Saturday, January 31, 2009

Yield Not to Temptation

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. I Thess 5:21-22

I like this hymn's directive: look to Jesus when we are faced with temptation. Paul reminds us that we are to keep our eyes on Jesus; it is surely the best way to fight off the lure of earthly things we should not be involved in.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. Colossians 3:1-2

When we are faced with temptation, we must ask the Savior to help us. He wants us to call on Him, and He has promised to uphold us, strengthen us, protect us and provide a way out from our temptation and trials.

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. II Thess. 3:3

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. I Corinthians 10:13

In addition to looking to Jesus, we must stay alert and guard our flesh from the devil and his wiles.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
I Peter 5:8

Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matt 26:41

When we are victorious in not yielding to temptation, each experience will strengthen us for the next trial or temptation. We know that we will face temptations every day, even every hour! As sinful people living in a fallen world, we can be guaranteed that temptations will cross our path constantly - especially when they are the temptations in our own hearts and minds to sin! But when we subdue our passions and look to Jesus and do as He has commanded, He will carry us through and renew our strength.

A great example of this is Joseph, the coat-of-many-colors Joseph. When his brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites, they in turn sold him to Potiphar, the captain of the bodyguard, an officer in Pharoah's Egyptian regime. The Lord made Joseph very successful in his work for Potiphar. Potiphar recognized that the Lord was with Joseph and he promoted him to the head of his household, making him the overseer, and putting him in charge of everything he owned. The Lord blessed Potiphar's house on account of Joseph: his house, his field and everything he owned. So Potiphar didn't give a second guess to anything. In fact, the Bible tells us that he only thought about the food he was going to eat!

The Bible also tells us that Joseph was a very handsome man. One day, Potiphar's wife decided she wanted to become more acquainted with Joseph - she looked with desire at him, and invited him to lie with her. Joseph rightly refused.

But he refused and said to his master's wife, "Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?" Genesis 38:8-9

But Mrs. Potiphar was persistent - day after day she spoke to Joseph and requested that he lie with her. And day after day he refused. Then one day he was working and there were no other men in the house. She got a hold of his outer garment, and pleaded "come lie with me!" But Joseph did not yield to temptation - he ran out of the house, leaving Mrs. Potiphar still clutching his coat.

You probably know this story, and you know that Mrs. Potiphar didn't like getting her own way. She convinced the other men of the household that Joseph tried to seduce HER, and that when she screamed, he ran, and left his coat as "proof." When she recounted her "story" to her husband, he was obviously incensed, and sent Joseph to jail.

Joseph had done the right thing - he had looked to God, and he knew that God was faithful. He didn't give in to his fleshly desires, but he did what was right. So now he's in jail, but even there, the Scriptures tell us that God was with him, and made him prosper. And of all things, the chief jailer put Joseph IN CHARGE! A prisoner himself, he was made to supervise all his fellow prisoners! Soon he interpreted some dreams for his fellow prisoners, which led to him (several years later) interpreting dreams for Pharaoh himself! As a result of this, he was made a leader in Egypt, and given rule and authority over Pharaoh's house!

I could write and talk about this story all day, but the point I want to make is this: Joseph obeyed God. When he was tempted by Mrs. Potiphar, he didn't give in. His victory in that situation enabled him to be victorious in others. Of course, the experience in Potiphar's house wasn't the last of his temptations or trials, but he remained faithful to the Lord, and the Lord remained faithful to Joseph, even reuniting him with his family that had sold him into slavery in the first place.

Through his faith he conquered, and the Savior renewed his strength. Joseph looked to God, and He carried him through. May we remember, when we are tempted and tried, to look ever to Jesus and ask him to help us.

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Yield Not to Temptation
Words by Horatio Palmer

Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin;
Each victory will help you some other to win;
Fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue,
Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.

Ask the Savior to help you,
Comfort, strengthen and keep you;
He is willing to aid you,
He will carry you through.

Shun evil companions, bad language disdain,
God’s Name hold in reverence, nor take it in vain;
Be thoughtful and earnest, kindhearted and true,
Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.

To him that o’ercometh, God giveth a crown;
Through faith we shall conquer, though often cast down;
He Who is our Savior our strength will renew;
Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

To You, O Lord, I Fly

I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. Psalm 16:7

As I was thinking about going to the Lord instead of to other people for counsel, I was reminded of the story of King Asa in II Chronicles. Asa was a king of Judah, and soon after he became king, he and the people built towers, walls and gates around their city. Under Asa’s leadership, the people sought the Lord, and He prospered them on every side. He had a large army – more than half a million strong, and they were valiant warriors. However, they were no match for the Ethiopians who came out against Judah with a million men and 300 chariots. So what did Asa do? He cried out to the Lord.

Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, "LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You." II Chron. 14:11

The Lord heard his cry and responded.

