Temptation 

“And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” – Matthew 6:13. 

It was Oscar Wilde who said, “I can resist everything except temptation.” It would be hard to disagree with him.  We are tempted every day, whether we notice it or not. The enemy doesn’t like committed Christians and will go to great lengths to persuade us to go after our own desires and wants instead of doing God’s will. Temptation is an ongoing struggle. 

James 1:14 says, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.” What James is saying is that temptation is a lure. We are being lured all day long by temptation. Temptation is not a sin. You don’t have to feel guilty about temptation. Temptation simply means you are human. Remember, Jesus was tempted.  Yet, Hebrews 4:15 also tells us Jesus “faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” It’s not temptation that is wrong, it’s what you choose to do with it that matters. Temptations are battlegrounds to demonstrate what our heart desires.  The key to fighting temptation is not only to avoid the temptation but to desire Christ above everything else.

The good news is we don’t have to be controlled by or give in to temptation if we choose not to. God has given each of us, a powerful mind, and when our thoughts are controlled our actions will fall in line. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” This is a powerful promise, which means that whatever we are being tempted with, God already has an escape plan. We just have to rely on His power to resist temptation. This text is also telling us that even in the midst of the enemy’s temptation, God is still in control. There is nothing that happens to us without God’s knowledge and without His consent.

Temptation will always be there in one form or another. But as we fight temptation and pursue God, we begin to love what He loves, and hate what He hates. Our confidence in our willpower fades, and our hope focuses on Jesus.

Know that if you give in to temptation, the Lord still loves you. God knows you aren’t perfect, and God still wants you near Him. Know God’s grace is new for you every morning. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness;  his mercies begin afresh each morning.”  

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you protect yourself from the lure of temptation? 
  2. What can you do this week to escape the lure of temptation? 

The Best Is Yet To Come

“Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act.” – Exodus 2:23-25.

Are the best days of your life behind or in front of you? Our outlook on life—and our answer to that question—can change with time. When we’re younger, we look ahead, wanting to grow up. And once we’ve grown older, we yearn for the past, wanting to be young again. But when we walk with God, whatever our age, the best is yet to come. 

Moses is a case in point. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh feared that one day the Israelites would turn against the Egyptians. So he ordered a terrible punishment – all the first-born male babies of the Israelites were to be killed.  Moses was one of those baby boys. But he managed to escape and, ironically, he ended up growing up in Pharaoh’s palace.  But, after 40 years of living in privilege, Moses found himself on the run for murder. He arrived in Midian which was in the desert; basically in the middle of nowhere. 

Sometimes we can feel like we’ve ended up in the middle of nowhere – like Moses, miles from the comfort of Pharaoh’s palace, herding sheep far from civilization.  It’s as though God has taken us out of the game and put us on a shelf – somewhere obscure and hidden, and so we think that our best days are behind us. God often does His greatest works in the wilderness, in those places where we feel as though our best days will never be repeated. Our future looks anything but bright. 

But God is doing things in the Median desert that we can’t even begin to imagine. When we least expect it, He comes along and says, “I have a plan for you.” Moses was probably expecting to spend the rest of his old age (he was 80 years old by then), in the wilderness. God had other plans, however. The best was yet to come for Moses. God isn’t finished with us yet either. The bottom line is, everyone knows our days are numbered, so we should be capitalizing on the moments we do have by living life in a way that matters.

Psalm 68:19 says, “Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.” God gives us time in 24-hour increments. We simply have to trust Him, focus on His direction for today and be present in the moment. We do that by living a purpose-driven life, not a time-driven life. Because what is truly important is not how much time we have but what we do with the time we have.

Theologian Jonathan Edwards wrote “Resolved: Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can. Resolved: to live with all my might while I do live. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, did I make wise use of my time?”

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does Moses’ experience change your perspective on what you’re going through at the moment?
  2. What are the benefits of expecting your best days to be ahead of you, not behind you? What are the things that need to be shed from your thought life in order to do that?

