationship with God that is so close that we feel comfortable leaving all the outcomes in His hands. These traits only come from living in the land of the unexpected. 

After my initial cancer diagnosis, God immediately gave me an overwhelming sense of peace and a verse to go along with it, Isaiah 26:3: 

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you. (ESV)
 

Keep your mind fixed on the God who loves you as no other can.  The land of the unexpected is simply reality. It is also vibrant, challenging, scary and excitingly full of potential.  The unexpectedness of life causes us to grow and it is all part of God’s plan for us.  If you doubt that, read James 1:3-4. 

I am living James 1:3-4 and it’s pretty awesome.

 

©Stephen B. Hatcher. All rights reserved.

How Much of God Do You Really Want?

            “We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key of the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank, and told to help himself, and comes out with one cent, whose fault is it that he is poor? Whose fault is it that Christian people generally have such scanty portions of the free riches of God?”
–McLaren 

This statement bothered me when I read it in a devotional recently. The reason it bothers me is that I know it is true.  There is only one thing that keeps me from having a stronger faith, walking closer to God and seeing more of His power in my life… it’s me. I am the one holding me back. 

What does Jesus say?  “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)  

So, why am I chasing “all these things…”  when I should spending my time pursuing the Kingdom, pursuing a true, rich, deep, all-fulfilling relationship with the God of the universe who created me? The God who promises me “all these things” if I will just pursue Him instead of them. 

Forgive me Lord. I have pursued the created and not the Creator. 

I am reading one of the best books on prayer ever written, Andrew Murray’s classic With Christ in the School of Prayer. In chapter 13, which deals with having power in your prayers, Murray says this:

          “Some Christians imagine that everything that isn’t positively forbidden and sinful is permissible to them. So they try to retain as much as possible of this world with its property, its literature, and its enjoyments. The truly consecrated soul, however, is like a soldier who carries only what he needs for battle. Because he frees himself of all unnecessary weight, he is easily capable of combating sin. Afraid of entangling himself with the affairs of a worldly life, he tries to lead a Nazarite life as one specially set apart for the Lord and His service. Without such voluntary separation, even from what is lawful, no one will attain power in prayer.” 

Paul tells us something similar: “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” (II Timothy 2:4) 

Where am I entangled and what am I “carrying” as extra weight that I do not need for the battle, for the work of the Kingdom?

 

I need to look at my “entanglements” and ask if they are keeping me from a deeper relationship with God. I simply need more of God in my life.  My soul thirsts for more of Him.

 

How much of God do you really want? What is keeping you from experiencing more of Him and His power in your life?

©Stephen B. Hatcher. All rights reserved.

NEVER FORSAKEN

Forgotten, forsaken and left out in the cold. Ever had that feeling? We have all felt it at some point and likely on multiple occasions. There is an emptiness, a feeling of loss.  Someone we were close to and depended upon has turned their back on us or, even worse, betrayed us. 

If you read through the Psalms you will find that David often felt forgotten and wrestled with why God is sometimes silent when we cry out to Him. Look at Psalm 22:1: 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
 

Do you ever find yourself screaming into the darkness, in the midst of pain or fear, calling out to God? He is the everlasting One, the seat of our hope and the source of our strength. And yet, sometimes there is no response… only silence. Then the question comes: has God forgotten me? 

No one is exempt from this experience.  Not even Jesus. 

It helps me to realize that Jesus knows exactly how I feel when I wonder if God has forgotten me. Both Matthew 27:47 and Mark 15:34 say that Jesus “cried out in a loud voice” the very words of Psalm 22 above. He was feeling the pain of being forsaken as God turned His back on the sins of the whole world that Jesus had taken upon Himself as our savior. If there was ever a man who was truly close to God and in complete dependence on the Father, it was the god-man Jesus. I cannot begin to fathom how Jesus, being fully God and yet fully man, experienced every pain and sorrow that we feel. But it helps me to know that He felt this ultimate, personal pain of being forsaken and forgotten by the One He was closest to. 

The next time you feel forsaken, think about Jesus and His promise never to forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). You are not alone. God may seem silent for the moment, but Jesus sits at His right hand interceding for you and He knows exactly how you feel. God has His purposes in silence.  But keep crying out to Him. His answer will come.  He promises that it will.

Remember, even in the silence, He will never leave us.

©Stephen B. Hatcher. All rights reserved.