Two kinds of temptations: one to avoid, one to face

In Matthew 6:13 Jesus said to pray ‘Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.’ And yet in Matthew 4:1 we read, ‘Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.’ 

Rather than a contradiction I see two categories of temptations: those God keeps us from because we are not ready to face, and those God leads us into because we are ready.

When we obey God, he leads us away from unnecessary temptations.

In Exodus 13:17 when Pharaoh let the children of Israel go it says, ‘God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near, for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” God led them in a way that avoided battle. Why? Because they weren’t ready. But later in Exodus 17 we see God leading them into battle with Amalek. Why? Because by that time they were ready.

When we seek God’s presence through His freshly spoken word, and yield our hearts and follow Him in obedience, we avoid temptations we are not ready for. Jesus lived his life in this way. He was able to say in John 14:30 ‘the ruler of this world is coming and he has nothing in Me.’ (no claim on Me). This is pictured for us in Psalm 23:5 when David says, ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.’ This table is a place of fellowship and provision from God. And it’s experienced in a way that torments the devil as he has to watch and cannot reach us.

However when we are not in this place of surrender and obedience to God, we face temptations that we don’t have grace to overcome. 2 Samuel 11:1 tells us that in the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, ‘David remained in Jerusalem.’ The very next verse tells us that David, after a long nap, went out onto his rooftop balcony, saw a very beautiful woman who was not his wife and fell into sin. This was a temptation that David did not have the grace to overcome, because he wasn’t where he should have been. Had he been on the path of God’s leading, this temptation would have never even occurred. 

When we obey God, temptations become opportunities to experience God’s power.

Matthew 4:1 says, ‘Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.’ God does not lead us into trials to punish us, but so that we can punish the devil. There are two views of the same situation. The devil sees it as a temptation to destroy you. God sees it as a test to prove your faith.

In Matthew 4:3 the devil challenged Jesus’ identity saying, ‘If you’re the Son of God command that these stones become bread.’ Jesus had been fasting for 40 days and it says that His hunger had returned. This was a sign that if He doesn’t eat soon he’s a goner. The temptation was to take matters into His own hands rather than trusting His Father. His response was to quote from Deuteronomy 8:3 when He said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Jesus was saying, ‘I don’t see His provision but I have His word.’ He chose to trust God rather than believing that His Father had let him down. 

Jesus answered two more times from the Scriptures foiling the devil’s attempts. Finally v. 11 says, ‘then the devil left Him.’ The devil cannot outlast us. Eventually he will run out of gas and have to give up. 

So the Holy Spirit will lead us into opportunities to prove God, strengthen our faith, and punish the devil.

What challenge are you facing today? You are ready for it or you wouldn’t be there! So seek the Lord for His direction and stay with it until you experience a breakthrough.

In a series of meetings I experienced a person who was being rude to me. Each time I tried to make a contribution I experienced a subtle put-down from her. I was feeling really frustrated and angry, and then I heard the Lord speak to me from something I had read in Romans 12 that morning. I heard the words ‘Do not be over come by evil but overcome evil with good. Get up and get her a cup of coffee.’ No way. But I pushed myself down the hall the to coffee room, poured the coffee, and when I turned 180º to go back the power of God hit me and I felt His overwhelming love for this woman. And as the devil left the room and the Holy Spirit filled it, the spiritual climate changed from negativity to joy and freedom.

God will lead you into situations like this, not to punish you, but so that you can punish the devil and experience God’s glory and your own growth in greater measure.

Bible Study that transforms your life and community

Bible study is important, but not just as a way to gain more knowledge in my head. Bible doctrine is important, but not as a way to line up what I believe against what others believe. Bible theology is important, but not as a way to superimpose a belief system over what God is actually saying and doing in the world today.

Every insight gained through prayer and Bible study is an invitation to encounter God personally. Each point of Bible doctrine or theology is an invitation to step into his very presence, to intimately know his nature, to experience him in all his goodness, and to know what he is saying to me right now, today, in this very moment!