Making Wise Use Of Your Time

“So be very careful how you live, not being like those with no understanding, but live honorably with true wisdom, for we are living in evil times. Take full advantage of every day as you spend your life for his purposes.” ― Ephesians 5:15-16 (TPT) 

Effective management requires effective measurement. A person who has no idea how much money he has earned, and spends can make no claim to managing his finances. If expenditures exceed reserves plus earnings, the ledger is in the red regardless of the amount of earnings. Time is much the same. We cannot spend more than we have and we can make no claim to managing it if we don’t keep track of how we spend it. Unlike money, we can’t make more of it.  

It is pretty hard to have a real sense of time. If you set a timer for 30 minutes and then went about your business (without looking at a watch or clock) how close would you be to guessing when the 30 minutes are up? The average person does not come very close. 

The amount of time that may be measured out in your life is not nearly as important as how you use the time you have. Every person has a fixed allotment of time, but no one knows when his allotment is up. That is why you had better make the most of every moment.The Apostle Paul urged people to take advantage of every day because life at its longest is really short. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

The King James Version of Ephesians 5:16 uses the words “redeeming the time.”   In Biblical times, when a slave was redeemed: he was bought at a price, paid in full, and set free. It’s a striking picture of what Jesus did for each one of us. He bought us for a price, His blood, set us free. He redeemed each of us.  And this is the language Paul uses in relation to time: Redeem it and use it for a completely new purpose.  So much out of our time is out of our control, however. We’re stuck in traffic, or waiting in line at the DMV, or waiting in a conference room for a business meeting to start. Time is often our boss and not always a good boss.  

We redeem it by praying while waiting for the light on 98. Spend the time at the DMV memorizing that passage of scripture you have on your to-do list. Spending a few minutes talking to God when you are sitting alone in the conference room. When circumstances arise, ask God how you might, there and then, redeem the time.  

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” God longs to teach us how to use our days wisely. He longs to give us a heart of wisdom that we might center our lives around Him.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can we make the most of our time? What kind of activities redeem the time?
  2. What can we do this week to make better use of our time? 

Today Is Going To Be A Great Day

“It’s day one of the rest of my life

It’s day one of the best of my life

I’m marching on to the beat of a brand new drum

Yeah, here I come

The future has begun

Day one”  – Matthew West  “Day One.” song lyrics.  

Matthew West is reminding us that today is a new day. Today is day one of the best of our life. 

Psalm 118:24 tells us that “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” 

Today is God’s gift to you. What you do with this gift is so important because today is the only day that truly belongs to you. All this means is that we miss opportunities if we are not focused on the here and now. God could be calling us to do great things today, but we are too focused on the past or looking ahead to the future, we can miss what is happening right in front of us. 

Imagine waking up every single day convinced that the twenty-four hours ahead of you are a precious gift to be used wisely. Now imagine that you know exactly how to spend them to be a force for God’s good. Living in the moment requires us to be intentional.  The moment that you are currently living in will not last forever. Your life, your time here on this earth, is limited. Psalm 39:4-5 says, “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.”

In other words, the right time is now. And yet, so many of us are living our lives with this mindset of when this happens then I will do that. “In a few months once I know people better then I will start serving in the church.” Or “when I have acquired more knowledge of scripture then I will invite my neighbors to church.”  The question is what if your “when” never happens. Each day is an opportunity and we need to ask God to turn our “then” into now. The right time is now.

How, then, do we walk out unwavering joy-filled faith every day, determined to let go of the things that keep us from experiencing abundant life and fulfilling the plans God has for us? The answers are found in following the footsteps of the One who lived fully because He was determined that we might do the same. 

To make the most out of today, we need to be focused on what matters: our relationship with God, our relationships with our family and our friends, and fulfilling the unique purpose for which God created us and placed us here on this earth.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does God show up in your life on a daily basis?
  2. What can you do this week to live in the moment and make the best out of each day?  

How Well Do You Know Jesus?

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ.” – Colossians 1:15-19

Paul told the church in Philippi that nothing was more important to him than knowing Christ (Philippians 3). It is impossible to know God too well. He is the most important person who exists. On every scale of excellence, He is infinitely greater than the best person you ever knew or ever heard of.  

No one ever disagrees that knowing God is central to the life of a Christian. We can know about God, but that is quite different from knowing God. What does it mean to know God? The idea of knowing God can seem abstract. It can seem like a pie-in-the-sky concept that most people can never attain. But you can know God. 

