“We’re All in this Together”

(Luke 4: 1-13) 1 Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. 3 Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’” 5 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. 7 I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” 8 Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say,

‘You must worship the Lord your God

    and serve only him.’”

9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! 10 For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you.

11 And they will hold you up with their hands

    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

12 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’” 13 When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.

I was in a conversation not too long ago, in which I was listening to someone share with me about her current troubles and frustrations with life.  As I responded with the typical, “I understand” and “I know how you feel,” I felt as though I seemed apathetic…like I was simply filling the silence with meaningless responses because I didn’t know what to say, which was not the case at all.  Because so many seem to respond to the heartache and woes of others in much the same way, I felt the need to explain to this person why I actually do understand her, and how much I do actually know how she feels.

Sometimes people need to know your story, to hear your temptations and even your failures, because they long to have that connection with someone else…to know that they are not alone in their trials and temptations.  In the midst of drowning in a sea of guilt, people find comfort in knowing there’s a survivor in the distance…someone with a lifeline…a way out. 

This description of Jesus being tempted by Satan is strangely comforting to me, because I love knowing that my Savior, the Word in flesh, in all of His perfection and divinity, He was tempted.  Not only was He tempted, but the Spirit of God led Him into the wilderness to be tempted.  Why?  Why would the Holy Spirit wish to test Jesus in such a way?  It’s not that there was ever any doubt that the Son of God would resist the cunning words of Satan, rather it was done so that we could and would have that point of connection with Him.  He was fully human, and because temptation is such a monumental part of our existence…we are surrounded by it, and at times we are consumed with it…Jesus had to experience it.  In Christ, we find not only our Savior, fully God, righteous and blameless in every way, but we also find a man, filled with compassion and empathy, tested and tempted, who we may always look to as our example of victory and hope.  He is our survivor in the distance, reaching out to us through the storm.

(Hebrews 4: 14-16, The Message) Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for the grace that comes to us because Jesus understands our temptations.  He was victorious, therefore we too can be victorious!  Help us to remember that sometimes the best way to help someone else through their temptations and failures is to be transparent enough for them to see that we have also had our own share of tests.  Lord, we are all working toward the same goal…to one day look upon Your face.  May we always, “take the mercy, accept the help.”  Amen.

“Well, what had happened was…”

(2 Samuel 22: 17-20) 17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. 18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. 19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. 20 He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”


When I think of enemies, I do not think of human beings.  I guess to me, people are just people.  Yes, there are dangerous people.  Yes, there are groups of people who wish to do harm to others.  However, deep in my heart I understand that the only true enemy is the one who seeks to destroy souls.  Satan.  It’s okay.  You can say his name.  He’s just not that scary…he has, after all, been defeated.  Sure, he’s the enemy of our souls…but because of God’s word we have knowledge, and because of His word become flesh (JESUS) we have victory.

Just like with hope, we have to claim our victory.  Our thoughts and words are powerful, and when we use wisdom to control them, we are always a step ahead of the enemy. 

Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest. Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. (Proverbs 18: 20-21, The Message)

“You choose.”  That’s the love of God…freedom of choice…spacious places away from the deep waters…God delighting in us in the midst of our worst disasters.  So our words, they have to echo the love of God that is manifest in our lives.  Our words have to declare TESTIMONY.  That means we no longer keep it to ourselves.  We have share our rescue stories.  Imagine if you lived through a major tornado or hurricane, only to find yourself injured and buried beneath a pile of debris…but someone comes along, just when you have lost your voice and your last drop of hope, and piece by piece they remove the broken hunks of wood and shards of glass until at last you are gently pulled from the ruins.  Isn’t that a story you would share for the rest of your life?  Well, we have to quit thinking in physical terms!  You have a story to tell!  The testimony of Christ our Lord is exciting, and sharing it with others is how we overcome:  “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…” (Revelation 12:11).  You see, our words work together with the blood of Christ to overcome Satan.  That is power, friends…power entrusted to us by the One who delights in us.  Our enemy is powerful, of that there is no doubt, but the same power that conquered death and hell is what dwells within each of us.  Even if you were the only one, you would still triumph.  Thankfully though, we are not alone, and together, sharing our testimonies, operating in love and compassion, praying for one another, using the wisdom and truth of God’s word to guide us, we win.


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for my testimony.  Thank you that I have a story to tell that can encourage others and spread hope.  Thank you that, through my difficulties and pain, You are made larger and your active love in my life is made evident to others.  Let my words be a source of everlasting life, and as You have delighted in me…I will delight in You.  Amen.

Witness

Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”

Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37)

The other day, I was talking to a police officer and he began explaining the process of how he receives subpoenas and is required to give testimony in trial cases. Even though he has testified many times, he described feeling shaky and nervous on the stand, and it’s easy to understand why. All the attention is focused on the witness, the opposing lawyer is parsing every word, looking for some inconsistency or other way to discredit the testimony, and someone’s fate hangs in the balance. It’s a dramatic and nerve-wracking, but necessary, part of our justice system.

In a very similar way, disciples of Christ are also called to be witnesses. When you read through the gospels, Jesus often makes reference to the fact that one of the primary reasons he created his inner circle of disciples is so they could bear witness to the signs and wonders that he performed. When it was time to replace Judas, the disciples made a point of selecting someone who had been present from the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry and had witnessed the resurrected Jesus. The Holy Spirit was sent to the early church to empower them for witness, and even the manifestation of speaking in tongues was primarily given as a sign to convince unbelievers. Christians who are not giving witness to the truth of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection are not doing their job!

