More Compassion, Less Outrage

I learned this morning that I have a temptation. Devotion #18 in Skye Jethani’s book revealed it.

I relate to Jethani. I don’t share sufficient outrage for some people. Does that mean I don’t get outraged? No. Actually, here’s my temptation-getting outraged at other’s outrage. That’s just as unacceptable. And can be equally exhausting.

When I imagine how Jesus would respond these days, I’m guessing it would be the same as how we read in the Gospels. Did he get outraged? Yes. But he didn’t live outraged. His moments of exhaustion resulted from living from compassion, not anger. Had he lived any other way, he would have never made it to the cross. I’m thankful he never gave in to any temptation, particularly this one.

What’s exhausting us? I pray it’s more compassion than outrage.


Embrace God’s Power

(Day 17 in a 28-Day series from First Bradenton)

“Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” – Matt 6:11-13

When I read this section of scripture, where Jesus sets the example for us on how we should pray, I am always amazed by how perfect what He said is for us. Jesus is the Son of God of course, so it would not be any other way. Yet, it still always reminds me of how deep His understanding of our struggles is.

I also realize how much more often I need to remember these words and submit to God’s will over my own. It is not in our human nature to forgive those who have “sin against us.” For that we need the power of the Holy Spirit. We also need the Lord’s help in avoiding giving into temptation. I have found in my own life, as many others have, that if I try and resist temptation on my own the result is always the same. Failure.

I cannot resist the devil in my own power, but that is okay. God is with me. He has promised to always be with us (Hebrews 13), and He is far more powerful than the devil could ever hope to be. Through His power I really can be rescued from the power of the “evil one.” I just have to remember when I am tempted to do what Jesus showed me to-pray.

Sometimes those are the hardest moments to pray-when the temptation is so strong it is hard to think about anything else. And that is not just a coincidence. The devil does not want us to pray, for he knows that God’s power will always be victorious over him if we pray. So embrace that power today, God’s power!

Luke 12:32 tells us:

“Don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

God delights in blessing us and helping us resist evil and embrace His kingdom. So cry out to our loving God today with whatever you are facing in your life. He will embrace you and through His power you will live in victory over sin. This is not a one-time prayer though. Every day, when you face temptation over and over again do not lose heart, but pray! And see the mighty power of God work in and through you.

By Frank Welch

Grace A Dieu

(Day 14 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

Le Créateur, we thank you for preparing us for our battles. The first thing we need to be prepared for within spiritual battle is the importance of Scripture. Scripture is a defensive weapon as well as an offensive one. This stronghold can deflect an attack as well as inflict an attack.

I am a child of God, and I shall NOT fear anything. God gave me a shield and armor within the words of the Bible. I have been dealing with confusion, deception, and betrayal. I didn’t know how to fight off the negative energy and thoughts. God clearly tells me the devil is the one “who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). Deception is one of the main arrows Satan fires from his bow.

Le Père, you started showing me signs within quotes, movies, and songs. I had to stop procrastinating and open the Bible to find my defense mechanism towards satan. I can’t face life each day without feeding, nourishing, and equipping myself with the Word of God. If we cut the Bible out of our lives, then we are guaranteeing to become a casualty of war. We need to carry our Bible onto the battlegrounds, and we will win the war.

Are you unsure that the Word of God can protect you or help you on the battlefield? The Word of God is so potent that it can transform people from the realm of spiritual darkness to light, from falsehood to truth, from being deceived to being enlightened. Every time God’s Word leads you out of temptation or through a trial, it’s a demonstration of Scripture’s power to cut through the spiritual and moral blindness inflicted by satanic forces. Every time that same Word of Truth leads a person to salvation, it demonstrates its power to cut a swath through Satan’s dominion and bring life to a soul previously sentenced to death.

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

By Shanti M. Washington

Praying through Scripture

(Day 13 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

One of the best patterns for spiritual warfare that we can follow is Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. He demonstrates the adept use of Scripture as a shield for His own heart, reminding himself of the truth. This same well-aimed truth is what tears through the tempting words of Satan, revealing them to be lies and deceit. We need to have a good grasp on the truths in Scripture in order to use them against the attacks of the enemy. Just as we would equip ourselves from an armory for a physical battle, for a spiritual battle we must equip ourselves with knowledge of the Word.

One great way to do this is to pray through the Psalms. David and others wrote many Psalms about the deliverance and provision of God, how He is there to protect us from our enemy and sustain us through our battles. Praying through scripture will remind us of God’s character, faithfulness, and can bind us to the faith of believers past, knowing that these words are timeless and true. As we consider God’s ability to rescue us, let’s pray through Psalm 46, which reminds us to find our shelter in Him.

