Lead Me Not Into Temptation – Unless It’s Really Good…

 

temptation

If you know the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, you know the line: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…”

I’ve prayed that prayer.  I’ve asked God to remove temptation from me.  Here’s my problem – it might be yours, too:  I like temptation.

What I mean is I have a bent toward certain sins.  My temptations are not the same as yours.  Jack Daniels is not a temptation for me.  Ice cream is (especially in summer).  Which is more lethal?   The church crowd frowns on Jack Daniels, but I’ve seen sugar kill a lot of Baptists.

When I talk about my temptations, I refer to food because it evokes a smile and a nod.  I hate to be honest about my other temptations.  They are real and dangerous too.

I’m tempted to always be right.  I can’t tell you how many relationships I’ve harmed because I had to prove I was right.

I’m tempted to lust.  Lust isn’t noticing someone is a female (or male).  It is objectifying a person.  Lust is treating someone as an object rather than a soul.

I’m tempted to want approval. I want people to look at my life and say, “What a fine person he is.”  Even when I fail, I want them to say, “Isn’t it wonderful that he fails every now and then?  Otherwise, he’d be almost as perfect as Jesus.”

I’m tempted to believe rules don’t apply to me.  The speed limit is for others, not me (I tried to explain this to a State Trooper once).  Calories impact others, not me.  Time should slow down when I’m running late because I manage myself poorly.

I struggle with other temptations, but you get the idea.

Here’s my conundrum:  I like the first sensation when I give into temptation.  I do.  I like the taste of ice cream.  I like people saying, “I like your preaching.”  I like the rush of driving fast.

But I hate the sick feeling of too much sugar.  I hate the guilt of objectifying people.  I hate feeling like I have to meet someone’s expectations all the time.  I hate the shame of letting people down.

I hate the self-destruction I inflict on my own soul.

Let me tell you how dumb I am:  I return to the same old temptations time after time, expecting different results.  Didn’t Einstein say the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

To really ask God to deliver me from temptation, I have to accept an uncomfortable reality:  My temptations are not good.  They never are good.  The temptations lead to sin, which leads to soul-erosion, which means I have to do internal repair work.  I get tired of re-building the same section of my soul over and over.

I think Jesus  is telling me when I pray, “Lead me not into temptation” the worst thing I can do is put myself in an ice cream shop and say, “Lord, help me not want ice cream.”

To pray “lead me not into temptation” means I will start my day by thinking about temptation zones.  Some of the temptation zones are physical places.  Some of the temptation zones are spiritual places.  All the temptation zones have warning signals my soul hears: Danger!  My soul is telling me, “Don’t go there.  Don’t go there physically.  Don’t go there in your head.  Nothing good is going to happen there.”

If only I would listen.

It really comes down to this:  Whatever tempts me to move  away from God is not good for my soul.  It’s never good for me.  Never.

That’s a harsh reality I would like to deny – but it’s true.

“Lead me not into temptation” means I know no good comes from temptation.  Period.

Excuse me now while I go throw out a carton of ice cream.

Reset…

reset

 

You know the drill.

Your computer freezes.  You click your mouse.  Nothing.  You try to click out of the program.  Nothing.  You try to minimize the window.  Nothing.  You speak to your computer with four letter words.  Nothing.

You might try Ctrl+Alt+Delete.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  When all else fails, you push the button.

What button?  The one that turns the computer off.  You know it will take time.  You know you will lose work.  The alternative is to stay frustrated and hope your anger melts the computer’s brain freeze.

I don’t know why, but this works most of the time.  Electrons get back on track.  The mouse works again.  Programs and apps are opening.  The computer needed to reset.

You need to reset too.

God knows this.  That’s why he commanded the Sabbath (Note: he didn’t suggest it).  Once a week you need twenty-four hours to unplug, remember what’s important, and reset.

You may not know God told his people they needed time off.  In his instructions to his people, he told them to celebrate festivals.  God said to his people “Spend three weeks a year feasting, worshiping, and resetting.