So the LORD routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. Asa and the people who were with him pursued them as far as Gerar; and so many Ethiopians fell that they could not recover, for they were shattered before the LORD and before His army. And they carried away very much plunder. They destroyed all the cities around Gerar, for the dread of the LORD had fallen on them; and they despoiled all the cities, for there was much plunder in them. They also struck down those who owned livestock, and they carried away large numbers of sheep and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem. II Chron. 14:12-15

After this, a prophet came to King Asa and warned him about being committed to the Lord.

Now the Spirit of God came on Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, "Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: the LORD is with you when you are with Him And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. For many days Israel was without the true God and without a teaching priest and without law. But in their distress they turned to the LORD God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him. In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for many disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. Nation was crushed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every kind of distress. But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work." II Chron. 15:1-7

Asa listened to the prophet, and he removed all the idols from Judah. He restored the altar of the Lord, and then he gathered all the people together. They sacrificed to the Lord and then they vowed to serve Him with all their heart and soul.

They entered into the covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and soul; and whoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. Moreover, they made an oath to the LORD with a loud voice, with shouting, with trumpets and with horns. All Judah rejoiced concerning the oath, for they had sworn with their whole heart and had sought Him earnestly, and He let them find Him. So the LORD gave them rest on every side. II Chron. 15:12-15

At this point, things are going well for Asa and his kingdom. He is doing what is right, seeking and serving the Lord, and the Lord is giving them rest, and keeping them from war. But, you guessed it, things are about to turn. For Asa forgets, at least momentarily, how the Lord provided when he was up against the Ethiopians, and he forgets, at least momentarily, the warning of the prophet.

For in the 36th year of Asa’s reign, the King of Israel comes up against King Asa. Asa doesn’t cry out to the Lord as he did when the Ethiopians had approached. Instead, he makes a very different decision. He made a treaty with the King of Aram, asking him to revoke his treaty with the King of Israel, so that Israel’s king would back down. The King of Aram agrees, and the King of Israel backs down. But Asa will pay for that decision.

At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, "Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the LORD your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars." II Chron. 16:7-9

How often do we do the same thing? We fail to remember what God has done in our past, and instead rely on people around us. We, just like King Asa, have the God of the Universe to call to! He listens and He responds! We must fly to Him and on His help depend. His counsel guides aright. We cannot always say that about the human counsel that we depend on – for humans are sinners, and do not see or know what the Lord knows.

I resolve to keep before me the Lord whom I have proved.

I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

To You, O Lord, I Fly
Words from The Psalter

To You, O Lord, I fly
And on Your help depend;
You are my Lord and King most high;
Great God, my soul defend.
A heritage for me
Jehovah will remain;
My portion rich and full is He,
My right He will maintain.

The lot to me that fell
Is beautiful and fair;
The heritage in which I dwell
Is good beyond compare.
I praise the Lord above
Whose counsel guides aright;
My heart instructs me in His love
In seasons of the night.

I keep before me still
The Lord whom I have proved;
At my right hand He guards from ill,
And I shall not be moved.
Life’s pathway You will show,
To Your right hand will guide,
Where streams of pleasure ever flow,
And boundless joys abide.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pray, Pray

Pray without ceasing. I Thessalonians 5:17

When things go wrong, we often turn to people around us –colleagues, friends, family – for encouragement, consolation or empathy. They can often provide a listening ear, but may not be able to understand what we are going through. How much more comfort might we receive if we first turn to our Lord and Savior? For when Jesus was on earth, He experienced everything that we might experience, so that He can now sympathize with us.

Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Hebrews 2:17-18

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15

Jesus, as always, also gives us the example. He regularly turned to His Father in prayer. Before He began His earthly ministry, He went into the wilderness for forty days to fast and pray. And when His crucifixion was drawing near, He again spent time alone in prayer to His Father. The Gospels tell the story over and over of the importance and the frequency of prayer in Jesus’ life.

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Mark 1:35

After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.
Mark 6:46

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. Luke 5:16

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. Luke 6:12

Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. Luke 9:28

We, too, must go straight to God with our troubles and pray. We must leave it in His able hands, be calm and still, and be confident that He hears and will answer. We must wait patiently for His will to be revealed to us, and continue to pray until our faith grows strong.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

Pray, Pray
Words by Lizzie DeArmond

Pray, pray, when things go wrong,
And gloomy fears around you throng;
The loving God your voice will hear,
Look up to Him, He’s always near.

Pray, pray though your eyes grow dim,
Go with your troubles straight to Him;
Pray, pray, for God understands;
Have faith, leaving all in His dear hands.

Pray, pray, be calm and still,
Whatever comes must be His will;
His promises like buds unfold,
Naught that is good will He withhold.

Pray, pray till faith grows strong,
And in your heart rings Heaven’s song;
Till self shall die in pure desire,
And every thought to Him aspire.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Through the Love of God our Savior

But now, says the Lord, Your creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, nor will the flame scorch you, for I am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3a

Because of this promise from God, given to us through the prophet Isaiah, we, along with all the saints and this hymn writer, can sing “All must be well.” Not in a trite, “it will all work out” or “this too shall pass” way – but with complete confidence and trust in our Living God who has redeemed us and called us by name.