God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.

Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple

into the depths of the seas, though its water roars and foams and the mountains quake with its turmoil. Selah

There is a river—its streams delight the city of God, the holy dwelling place of the Most High.

God is within her; she will not be toppled. God will help her when the morning dawns.

Nations rage, kingdoms topple; the earth melts when he lifts his voice.

The Lord of Armies is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah

Come, see the works of the Lord, who brings devastation on the earth.

He makes wars cease throughout the earth. He shatters bows and cuts spears to pieces; he sets wagons ablaze.

“Stop your fighting, and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.”

The Lord of Armies is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah 

By Kyle Reilly

Pray First

(Day 11 of a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

“You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” (S. D. Gordon)

Does it really matter what the order is in spiritual disciplines for the Christian? I believe it does – not because of what some man said, but because Jesus himself emphasized that prayer is of first importance.

A soldier does not go into battle without proper equipment and preparation. Yet we as believers sometimes feel that we can engage the enemy on our own, without prayer. Jesus reminded Peter that self-sufficiency would not result in success. He warned him,

“Simon, Simon, look out. Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31-32)

Upon entering the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord told his disciples,

“Pray that you may not fall into temptation.” (Luke 22:40)

In Matthew 26:36 and in Mark 14:32, his additional word to them was to sit there while he prayed. Upon taking Peter, James, and John farther, he told them,

“Remain here and stay awake with me.” (Matthew 26:38)

Notice that he did not say that they should get up and take action right then. They were to sit, or remain, until after prayer. Jesus knew the battle that he, and they, were facing, and how desperately they needed to pray and wait. He also knows exactly the trials and temptations that come to us. Yet, how often have we decided that we must act immediately, rather than remain and pray first?

Even the very Son of God realized that his own struggles required prayer and dependence on his Father. He knew that he faced horrible persecution and death. Consequently, he asked His Father to remove his cup of suffering if there could be another way for our forgiveness. Then in submission, he prayed, “

…nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Not only must we pray in times of temptation, but also when facing trials. I recall that once in the wee hours of the night, I realized that morning would bring an event with which I totally disagreed, but over which I had no control. I was in dire need of the strength my heavenly Father would provide as I prayed. It happened just as I had feared, but the Lord gave me strength. Likewise, he provided for all my needs in the days to come, as the trial continued. Then in his perfect timing, he brought about the best solution.

Each of us has encountered many and various trials, just as the Book of James tells us to expect. Times of suffering, disappointment, failure, illness, death, financial problems, family situations, and tough decisions will come. Our assurance is that our Father knows them ahead of time. He will provide wisdom, comfort, peace, and even joy, in the midst of these, when we trust him and take them to him in prayer.

“Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer.”

Joseph Scriven – “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

By Pat Browning

Offensive Praying

(Day 9 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13)

How easy is it to be caught up in our amoral culture of constant stimulation and instant gratification? When we visit a local restaurant where large screen televisions in every corner are projecting bigger than life images of supermodels, sports heroes, the latest electronics gadgets and medicines, how can we focus on the person sitting across the table from us? On a trip down the interstate, the billboards have become graphic, scrolling, electronic, multi-media message boards touting the newest liposuction or a happening nightspot. We don’t have to go to the movies to see the exotic imagery. We don’t even have to turn on our television anymore. We don’t need to open an evening newspaper. Our once innocuous cell phones have become a prime marketing tool and daily we are bombarded by text messages, advertisements, unwanted email, social feeds, videos and more stimuli than we can possibly sort through in 10 lifetimes. Movies, television, Internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon… the deluge never ends.

Peter warned us that our enemy prowls about like a roaring lion seeking who he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). This has become a horrifying reality in our day. Now more than ever, we need to put on the full armor of God and pray the offensive prayer as Jesus instructed us. “Lead us not into temptation that surrounds us and cries to us with every chirp of the phone and Facebook ad. Deliver us from the clutches of the evil one who has his trap set out for us.” We need to fix our eyes on Jesus, remain vigilant in our quest for purity and ask God daily for protection as we pursue the Kingdom adventures.

As we pray our offensive prayer, we can take courage in the fact that Jesus also prayed for our deliverance from the enemy. He told His Father,

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)

I cannot imagine that we will ever return to the simpler times before the daily deluge of Internet marketing, phishing scams, instant pornography and the vile onslaught of immorality. Our alternative is to squirrel ourselves away from media devices and make time for quiet communion with our Lord where we ask Him to put a hedge of protection around our hearts and minds and deliver us from this rampant evil of our time.