You need to know who He claimed to be, eternal God in human flesh. You must know some of the things He did and taught. You need to understand that He died on the cross for your sins and that He was raised bodily from the dead. But beyond these facts, you need to know Christ personally. That relationship begins at the moment you recognize that your sins have separated you from God and that you need a Savior. 

We can only know Him as He has chosen to reveal Himself. That revelation comes through His written Word. “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.” (Hebrews. 1:1-3).

Thus we come to know God through Jesus Christ, and we come to know Him through His Word which tells us of Him. The Old Testament points ahead to Christ; the New Testament tells us of His life, His death for our sins, and His resurrection and present reign in heaven. It also tells us of His coming again and His future kingdom. It expounds on His teaching and reveals His will for His people. We can never know Him fully because He is infinite and we are finite. But we can know Him definitely as Savior and Lord and we can and must spend our lives focused on the goal “to know Him.” 

As we come to know Jesus, we will become more and more like Him because we will know what to imitate. But it is still a difficult challenge. What can we do, what do we need to know that will help us agree with and live according to this purpose of becoming like Christ?  So how well do you know Jesus?

 Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to you to “know” God?   
  2. What can we do in the short-term to better know God?  

Jesus Never Rushed

“Here’s my point: the solution to an overbusy life is not more time. It’s to slow down and simplify our lives around what really matters.” ― John Mark Comer. 

We have more technology at our fingertips than those before us experienced throughout their entire lifetimes. This efficiency hasn’t helped us slow down however; it’s only made us move faster. We can message someone across the world in an instant, but we’re increasingly disconnected in our relationships. Hurry and hustle are swiftly eating up our time—and maybe even our peace of mind. Is this the way Jesus lived?

When you read the gospels, do you get a sense Jesus is rushing from one thing to another as we do from meeting to meeting? The answer is no. He didn’t rush. You never get the sense that he was “checking his watch” and or that people were going to make Him late with their requests. He often took time to minister to someone while He was on His way to minister to someone else (For example, Jairus and the woman who suffered from constant bleeding found in Mark 5:21-43).

Jesus had a lot on His plate. But think about it. He lived a full and obedient life without ever running out of time. He never used an hour uselessly.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Jesus lived the most purposeful life ever lived and at the same time was never rushed.  

Jesus knew His limits. He didn’t try to be in three places at once or cram 30 hours’ worth of activity into 12 hours of daylight. Consider that Jesus didn’t start His ministry until he was 30.  He accepted His limitations and lived life at a godly pace. The question is why do we have such a hard time doing the same thing. 

Corrie ten Boom once said that if the devil can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy. Her logic is sound: both sin and busyness have the exact same effect—they cut off our connection to God, and to other people.  It is easy to be so busy that we don’t live spiritually rich and vibrant lives. You are probably thinking right now busyness has a healthy side. You are right. There is a healthy kind of busyness where your life is full of things that matter, not wasted on empty leisure or trivial pursuits. By that definition, Jesus himself was busy.

The problem isn’t when you have a lot to do; it’s when you have too much to do, and the only way to keep all the balls in the air is to constantly hurry and then hurry a little more. Look for ways to slow down. As you move through your day, pay attention to the feelings of hurry, stress, distraction, or irritation that you feel. Notice how they inhibit your ability to be live the life God calls us to live. Consider pausing 2-3 times during this day to simply breathe, take in God’s loving presence, and the beauty all around you. 

 When we come to Jesus, in the middle of our busyness, He gives us rest.  And we can go about our day, packed as it may be, settled and at peace knowing He is with us and within us, guiding and leading us to do what is most important.

 Discussion Questions:

  1. There is plenty of time to do each day what God would have us do without rushing. Agree or disagree and why? 
  2.  What can you do this week to prevent being in too much of a rush?  

The Life You Want Versus The Life You’re Living

“ Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.” – Acts 6:8-10. 

If I asked a group of people to describe their life – right now – in one word, the answers would probably be some of the usual suspects: growing, frustrating, disappointing, fulfilled, stuck, struggling, joyful, defeated, exciting, empty, etc.  How you look at life is probably a direct result of whether life turned out the way you thought it would. Usually, there are some unexpected bumps in the road, causing our plans to derail.

