I’ve been thinking about the word tempt today and how I sometimes use it in the “not so negative” sense. “I was tempted to write about…” or “I was tempted to buy…,” “I was tempted to cook such and such for so and so…” I don’t believe that these particular usages are particularly wrong, but as I began to dig deeper into what scripture has to say about it, and it’s definition, I am inclined to use yet a different choice word! The word tempt is a type of stimulus – to entice or to provoke – to put in the heart. My Bible Sense Lexicon defines it as conceived as of putting thoughts, desires, or plans into someone’s heart. Interestingly, all Scripture that I researched referred to an admonishment! Even the plain ole dictionary connects temptation with a negative connotation; something that is known to be wrong. An old friend of mine used to always say, “You win or lose by the way you choose!” He was so right! Now when I believe that I am tempted, and examine the outcome of the choice I’m about to make, I think of His words. Sometimes I give into temptation anyway. Don’t judge me, we all do! There are moments when even what seems the smallest temptation may explode into horrific consequences. Did you ever stop to consider the small voice in your head warning you? Reckon that was the Holy Spirit? How often do we dismiss that voice? It’s like a tug of war with your conscience and the little cherubs are sitting on your shoulders whispering what to do, although it is not the voice of God that tempts!
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried,
he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to
them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God:
for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man."
This is a picture of the Japanese magnolia just outside of my front door.
Yep, I call it my sin tree!
“What?!” you respond; even as you look at the picture and think it is beautiful!
A few times each year, this tree buds and I get excited, anticipating the beautiful purple, tulip shaped flowers. They look lovely against the clear, azure February sky. I call it my sin tree because it is so enticing. I want to cut all of the flowers and bring them inside, as they seem to instill a sense of happiness to me.
The problem… After the flowers have bloomed, they quickly fade and their petals drop to the ground and sour! Sometimes the putrid smell is over powering as I rush in or out of my house. I cannot escape it fast enough.
I have likened this tree to sin. It’s tempting… it provides momentary pleasure…that leaves a lasting stench! The lingering smell has destroyed the delight I once took in its beauty. Sin can be that way. It entices us, appeals to us and flirts with us. Once we have indulged, we give off a noticeable odor. This “odor” can show up in bad attitudes, withdrawal from friends, and a lacking desire to spend time fellowshipping with the Lord. I find it interesting that it was also a tree in the Garden of Eden that elicited some of the same desirable characteristics; however, it was not the tree itself that caused the sin, it was temptation and the choice of disobedience that led to the fall. We are all tempted with things and in various forms. It is our response to the temptation that leads us either closer to the Lord or drives us away from hearing His still soft voice. Have you heard from the Lord lately? Perhaps there is sin in your life that has broken fellowship with the Father. Ask Him for forgiveness and to restore what has been broken.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.
And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.
But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
1 Corin. 10:13
So what about the voice on the other shoulder? Actually, I should say in the heart!
Someone who obeyed that small still voice blessed me this week! Perhaps when she reads this blog she will comment and give her perspective, but for now, this is how I experienced it…
As you may have read in earlier blogs, sadness by death and illness of friends and family has plagued Kathy and I over the last few months. With all of that, it has rained and hailed, been very cold with little sun, and frankly, the color from my life was missing and depression was beginning to wrap its fingers around me. My rose garden had nothing and my grass was only a carpet of soggy blah! In the face of ministry, I had poured myself out for others and became spiritually and emotionally depleted, I felt alone and lonely, and yet I stood bravely facing the storms. This picture best describes my feelings at the time.
I took a day from responsibility to try to regain my emotional strength, restore, and get it together! The Lord had been prompting me to take care of one more little thing that quite honestly, I really didn’t feel that I had left in me to do. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to talk with anyone, let alone play hostess! In obedience, I made the call and my friend and I made plans to connect at my house at lunchtime. Of course with every thing going on, I had little to serve. Off to the grocery store I ran. It is so like God to set up life and plan everything, for coming out of the store was yet another friend rolling her buggy to the car. I yelled across the parking lot to get her attention. With a huge smile on her face and a tight embrace, she said, “This is so God!” Immediately from her cart she pulled out a beautiful bouquet of orange/pink tulips with deep green foliage. She placed them in my hand and said, “Here, these are for you!” Earlier in the week she had heard my cry for color in my life! God led her to supply it for me. She asked me if I had time for lunch and I said that I was hosting another friend and could not. When I told her who it was, her smile got even wider and as she looked at the sky, she kept stating, ”This is so God! This is so God!” She then reached into her bag and insisted that I take 2 individual containers of cake for our dessert. I graciously took them, excited that I didn’t have to fret over another decision to make! As we giggled at the amazement of God’s provision, she remembered that she had just bought a gift for the friend that was coming to my house. She pulled out the gift bag she had just bought and placed the gift inside and asked me to please deliver it. She wanted to bless our friend but was pressed for time and would not get to deliver it herself until much later. How convenient and God like to relay that gift in the parking lot! My spirit had been lifted at the love and obedience to God that was beautifully displayed on me in the least likely of places. As I reflected on the events of that small time period, I took notice that my friend had listened and obeyed the voice of the Lord while she was shopping. She could have decided that she didn’t need any more calories from the cake and chose to ignore the prompting. She could have opted to buy the gift later since she knew she was pressed for time to deliver. She could have chosen to keep the bouquet for I’m sure she needed vivid color in her life, too! But no, she chose to obey and in doing so, she blessed me and my other friend. By the way, the cake was my friend’s all-time favorite and I wish you could have heard her squeal with joy and laughter as I pulled it out of the refrigerator and told her the God story! We had the best visit and my heart and soul was encouraged and lifted…(that was supposed to be my job to her!). Obedience to the call of God had taken place and his girls were blessed on many levels as He took delight in them. As a result, my day was brighter when I chose to make that call. Blessings abounded like a ripple effect for all parties involved. I never considered that other people could have been involved in God’s plan for that simple lunch. We are intertwined daily with others for Kingdom purposes. We were all “winners” that day as our choice involved obeying the prompting of the Holy Spirit. How many other times have I dismissed that little voice or misrepresented it for my own? How many have missed blessings because I didn’t obey? You win or lose by the way you choose!
Pick up the phone and call that person. Add another item to your grocery cart. Drive home a different route. There are blessings all around us if we chose not to ignore them. Even if you think you can’t go one more step, press on…just a tiny bit more. It might make a huge difference in someone’s life.
Father, help me in discerning the voice of temptation and the voice of your Spirit. I repent over the times that I have fallen into the trap of self-gratification and considered only my feelings and desires. They are selfish and do not display a loving spirit. They leave a stench and cause me to withdraw from your presence. I am not only hurting myself but also choosing to refrain from being a blessing to others. Please forgive. Oh Lord, I ask you to help me clearly recognize the times when you whisper softly in my ear. But help me to not only recognize but to respond positively. Others may be missing a blessing due to my lack of obedience. I desire to walk closely with you guiding my steps. Our fellowship is sweetened as we commune together. It is also then that you are able to use me as a vessel of light to assist and encourage others. Thank you for those who have blessed my life and walk in obedience to your command. Thank you that you delight in your children and weave their paths in obedience to your call.
In Jesus' Name, Amen.
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