Psalm 103:7 tells us that God “made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the children of Israel”. God revealed his nature to Moses (his ways). Moses had regular personal encounters with God and knew him personally. But the people of Israel settled for seeing what God did at a distance (his acts – things like parting the Red Sea, providing manna for food every day, providing water from a rock). When the opportunity came for them to experience a more personal encounter with God they said, “No thank you!” That prospect was too scary for them at the time (see Exodus 20:18-19).

Like many of us today we read about what God did, or we hear testimonies about what God is doing today, and we believe it. And yet perhaps we have not experienced this same power in our own life.

  • We know he has forgiven our iniquities but we may doubt the part where he heals all our diseases (see Psalm 103:3).
  • We may believe in the love of God, but we haven’t experienced that in a way that heals us from our past.

This intimate, experiential knowledge of God doesn’t occur because we have correct doctrine about God’s love. It comes when we experience a personal encounter with the God who is love.

Here’s a tool that will help us study the Bible not just to learn about God (knowing his acts), but to experience him (knowing his ways).

Read a paragraph or a chapter in the Bible and answer the following questions:

1. What does it say? 

Ask, “What does it say?” When something begins to stand out, write it down.

Example: In Matthew 5: 14 Jesus told his followers, “You are the light of the world…”

2. What does it mean?

Ask yourself ‘What does it mean?’ Consider what the original writer was saying to the original audience. Consider the biblical and cultural context. Then write it down.

Example: Jesus was telling his followers that just as he came to bring light and reveal the true nature of His Father in heaven and to show what God is really like, (John 1:4-5), that calling is now given to them. His disciples were to be the light of the world!

3. What does it mean to me?

This is where the Holy Spirit will apply this word to you personally and present an opportunity to step into a place where you encounter him and experience his presence and power. Write it down.

Example: That calling to be the light of the world, to reveal the true nature of our Father in heaven, is also my calling. I’m called to bring to others illumination and revelation of God and his nature so that people around me can know him personally.

4. What am I to do?

This is where I yield my heart to God’s spoken word, experience his presence, and receive his grace (the willingness and power) to do what he’s asking me to do. My obedience connects with his power and resulting in a manifestation of his kingdom around me as his will is being done ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.

Example: v. 16 says “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” As I listened to the Holy Spirit the thought came, “My neighbor is sick. I know that he likes Chinese food. I’ll order a big take out bowl of war wanton soup and take it over to him.” When I did this I encounter God’s presence and connected with his power and joy. By serving in this way, I also prophetically declared God’s nature as a servant in my neighborhood in way that others can see him and sense his presence as well.

5. Who am I to tell?

This is where God will use me to speak to others. By sharing this word and testimony of what God is doing, I am bringing the kingdom of God to others. God will use my testimony to speak to others and encourage them to be light in their world and serve him in similar ways.

Click here to print out the Transformational Bible Study tool.

How the message of God’s kingdom really is “good news”

If you’ve been around Christians for any time at all you’ve probably heard about the “good news” – the gospel message of “Salvation in Jesus Christ”. Usually they are referring to the forgiveness of sin and eternal life that Jesus paid for by his death on the cross. That is really good news! And it’s true that forgiveness and eternal life are at the very foundation of the Christian message. However, there is even more to this “good news”!

God’s salvation also includes things like healing of sickness and disease, deliverance from torment and addictions, and healing of relationships.

The message Jesus proclaimed was called the “gospel of the kingdom”. Matthew 4:23 says, “And Jesus went about…preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.”

The good news of God’s kingdom is that eternal life begins right now! And that this message is not just about going to heaven some day, but about bringing heaven to earth right now.

Jesus said, “the kingdom of God (or ‘the kingdom of heaven’ – same idea) is at hand” (Mark 1:15). He was announcing that God’s kingdom is present and within reach right now!