Through the Love of God our Savior
Words by Mary B. Peters

Through the love of God our Savior,
All will be well;
Free and changeless is His favor;
All, all is well.
Precious is the blood that healed us;
Perfect is the grace that sealed us;
Strong the hand stretched out to shield us;
All must be well.

God’s love for us is so great that He redeemed us with the precious blood of His son, Jesus. His love and favor are great and changeless.

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

Though we pass through tribulation,
All will be well;
Ours is such a full salvation;
All, all is well.
Happy still in God confiding,
Fruitful, if in Christ abiding,
Holy through the Spirit’s guiding,
All must be well.

As we saw in Isaiah, God has promised to be with us as we pass through tribulation. God never promises that we won’t have troubles, in fact, as Christians, it is one of the things we are guaranteed of! What He does promise is that He will be with us, and we will not be overcome by the waters, or burned by the flame.

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. Psalm 9:10

Especially when we are walking in tribulation, we must draw close to God and abide in Him. His will is that our lives would produce fruit, and that is only possible when we are abiding in Him.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

We expect a bright tomorrow;
All will be well;
Faith can sing through days of sorrow,
All, all is well.
On our Father’s love relying,
Jesus every need supplying,
Or in living, or in dying,
All must be well.

We can expect a bright tomorrow because of what Paul reminds us of in Romans 8: If God is for us, who can be against us? We must rely on His love, love that we can never be separated from, and trust Christ to supply all our needs, so that in living or in dying, we can sincerely say, “All must be well.”

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:31-39

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Resolution to Keep

God has given us His word and everything we need is in it. A firm foundation has been laid for us. God needs to say no more than He has already said in His word. It’s all there. I love the way the verses in this hymn build on the “theme” developed in the first verse, each calling upon Scripture to encourage us to perseverance and hope.

Resolve this year to build on the firm foundation that God has provided in His word. Read it, study it, know it, and ask the Holy Spirit to write the words deep on your heart.

(For more musings on this great hymn, see How Firm a Foundation.)

How Firm a Foundation
Words from A Se­lect­ion of Hymns from the Best Au­thors, by John Rip­pon, 1787

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be. Deut. 33:25

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not look anxiously about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3a

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. II Corinthians 2:9

But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. Malachi 3:2-3

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Deut. 31:6

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Songs of Thankfulness and Praise

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."
Matthew 2:1-2

Today is Epiphany, the day we celebrate the Magi’s visit to see Jesus. Epiphany is a greek word that means “manifestation.” We celebrate God being manifest to us in the person of Jesus Christ. January 6 specifically recognizes God being manifest to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi.

God was revealed to us in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. It’s still difficult for me to fully grasp that concept: God made Himself a man to live among sinful people. He revealed, or manifested Himself, in the form of a helpless baby born to Mary and Joseph in a stable in Bethlehem.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

We see God manifest in Jesus Christ first at the River Jordan where Jesus was baptized.

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." Matthew 3:16-17

John 2, God’s power was displayed through Jesus’ first miracle – He turned the water into wine at the wedding at Cana. All through the gospels we see Jesus doing God’s will: healing, saving, rebuking and casting out the devil, bringing good from ill. God in man made manifest. God revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

Someday, as this hymn says, the sun and moon will be dark, stars will fall, and the Judge will appear. Someday, Jesus Christ as Lord will be confessed by all.

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

I look forward to that day! Until then, my prayer is just as the last verse of this hymn: that I would see Jesus through God’s word, that I would be made pure as He is, and that I would continually praise Him, God revealed to us in man.

Songs of Thankfulness and Praise
Words by Christopher Wordsworth

Songs of thankfulness and praise,
Jesus, Lord, to Thee we raise,
Manifested by the star
To the sages from afar;
Branch of royal David’s stem
In Thy birth at Bethlehem;
Anthems be to Thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Manifest at Jordan’s stream,
Prophet, Priest, and King supreme;
And at Cana, wedding guest,
In Thy Godhead manifest;
Manifest in power divine,
Changing water into wine;
Anthems be to Thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Manifest in making whole
Palsied limbs and fainting soul;
Manifest in valiant fight,
Quelling all the devil’s might;
Manifest in gracious will,
Ever bringing good from ill;
Anthems be to Thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Sun and moon shall darkened be,
Stars shall fall, the heavens shall flee,
Christ will then like lightning shine,
All will see His glorious sign:
All will then the trumpet hear;
All will see the Judge appear;
Thou by all wilt be confessed,
God in man made manifest.

Grant us grace to see Thee, Lord,
Mirrored in Thy holy Word;
May we imitate Thee now,
And be pure, as pure art Thou;
That we like to Thee may be
At Thy great Epiphany;
And may praise Thee, ever blest,
God in man made manifest.