Beautiful! Or . . . is it?

Reflections thorn flower

On a recent jog with Toby Dog, I spied a cluster of flowers on the edge of the milo field (okay, sorghum if you want to get technical).  As we got closer, I allowed Toby to go into the edge of the milo to sniff out rabbits while I bent to closer examine the delicate, blush-colored, bell-shaped flowers.  As I reached out to pluck one from its stem, I instantly received a sharp pain in my index finger.  I jerked back and saw a drop of blood forming on the tip of my finger.  The beautiful, delicate flower was deceptive; it was actually a thorny weed disguised by clusters of pretty flowers.

On the way home, as I nursed my sore finger I began to think about how life is full of weeds in disguise.  In other words, Satan loves to hold temptations out to us on shiny, beautiful silver platters.  He makes temptations so attractive to us that we don’t actually see it for what it is, a beautiful flower beckoning us to pluck it, when it’s actually a thorny weed (sin) in disguise.  We are lured by the surface beauty, but it’s only when we reach out and take hold of it that we see it for what it really is – a trap that only causes pain and destruction.

Satan’s really, really good at this.  He and his armies have been honing their skills for centuries.  Look at how he conned Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Genesis 3:13 reads:

And the Lord God said unto the woman, “What is this that thou hast done?”  And the woman said, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”

When we think about Eve, we must remember that she was God’s first created woman.  So how could His first and precious creation be so easily tricked?

To understand what actually transpired in the Garden of Eden, we have to take a closer look at the word “beguiled.”  In the original Hebrew language, the word used in Genesis is a rare verb indicating an intense experience causing much emotional and spiritual trauma, and means to delude, deceive, to be misled by craft.  It wasn’t as simple as Satan holding out a delicious-looking piece of fruit and lying to Eve.  He didn’t outright lie to her, he just told her half-truths.

Even so, this was not quite enough to cause Eve to quickly cave and say, “Cool, let me have a bite!”  In Genesis 3:4 – 5 we see Satan beguiling Eve, making her question and doubt God.  She struggled with the decision to eat the fruit offered to her by Satan.  When she did choose to do so, it was not because she was tricked, it was because she first looked.  Genesis 3:6 reads:

And when woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

  • Eve looked: She knew God had forbidden her to eat this fruit, but she looked.  And kept looking.  She knew it was wrong in God’s eyes but once Satan had planted the idea that this was the best fruit she’d ever taste with great side effects (making her wise, better, more beautiful), she couldn’t stop looking.
  • Eve took: I have an image of Eve unable to look away from the tree, heavy with fruit.  Every part of her being knew it was wrong, but she couldn’t help reaching out to touch one piece, temptingly within her reach.  That one touch caused her fingers to curl around the fruit, grasp it and pull it from the tree, taking a huge bite.
  • Eve gave: After eating, Eve probably immediately realized what she had done and drew her husband in with her so she wouldn’t be alone in her transgression.

Let’s think about the steps here.  It was not an immediate giving in to temptation.  A great deal of sin comes in through our eyes.  It was Eve’s own act of not turning away from the temptation and continuing to gaze longingly at what she knew she was not supposed to have.  Satan can tempt but he cannot force.  Satan can persuade us to take that first step to give in to temptation but he himself cannot cast us down.

Now let’s not be too hard on Eve.  Don’t we do the same things ourselves?  For example, in the grocery store, we walk past the bakery section to gaze at the rich delicacies on the shelves.  You’re not going to buy, mind you; you’re just going to look.  Taking a quick peek at pornography; after all, one little peek won’t hurt.  It all begins with the lust of the eyes and our unwillingness to look away.

No matter how you may be tempted in any situation, always remember that Jesus felt the same temptation.  There is nothing you are exposed to that He didn’t face.  God promises us that no matter how hard the temptation is, He will always provide an escape route.

We face temptations daily, numerous times.  So how can we resist?

  • Recognize the possibility of temptation happening to you. It can always happen to you, you are not invulnerable to any temptation.  Keep the image in mind of Satan holding out a beautiful platter; remember who’s holding it!
  • Begin your day with His Word and His Spirit. When God is central in your life and you walk in faith daily, that alone will keep you from many falls and sins.  It’s difficult to give in to temptation when you’ve spent time in His Word in the morning.  Begin your day asking Him to keep you sensitive to temptation.
  • Learn to look away from temptation. Be a coward, run from it!  Run from anything that that is in danger of coming between you and God.
  • Replace bad influences with good ones. If you have friends that tempt you with things like “one little (bite of unhealthy food, drink, etc.) won’t hurt,” and pull you away from God instead of to Him, they are not good influences.  You need friends who encourage you to want you to do better for God and raise the standard.
  • Resolve to take the high road. You have the free will to choose how you want to live life.  Walk with God; fill your life with truth and good, and you will have the strength to face temptation when it comes.  Satan will flee from you and he will have no power over you!  In Christ, there is nothing you cannot overcome!

