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!

When life happens

SOS distress sign

You’ve probably heard the phrase “life happens.”  I’ve always understood what it meant, but got thinking about where the quote originated, so I Googled it.  The phrase actually was first printed in a January 1957 issue of Reader’s Digest in a section called “Quotable Quotes,” (RDAS) and is taken from the following:

Allen Saunders:  Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.   – Publishers Syndicate

And boy, did life happen to me this past week.

Just when you think things can’t get any crazier, just when you think you can’t cram one more thing into your hectic schedule and there’s not possibly one more thing that can happen . . . something else does.  You’re left with your jaw hanging slack, your breathing quickens and you’re speechless as your mind races, trying to process how to clear this new hurdle.  Last week I told you about Daddy’s knee replacement surgery and the hectic schedule that followed.

I only wish this week had been that easy.

Early this week I was back into my regular routine and thinking that things were beginning to settle down a little and life was slowly returning to normal.  I had my Unity articles planned (again!); outlines made (again!) and had the next few nights for writing and research.  Tuesday afternoon I was at my desk, deeply engrossed in a project.  When the phone rang I didn’t bother to look at caller ID, just absentmindedly reached for the receiver, keeping my eyes on the design project that was taking shape on my computer screen.  “Kim Edwards,” I answered as I continued to manipulate the image.  It was Mama.  “Hey,” she said, “do you have anything on your schedule for tomorrow afternoon?”  It wasn’t the unusual greeting that got my attention, nor was it the fact that she called me at work in the middle of the afternoon.

It was the sound of her voice that made me sit up and pay attention.  Raw and sharp-edged with pain.  It only took me a few seconds to figure out what had happened.  Mama was having a flare-up of her rheumatoid arthritis.

For those of you not familiar with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), it’s different from osteoarthritis in that it is not a degenerative bone disease, but rather an auto-immune disease.  It settles in joints, triggering your body’s immune system to kick into full alert mode and try to rid itself of the invader.  In other words, your body essentially attacks itself, causing extreme pain and swelling of the joint.  To further complicate matters, the immune system’s response to the RA flare up causes a fever, resulting in body aches akin to those caused by the flu.  The flare-ups are sudden, intense and debilitating.  RA moves from one joint to the next, so the hand that is working pretty well today can be so painful tomorrow not even a feather can touch it.  Or, it can move from a hand today to a foot tomorrow, or attack both at the same time.

Keep in mind it’s barely been one week since Daddy’s surgery and he’s still in need of almost constant care.  Also, he can’t drive yet, is walking with a walker and has three physical therapy appointments per week.  Mama has been doing very well as his primary caretaker, but all that changed in less than one hour.  She felt the beginnings of the pain in her foot, 45 minutes later she was unable to walk and she could feel the familiar, dreaded precursor of nagging pain in her hand as well.  For me, that translated into an abrupt about-face in my plans for the rest of the week.

In other words, life happened.

The remainder of the week for both me and my sister has been consumed with caring for Mama and Daddy.  Unity articles fell to the wayside.  Once again, the Reflections article is the only new article for this week.  Not only was I pretty dispirited about this, I was beginning to be concerned that Unity would lose momentum and readership would be negatively affected.  In my moments of inner worry, I began to pray for God to give me direction, an answer, a reason, a purpose for the upheaval that just didn’t make sense.  After all, Unity is His divine purpose given to me.  Why would I be held back so early in the beginning?

As usual, when I got quiet long enough to listen to God, He began to speak.  He reminded me of last week, when He told me that I needed to take the focus off of quantity and my timing to focus on His message and His timing.  Submission and surrender, those two words played over and over in my head. Submitting all areas of my life to Him, all the time, to willingly put myself under His rule and make it my life’s purpose to serve Him.  Surrender – everything belongs to Him, all sense of ownership must be eradicated and everything dedicated to Him.  Unity is His creation, I’m just the tool He’s using to deliver it, and I need to get out of the driver’s seat and let Him do the driving.

Ouch.  Okay, God, I didn’t fully learn my lesson last week, did I?  It’s clear to me that He had to “make life happen” to open my eyes to the fact that I had only submitted and surrendered to Him for just a little bit, then turned around and grabbed the wheel in my tight fists to steer my own direction.  God used the circumstances of this week to gently remind me that He is in control!

The second big lesson that I learned this week is how, when life happens, we can find the strength to get through the tough times.  So just how do we do this?

  1. The first, and most obvious, is to turn to God for help. If you truly let Him have control of all things (submit and surrender) and ask for His help, He will empower you through the Spirit to overcome any hardship that you may face.
  2. Instead of asking “why” ask “how?” Yes, this is difficult.  Our first reaction to hardships is to ask why.  I found out that when I let go of the why and focused on how to get through this week, God revealed the good purposes He had in mind for me because of this week.  He used it to help me draw closer to Him and accomplish the mission He had intended, in His timing.  I had to learn to allow Him to use a hardship to accomplish a good purpose for me.
  3. You have to follow your faith and not your feelings. Feelings are completely unreliable on which to base your decisions.  When life happens, you have to trust that God, through the Spirit, is with you, even when you don’t sense His presence or understand why you’re experiencing a hardship.  You have to choose to believe that He is always in control of your life, always loves you and will never leave or forsake you, no matter what you’re going through.
  4. Go to God often in prayer and Bible reading. When life happens, it’s crucial that you stay in communication with God.  Pour out your heart to God, knowing that He cares and is listening to you.  Ask the Spirit to bring your prayers in alignment with God’s will and purpose for you, which is always better than trying to convince Him to do what we want.  Read, study, memorize and meditate on the Bible.  Ephesians 6:17 tells us to use God’s Word as a part of our spiritual armor.  He gives us His Word to battle the evil forces that will whisper lies to you and to discredit God’s promises.  If you are grounded in His Word and get His Truth into your soul regularly, you have a powerful weapon to defend yourself against those evil attacks!

When life happens to you, and it will, go to God and ask for the strength and attitude you need to get through it.  Rely on Him for everything and ask for the faith you need to stand strong on His promises to you that He loves you and always wants the best for you.  Remember that He is more interested in making your life holy than happy, because holiness has eternal value.  He longs for you to grow closer to Him, and the hardship will accomplish this as well as enabling you to have Christ-like behavior regardless of your circumstances.  Make a habit of looking beyond difficult times and focus on Christ and accept the spiritual peace that He offers daily and will transcend any and all hardships you face!

Verses:

Psalm 138:3:  In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul.

2 Corinthians 4:16:  Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”

Prayer:  Father God, I cry out to you in times of trials and challenges.  When life happens and I feel that I can’t take another step, I can’t face another problem and my soul is weary and my burden is heavy, You hear my cry and You take me in Your loving arms and infuse me with your strength and peace.  I know that You will never leave me, You love me more than I can possibly imagine and only want the best for me.  I thank you for that, Father, and I praise You!  In Your Son’s most precious and holy name I pray, Amen.

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