The Bible tells the story of a young man who lived his life well. And even though it wasn’t a long life, it was a full one. It was a productive one. It was one that made an impact. This young man, Stephen, lived his life in service for the Lord.   

God was clearly at work in the church of the first century. Miracles were happening. People were coming to Christ. In the midst of this, Stephen was brought up on false charges before the religious authority, the Sanhedrin. Their word was law. When they made a decision that was it.  If Stephen had been a little more evasive or at least careful, he may have left in time for dinner.  But he was neither. It is unlikely Stephen had a death wish, and although he probably knew what the outcome would be, he stood up for Christ. You can read his answer to the charges in Acts 7. 

In Acts 7: 57-58 their response to Stephen’s speech: “Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.” We are told that “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 56 And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” (Acts 7:55). What a glorious moment that must have been.

Choosing to learn to live a Christ-centered life, even if it isn’t the life you had imagined, is the best choice you will ever make. It won’t be easy, but you intentionally chose to let Jesus be the source of your joy, even in the midst of less-than-joyful circumstances.

Yes, Stephen’s life was short, but it was full. He lived it well. And that is all we can do.

One day we will stand before God and give an account of what we have done with our lives for Him. Make each day count. Live it for the glory of God. Live your life well.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is a lived well life mean to you?
  2. What changes would you need to make your life a well lived life? 

Live In The Present

“Here’s my point: the solution to an overbusy life is not more time. It’s to slow down and simplify our lives around what really matters.” ― John Mark Comer. 

In a Peanuts cartoon, Lucy is lecturing Charlie Brown. She says “Charlie Brown, life is a lot like a deck chair. Some place it so they can see where they’re going. Others place it to see where they’ve been. And some so they can see where they are at the present.” Charlie Brown sighs and says, “Lucy, I can’t even get my deck chair unfolded.” 

Lucy has a point. Some people are constantly looking back at the past; they are so caught up in what used to be that they are missing what is, and have no room to think about what is to come. There are others who live for the moment. The only thing they are concerned about is what’s going on right now. There are still others who insist on focusing on the future alone and keep their attention on what lies ahead. 

Psalm 32:8 reminds us that the Lord will “…guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” That verse is reassuring. God wants to teach us which paths to travel on. He has a plan and a purpose for you but it begins with you putting your hope in Him.

Therein lies the difficulty: it seems easier to put your hope in yourself and your ability to create the future you want by keeping your eyes fixed on things you think you can control. The reality, however, is that you miss out on an important part of your life when you don’t live in the present moment God has given you. He has a daily mission for you, and it matters. God wants to teach you something. He has handcrafted moments for you today. Being present in the present is truly a gift. It’s a gift we receive from our Father above as well as a gift we can give to those around us.  

Part of living day-to-day means focusing on the now rather than worrying about the future or fretting over the past. Jesus gives explicit instructions in this regard in Matthew 6:34: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Our problems can seem insurmountable when we start worrying about the future. That’s why Jesus tells us to live in the present by taking a day-by-day approach. Think about what is happening right now. Train yourself not to think about what might happen a week, two weeks, or ten years down the line: think about what today requires of you. The future is important but it starts today.

This process may feel alien to you. We’d much rather worry about everything coming because that makes us feel like we have control over it, and we can do something about it. But we depend on God, not ourselves—and so learning to live in the moment is important.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Let go of the past, plan for the future, but live in the present: Which of those three is the most difficult in your opinion? 
  2. What can you do this week to live more in the present spirtually?  

Why Are We So Rushed?

“Busyness can ruin our joy. As Christians, our lives should be marked by joy (Philippians 4:4), taste like joy (Galatians 5:22), and be filled with the fullness of joy (John 15:11). Busyness attacks all that. One study found that commuters experience greater levels of stress than fighter pilots or riot police… There’s no doubt that when our lives are frantic and frenzied we are more prone to anxiety, resentment, impatience, and irritability.” – Kevin DeYoung in Three Dangers of Being Crazy Busy.

It is easy to find yourself rushing through life and going from one thing to the next. You are always thinking ahead and planning for the future and what needs to get done. What assignments do you have due? What project do you need to finish? Did you drink water today? Your head is filled with questions and to-do lists and constantly in the process of checking things off. You hardly ever just sit down and do nothing. Even when it looks like you are just relaxing, you are thinking of everything you need to do.