“Kingdom” means the “king’s domain”. That refers to any place where Jesus is acknowledged as Lord, and where people willingly submit to him.

Wherever this happens, God works powerfully to change the situation on earth until it looks like it does in heaven. Since there is no sickness in heaven, when this kingdom comes, physical illness receives divine healing; emotional torment is relieved by a peace that goes beyond human understanding; oppression and poverty is replaced by hope and a road to freedom and true prosperity. When people yield their lives to Jesus, things shift until the situation on earth mirrors the reality of heaven. In Matthew 12:28 Jesus said, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

Christians readily understand this reality in relation to the forgiveness of sin. Most would agree that when the kingdom of God comes upon an unbelieving person, there is the gift of repentance. God opens their eyes to see their sin, gives them grace to confess and turn from it, and to receive forgiveness and new life. But what some of us have missed is that this same good news also applies to physical healing and deliverance from evil powers. Sickness is to the body what sin is to the soul and God’s salvation dealt with both.

As we share this gospel of the kingdom with others, there is a collision of two worlds. When these two opposite powers meet, God’s kingdom always wins. Evil powers are no match for God’s power. Just like darkness is no match for light. If there’s light, darkness cannot exist. When light comes into the room darkness always flees. When we share the gospel of the kingdom the inferior reality must always bow to the superior reality.

Being a Christian means having the privilege and obligation to live a life of faith where we continually access the reality of heaven in order to see it invade the afflictions and circumstances of our world. There is not a problem on earth today that does not have its solution in the kingdom of God. Everything that a person could ever desire is found in this kingdom. And it’s up to us to bring these solutions to others in such a way that they encounter God’s love and power and enter into their own personal relationship with him. How do we do that? Through our prayers and declaration of truth and the promises of God.

As more and more people put their faith in Jesus, God’s kingdom will continue to expand, until, eventually, all nations will enjoy the blessings and riches of God’s salvation. That’s when Jesus will return for a victorious church and deliver on his promise of eternal life.

Join us in this unstoppable movement! Start by putting your faith in Jesus Christ, and experience the good news of his kingdom which, according to Jesus, is present and within reach right now to meet whatever need you may have.

When you’re disappointed with God

Someone said, ‘When you pray for an oak tree sometimes God will give you an acorn.’

Don’t let your disappointment cause you to miss God’s answer. Look at what he’s given you and not at what he hasn’t.

Take care of that acorn and it will become the oak tree you are longing for.

When disappointment occurs, your faith is tested. Where you experience your deepest disappointment is actually an invitation to your greatest victory. Deep inside your loss is an acorn of God’s promise that contains the mighty oak of your eternal destiny.

There are two forces warring to find a resting place in your heart. One is from your spiritual enemy who is feeding you information that builds a case against God: “If God is so good then why…? Where was God when…? etc.”

The other force is the one voice that matters: what God is saying to you; what God is promising you; the good purpose and plan God is declaring over you. Yielding to what God is saying to you connects you with the most powerful force in the universe. God spoke and the universe was created. Jesus said to Peter one word, “Come” (Matthew 14:29), and Peter was walking on the water.

So look for the acorn God has given you. Pull up and cast out all the weeds and seeds of unbelief and contend for the one voice that matters. Take care of that acorn and watch that mighty oak start to emerge.

Discovering why we’re on the planet

To discover why we’re here we have to go back to the beginning. The original purpose of humanity according to Genesis 1:28 was ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over’¦every living thing that moves on the earth.” God made the first man and woman in his own image to take care of the earth and expand that original garden to fill the earth, push out all evil, and establish beauty and order where there was chaos. With that authority God also gave us a free will to do with it as we choose.

Unfortunately when that first man and woman chose to use their free will to disobey God, their authority over earth was given over to the evil one (read the full story in Genesis 3). That’s the reason the world is in such chaos today.

But now through faith in Jesus – through his death and resurrection and ascension into heaven – God has restored us to our original purpose and authority with the mandate, “Go and disciple all the nations.’ (Matthew 28:18-20).