However, when it is our turn to proclaim the gospel, too often we shrink from the opportunity. We worry that we’ll mess it up, say the wrong thing, or look foolish. We worry that we will appear judgmental, lose influence, or friends. There is a lot that can go wrong, and for that reason we are tempted to leave it for the next Christian that comes along. But the stakes are too high to just pass the buck.

Like giving testimony on the stand, when we proclaim our faith we are stepping into the spotlight, and we will undergo intense scrutiny. People will look at the life you lead, the words you speak and the choices you make, to see whether or not you are sincere. Some will attempt to deconstruct your words, hoping to catch you in some inconsistency or make you look ignorant and foolish. But just like in a trial, another person’s fate hangs in the balance and for that reason we cannot remain silent.

Our world is hurting and many of the loudest voices are merely stoking the fires of conflict. People are confused and can’t figure out how to see their way clear of the problems facing them and their families. The need for a people who will proclaim Truth, who will speak Light & Life into the world even at a substantial personal cost, has never been greater.

God has given you a job. He has commissioned you to go, be His witness, and make disciples. Are you up for the challenge?

“For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth…”

PRAYER: Father, the thought of speaking up about our faith can be very intimidating sometimes. Thank you for being patient while we work up the courage to do it, and for sending the Holy Spirit to empower and guide us through the process. Help us to see the urgent need for more of your Truth in the world and to be your bold witness. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen!

What News Are You Bringing?

(Isaiah 52:7-9 HCSB) 7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns! ”  8 The voices of your watchmen — they lift up their voices, shouting for joy together; for every eye will see when the LORD returns to Zion.  9 Be joyful, rejoice together, you ruins of Jerusalem! For the LORD has comforted His people; He has redeemed Jerusalem.

Like most people, I love to hear good reports! People who speak positively are so much easier to be around than negative Nellies and Doubting Dans. Positive people lighten the mood and brighten the day! They can take ugly situations and transform them with their beautiful spirit.

Before contemporary methods of spreading communication, news had to be carried by heralds. (Think Pony Express) In Isaiah’s days, the reports of current events were physically carried and reported. Because most of the communities were protected by walls, the reporters shouted the nature of the news to the watchmen who stood on the walls. The response of the watchmen indicated whether the news was good or bad. As was often the case, the news was negative–another attack, famine in the next county, drought, an outbreak of leprosy–these reports were understandably disheartening. At other times, the news was good–the drought was over, crops were doing well, the harvest would be plentiful–news like that was delightful.

But, the scripture reference for today described a report of great news for Zion! The watchmen were delighted by the news of peace, good things, and a proclamation of salvation. The message was clear, “Your God reigns! The voices of your watchmen — they lift up their voices, shouting for joy together; for every eye will see when the LORD returns to Zion.  9 Be joyful, rejoice together, you ruins of Jerusalem!” Loud exclamations of joy… shouting for joy… eyes focused on the signs of the Lord’s return… Why? “For the LORD has comforted His people; He has redeemed Jerusalem.”  

Back to my original statement. People who report GOOD NEWS are so much easier to be around. Whether speaking with our mouths, publishing on our social media accounts, talking on the phone, or sending texts, we should strive to report the good things of God.

He is good. He is in control. He is able. He is willing. He is love. He is accessible. He is… Well, He is God and He REIGNS! Report that! Text that! Post that to Facebook. Trust me when I tell you, people will be more happy to see you coming when you are known for your positive approach to life. And your feet will never look better…

PRAYER: I commit to speak about the positive things of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. The news is good. Always. Help me Lord to focus on and report those things!

Building a Testimony

(Psalm 40:1-3 ESV) 1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.


When I was a kid, there was a singer named Sammy Hall who frequented the Camp Meeting and Youth Camp circuit. He had a wonderful testimony of deliverance from drugs. After Sammy would visit, many of the youth of the church would give their testimony about various vices that God had delivered them from. Sometimes, the ones who testified last felt the need to enhance their testimony by making up deliverances that never actually occurred! We often jokingly accused them of “building their testimony!”

Interesting things happen when we wait patiently on the Lord. David began this Psalm with several very bold statements. Think about it. He declared that God lifted him out of a pit, set his feet on a rock, stabilized his wobbly steps; none of which happened literally! He was speaking symbolically!

As David was searching for adequate words to describe the goodness of God, he chose examples others could relate to. For instance, it’s not hard to imagine God leaning in so He can hear our prayerful words. Neither is it difficult to “feel” the stability of having a solid foundation to stand on. There’s a big difference between standing on a dry, solid rock and standing on a slippery one! He also pointed out how God had stabilized his wobbly steps; securing his pathway.

After experiencing his answered prayer, David breaks into a new song of praise; a song he could never have sung had it not been for the intervention of the Lord. Often, we become so impatient while waiting on the Lord’s assistance. A million “what if” scenarios are rehearsed in the secret recesses of our mind. And, instead of songs of praise, our words can keep us locked into dark thoughts of our impending demise. Not David! He uses his good fortune to speak of the goodness of God.

The result? He believed his testimony would serve as a turning point for many individuals observing his deliverance. With anticipation he writes, “Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.”

I’m thankful for the many times the Lord has brought deliverance to me. But, I’m equally grateful that my testimony has been instrumental in helping others find their way to Him. How about you? What kind of testimony are you building?


PRAYER: Father, let your grace be evident in my life in such a way that others may see Your goodness, fear You, and put their trust in You. Amen