Dear Father, lead us not into temptation and deliver us from the evil one.

By Lisa Fulghum

The Difference Maker

(Day 8 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

It’s Spring.

For a sports fan, it’s mad. Basketball, hockey, golf, and, in my opinion the most enjoyable sport, baseball are all in full swing (see what I did there?)

During halftime of March Madness’s game between Michigan State and Duke, one of the commentators said this: ”The difference between an average player, a good player, and a great player is their ability to make decisions.”

Our ability to make decisions is impacted by our choice to bring them to God in prayer. And one of the most important life arenas in which to do that is our weaknesses, the places we know we are vulnerable and tempted to be drawn away from God’s best, God’s victory.

Samson’s story in Judges 13-16 portrays this arena well. If you do a quick look at those chapters, you see that Samson is recorded praying two times-once asking for his thirst to be quenched and once asking for strength to take vengeance on his enemies. He’s not recorded praying about his choices or his temptations. His story leaves the reader asking many what if questions.

  • What if Samson had chosen to pray more often?
  • What if Samson had chosen to marry within his tribe?
  • What if Samson had chosen to admit his weaknesses to God?
  • What if Samson had chosen to prepare himself to walk away when facing temptation?
  • What if Samson had chosen to look for God’s way out rather than to go it alone?

It seems that, like any great team member, one of the best decisions you can make is to not go it alone, especially in the arena of temptation. As a believer, why would you risk losing to temptation by going it alone when your victory has already been won in the person of Jesus? The choice you could make is to ask for his empowering to do something that you cannot do on your own. That prayer could make the difference between you living an average Christian life or a great Christian life, between others asking, “What if?” or proclaiming, “Well done!”

“No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

Proud vs. Plain

(Three brief thoughts from I Peter 5:1-11, The Message)

  • Keep a cool head…proud people get bent out of shape; plain people live carefree.
  • Keep your guard up…proud people believe they’re untouchable; plain people know they’re vulnerable.
  • Keep a firm grip on the faith…proud people are tempted to go it alone; plain people believe that two is better than one.

Fruity Fridays: We All Struggle with Something

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

post by Jeremy Nixon

The last fruit of the Spirit is self-control. You know the old saying…”we saved the best for last?” Well this one is a doozy. To me, it’s the hardest fruit to attain. I say that only because I’m lacking the most in self-control. I’m a bit on the unhealthy side when it comes to weight, and the hardest thing for me to do is stop eating. Especially if it’s good, and believe me, in Arkansas, it’s all good! 

Many people may think the same way, but the deal is…I think we all struggle with something. Everybody has a vice…it may be ice cream, buying stuff, spending too much money or insert yours here, etc. Whatever it may be, there is good news: Paul tells us in Galatians that we can be free!!! Matter of fact, Paul urges us to choose this freedom that’s found in Christ instead of being enslaved. (I think he knows a thing or two about that.)

The very definition of self-control is this: the ability to control oneself. But for Christians it is much more than that. For us it means to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions. Basically, behavior that doesn’t please God and allowing things to be so important to you that they make you sinful or participate in sinful behavior is the very thing we have to stay away from. That’s self-control, and we don’t have to do it alone. Paul says that when the Holy Spirit is living in us God will help to maintain self-control.  

Self-Control is throughout the whole Bible. God is pretty serious when it comes to self-control. In Paul’s letter, Titus 2, the word self-control comes up several times and speaks to everyone young and old to have self-control in order for others to experience the love and salvation of the Lord. Another story: Jesus painted the picture of self-control when he rejected Satan’s temptations for 40 days. Jesus chose to honor God instead of giving in to Satan. We too have the same power through the Holy Spirit to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions.   

So what is self-control to you? What is your struggle? When are you most tempted to lose self-control? These are great questions to ask yourself so that when you are tempted, you can seek God for help…because God WILL help you maintain self-control.

The fruit of the Spirit study has been good for me. It has caused me to stop and think more about these fruits and see how God can use me. It has brought light to areas of my life that need improvement, and I hope it’s done the same for you. The truth is this: all Christians, we, should grow the fruit of the Spirit; the more we are nurtured and empowered by the Holy Spirit…our fruit grows. The first blog was about getting dirty, and sometimes we have to get dirty to produce fruit; but when it comes to self-control we have to ask for help. Christ wants us to be free! Stand firm. Produce fruit. Love God. Love people. When you are doing these, your fruits are blooming and God is being honored.