However, when it is all said and done, these seemingly “important” things aren’t bringing you any joy. They are just filling your head with chaos. The truth is that this hectic rush of life we experience isn’t unique to our generation, although it probably seems that way.  So what is the secret to change? How do I unrush my life? 

To make the most out of life, we need to be focused on what matters: our relationship with God, our relationships with others, and fulfilling the unique purpose for which God created us and placed us here on this earth. Every day is rich with possibilities. So many opportunities to make choices that will take me down one of two paths. Either I will speed along at 100 miles an hour and slow down and focus on what really matters.   

Jesus sets the standard for focusing on what is important. In Luke 13:22-24 (MSG) we read: “He went on teaching from town to village, village to town, but keeping on a steady course toward Jerusalem. A bystander said, “Master, will only a few be saved?” He said, “Whether few or many is none of your business. Put your mind on your life with God. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires your total attention.

Jesus was subject to all the pressures we are and yet remained completely disciplined, always giving His time to what was ultimately most important. Jesus spent his whole life choosing to do the most important thing at any given moment. He stopped to heal the sick when they crossed his path. He sat on a mountainside to speak life to a waiting crowd. He prayed for children, even as His disciples scolded the people for bringing them to Him. He looked a bleeding woman, a blind man, and a beggar in the eyes and gave them personalized hope.

It is difficult to stop the drive to do more in exchange for concentrating on what is important each day. We don’t want to spend our days skimming over the significant to pursue the insignificant  If we want to choose what is better, then we need to choose what is important and not just what is urgent. The secret to an unrushed life is knowing where our hope lies. When we know our hope is in God alone, we can focus on the things that matter most in life. We will understand what David means when he says that “busy rushing ends in nothing.” (Psalm 39:6) And we will hunger for more of the unrushed life God promises.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Busyness has become a badge of honor and a cultural value. The truth is, we often feel one step behind, disorganized and overwhelmed. But “busy” just sounds better. Do you agree and why?
  2. Often what we are doing with our time isn’t bad or wrong, but it can be distracting to us because we let the urgent things crowd out the important things. How do you differentiate between the important and the unimportant? 

Who Do You Say I Am?

 “Who do you say that I am?” Luke 9:20

There are critical questions we must answer in every season of life. When we are in high school or college we need to know what we will do with our life.  That question will most likely determine our path so it requires a careful, thoughtful answer. Then there’s the question that drastically changes our life: “Sue, will you marry me?” followed by “Sue, do you take Tyler to be your husband?”  But there may be no more significant question in all of life than the one Jesus asked His first disciples in Luke 9:2: “But who do you say I am?” And with that question, Jesus confronted His apostles with the most critical issue that ever faced them, or ever faces everyone on the planet: the question of the identity of Jesus Christ.

This question came in the context of a conversation between Jesus and His disciples when Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” the disciples offered various answers, “…some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other ancient prophets risen from the dead.” (Luke 9:19). Jesus then asked, “But who do you say I am?” (Luke 19:20).  

You would think it’s a complex question based on all the resources devoted to answering that question.  Libraries are full, literally, of tens of thousands, if not millions of books that have been focused on addressing that question in one way or another. Articles appear in journals and magazines, papers are written, discussions are held, conferences, seminars, etc.  It can seem like this question is complex and cannot be answered easily.

But the fact of the matter is: It’s a very easy question to answer.  Jesus is the Son of God. He is the Christ, the Messiah, Immanuel, God with us. The living God. Our Savior. Our shepherd. Our counselor. Our comforter. Our healer. Our hope. Our very life. That is not ambiguous, that is not obscure. That does not take some kind of scholastic gymnastics to sort out.  It is clear, precise information revealed on the pages of Scripture.  In the end, each one of us has to answer for ourselves the central question of life: “Who do you say I am?”   

This is the most important topic of our lives.  Why not read through the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in 2022 to get to know the full picture of Jesus Christ. Because one day, we will all be asked the same question: “And what about you? Who do you say I am?” I hope our answer is like the disciple Peter who said, “You are the Messiah sent from God!” 

Discussion Question:

  1. Who do you say Jesus is? What difference does this make in how you live each day?