 

Scripture:

1 Corinthians 10:13:  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.

Prayer:

Father God, I thank you for all the wonderful things you have put into my life.  Thank you for the blessings you bestow on me every day.  Please give me the wisdom to look away and walk away when I am tempted, and the clear vision to see the way out that You provide.  Thank You, God, that You are faithful and always keep Your promises.  I love You, I praise You!

Have you ever tried to catch the wind?

catching wind

 

Have you ever tried to catch the wind?  Sailboats trim their sails to catch the wind currents to move forward.  Kites launch on the breeze and drift wherever the wind takes them.  Wind chimes ring out their melodies as the wind softly taps the tubes against the striker.

Recently I was working outside and it was completely silent except for the sound of the wind rustling the leaves of the trees.  I stopped for a minute and turned my face into the wind and lifted my hand, cupping my palm to catch the breeze.  I could feel it whispering into and around my palm and over my fingers.  But did I really catch the wind, or did it catch me?  Wind is elusive.  It is intangible.  You can’t see it, smell it or taste it, and you can never contain it.

Just as the wind is elusive, sometimes happiness is too.  Many times I’ve heard, “Life’s too short to be unhappy.”  Translation – your happiness comes above everything else.  Let’s face it – we live in a me-centered world.  Most people go through life searching for happiness as though it’s a destination. It’s what we strive toward, what we hope to achieve one day. We tell ourselves that when this or that happens, we will be happy — only to find out that when one problem is solved, another takes its place.  Sometimes it seems utterly impossible to get to a place of happiness in our lives.

King Solomon tried everything imaginable to reach lasting happiness.  As the richest man in the known world at that time, he found that he couldn’t buy happiness.  As the most powerful person in the kingdom, any whim was instantly filled and he was still unable to satisfy his own heart.  Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines and never found true love.  He found that these pursuits unsatisfying, meaningless and did not bring happiness.

Securing our own happiness is just like trying to catch the wind.  We try to chase it, but it always seems to be just out of reach.  We will never find true and complete happiness in this world.  However, we can always have joy.

As my kids in Sunday School would say, “Wait, Ms. Kim, what?”

There is a difference between happiness and joy.  We live in a fallen world and happiness is dependent upon our circumstances.  Just as King Solomon discovered, all of our wishes in the world can be granted and we won’t find true happiness.  You can be a size six and still not be happy.  But, regardless of our circumstances, instead of searching for happiness, we should allow God’s joy and peace to reign in our hearts.  We can find true contentment in any circumstance by looking to God.

Joy is not a place to be, but it’s a path.  It’s not a destination, but a way.  We don’t go out to joy, but instead go through joy.

We are all striving to reach the place where we can be our true selves and live our best lives.  Isaiah 55:12 reads:

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Simply put, the only way to get from our broken lives to redeemed lives is through joy.  In today’s world, this is an unheard of way of thinking because it the complete opposite of the way most of our society believes.  The verse tells us to joyful all the time and not to wait until circumstances line up so that we may possibly feel happy or joyful.  It demands that we make joy our way of life instead of spending our lives trying to get there.

All the money and material possessions in the world won’t give you joy.  Neither will being a certain size, worldly pleasures nor satisfying appetites of the flesh with alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, you name it.

So how can we be joyful no matter what our situation may be?

The Bible often uses the word blessed, meaning “how how happy.”  In the Psalms we read blessed are those whose sins are forgiven (Psalm 32:1), who trust in the Lord (Psalm 40:4) and who draw near to God (Psalm 65:4).  Joy enables us to be close to God.  The true source of joy, peace and pleasure is God.

I have a coworker that is always joyful, always smiling no matter how hectic or stressful her day has been.  Many times she’s been asked, “Why are you so happy all the time?”  Without hesitation she’ll reply, “I have plenty of reasons to be happy.  I know Who’s got me!”

Don’t wait to be happy – make up your mind to be joyful every day, starting right now.  Don’t waste another second of your time by trying to catch the wind.  Find true joy by catching the Maker of the wind!

Scripture

Romans 15:13:  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with the hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer

Father God, thank You for Your love and greatness.    I praise You for Your great wisdom and strength.  Fill my heart with Your joy so that I can rejoice in all of life’s circumstances, the good times and the bad.  Thank You for Your joy, which is my strength.  Help me to always remain in Your love so that my joy will overflow and reach out to others.  In Your Son’s most precious and holy name I pray, Amen.