You need more than a day to reset.  You need days strung together to remember what’s important.

Maybe that’s what’s wrong with our vacations.  We get away, but we don’t reset.  We don’t create emptiness so God has space to speak to us.  It is ok to do nothing.  Doing nothing means there is room in your soul for God to say something.

To reset, you may need some vacation time that doesn’t involve Disney.  You may need to shut down your cell phone.  You may need to take a break from social media (you will not be forgotten).  You may need to explain to the kids that part of vacation will be creating space to reset.

Include God in your vacation time.  Ask him what needs to be reset.  Let him whisper to you about your soul clutter.  Soul clutter is all that occupies space in your soul and becomes a “have-to.”  Somethings have to be done – laundry, grocery shopping, etc.   But there are “have-to’s” that aren’t.  You don’t have to involve your child in five sports.  You don’t have to do your adult child’s laundry.  You don’t have to meet the guys at the hunt club at 5 AM for a workday (when the sun doesn’t come up until 6 AM).

Reset means giving yourself time to see your life as it really is.  Reset means giving yourself room to hear from God about what your life needs to be.

Time to reset.  Take a deep breath.  Push the button.  Shut down your operating system.  Let your heart rate slow down.  Do nothing.  Listen for God.

Reset.

My Squash Died …


 

wilted-squash-plants-400x262

In a fit of confidence this year, I set out tomatoes and squash this year.  My tomatoes have done great.  Nothing like home-grown tomatoes.

My squash, however, died.  I got two squash off four plants.  Not a good return on investment.

Most gardeners I know grow boat-loads of squash.  In one community where we lived, bags of squash and zucchini would appear on our door step over night.  People weren’t being kind.  They just wanted to get rid of the stuff.  Zucchini bread multiplied.  I seriously thought we could add a room onto the house if we got just a few more loaves of zucchini bread.

If the stuff is so easy to grow, why did mine die?  I watered the plants.  I made sure they got fertilizer.  I did everything I needed to do.  Right?

There is a disease called “bacterial wilt.”  A cucumber caterpillar feeds on the plants and injects a bacteria which causes wilt.  Once wilt starts, nothing can be done.

The best way to fight bacteria wilt is to never let it start.  You get rid of the cucumber caterpillar.  I should have sprayed to kill it.  But I didn’t.  Being a lazy gardener, I thought maybe the cucumber caterpillars would leave me alone.  Maybe God would understand I was a busy pastor and didn’t have time to spray.  My excuses didn’t matter.  The squash still died.

Your soul can wilt too.

There is an infection that can wilt your ability to make decisions.  It can weaken your thoughts; it can destroy your feelings.  This infection can incapacitate your body.  It can ruin relationships.

The scripture calls this infection “sin.”  Before you dismiss the idea of sin as being old fashioned, haven’t you seen its realities?  Haven’t you seen people with wilted souls?

The hard truth: you have wilted soul.  How do I know?  Because we’ve all invited sin into our lives.  We’ve all known the right thing to do and done the wrong thing.  Those choices – thousands of them – wilt our souls.

When souls wilt, people protest they fed their souls with art, pleasure, and intellectual stimulation.  Church people, bewildered, protest they fed their souls by going to church, studying scripture, and praying.  Protesting doesn’t change reality.

Your soul can wilt until you are left with a dried up life.  A dried up life produces no fruit.  A dried up life just takes up space.

Unlike my squash plants, there is hope for our wilted souls.  Our hope is the power of Jesus.

Jesus’s death and resurrection does not merely mean we go to heaven.  He entered our world.  He died to defeat the sin that infects us.  His resurrection means he conquered everything that wilts our souls.

Inviting Jesus into our souls brings healing.  He drives out the infection of sin.  He strengthens our weakness.  He rights our skewed feelings and thoughts.  He puts our relationships on a firm foundation.  That’s what the line in the old hymn means: “He makes the sinner whole…”

Let Jesus not only forgive your sin, but heal your wilted soul.  Then prepare to be amazed at the fruit that grows from your life.

If only Jesus would heal my squash.