This answers the question as to why we’re on the planet. It is our task to co-labor with God the Holy Spirit to be fruitful and multiply and bring the kingdom of God to earth until every evil is displaced and every corner of this beautiful planet is filled with God’s glorious presence and his goodness – and until every nation has the joy of knowing and serving God. When that happens Jesus will return to a victorious church to fully usher in his kingdom which will last forever.

If you’re not a part of this wonderful reason for being on the planet you can be. Simply choose to put your faith in Jesus Christ and he will forgive your sins and cause you to be born again. And then he will empower you to do your own part, to use your own unique gifts and skills along with a growing company of others to accomplish this great commission to transform the world.

Living from heaven toward earth

What can we do about all the division, corruption, and unrest we see in our world today? Do we have a role? Absolutely!

A relationship with Jesus Christ means living from heaven toward earth – co-laboring with him to provide heaven’s solutions to every problem we encounter. As a Christian you and I died with Christ to our old nature, rose from the dead and are now seated with Jesus in the heavenly realm. That’s right! We are now citizens of two worlds, one that is passing and one that is eternal. This new position enables us to live as Jesus did, from heaven toward earth. From the eternal toward the temporary. This means all of heaven’s riches are available to us to accomplish our purpose bringing God’s blessing and kingdom to every corner of the earth. When people see how good God is and that he is for them not against them, they will want in. They will want to be a part of this kingdom.

So where do I begin? Begin by praying as the Lord instructed his followers: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Our instructions are in the details of that prayer:

“Give us this day our daily bread” – What’s the implication?

Alleviation of poverty – We are to receive what we need with such abundance that it will overflow to meet the needs around us, eliminating spiritual, social, and economic poverty. There is no poverty in God’s kingdom.

“Forgive us out debts, as we forgive our debtors” – What’s the result?

Healing of relationships – Receiving God’s love and forgiveness reconciles us to God and heals our hearts. As we extend that love and forgiveness to those who have offended us, our relationships are healed. There are no broken relationships in God’s kingdom.

“Lead us not into temptation” – What will this give us?

Protection from poor choices – God will protect us from choosing counterfeit joy and pleasures that lure us away from God, and he will lead us to a path of life where in his presence is fullness of joy and where we experience real and lasting pleasures (see Psalm 16:11). There is everything our hearts could ever desire in God’s kingdom.

“But deliver us from evil.” – What does this mean?

Deliverance from evil and its effects – This includes physical, emotional and mental healing and deliverance. God’s salvation is complete. He saved my soul from sin, my body from disease, and my mind from torment. Sickness is the to the body what sin is to the soul. God’s salvation dealt with both. There is no sickness, addiction, depression, or oppression in God’s kingdom.

If you haven’t considered a relationship with God, let me encourage to put your faith in Jesus Christ and join the party. The best is yet to come!


Our task: Heaven on earth

Growing up I learned the Lord’s prayer. When I thought of the words,“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, I assumed that referred to going to heaven someday.

While that is true, I have since learned that the Christian faith is not just about going to heaven some day, it’s about bringing heaven to earth.

Jesus came to establish his kingdom here on earth so it will spread through us like leaven until heaven permeates the entire earth.

What does this kingdom look like? The Bible describes God’s kingdom as three things: righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (see Romans 14:17).

I can understand how God’s kingdom would be a place of “peace” and “joy” but what does it mean by “righteousness”?

Think of all things wrong being made right – things like injustice, inequality, racism, oppression, pollution, greed, poverty, destructive behavior… all being eliminated from the earth as personal lives, cities, and ultimately nations are transformed by God’s love and power. Imagine that!

This is our task: to see heaven on earth.

And we are to do that not by a political power grab but by becoming servants bringing heaven’s solutions to the people we encounter and the places we go every day. As more and more Christians live in this way, the movement will grow until the glory of God will fill the earth.